Penn isn’t alone among Ivy League schools that have seen a decrease in the total number of applications received this year.
Following Penn’s 1.7-percent drop in overall applications for the Class of 2016, Harvard, Princeton, Brown and Columbia universities have announced decreases of 1.9, 1.9, 7 and 8.9 percent, respectively.
This followed a record-breaking application cycle for all four schools with 15, 3.3, 3 and 32-percent increases in applications to the Class of 2015, respectively.
Last year, Penn’s 31,663 total applications received marked an all-time high.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda linked the slowing of the applicant pool growth to changes within the high-school population.
“There are shifting demographics — there are fewer high-school graduates,” he said. “You’re seeing geographic shifts within the United States.”
Lucie Lapovsky, principal of the higher education firm Lapovsky Consulting, agreed that the changing demographics of high-school students may have played a role in the decrease of applications to Penn and its peer institutions.
“The number of students coming from highly educated families is falling,” she said. “The number of students who would be first-generation college students is increasing and they’re less likely to apply to a significant number of colleges.”
Harvard Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William Fitzsimmons attributed the decrease to a number of factors, including the return of early action programs at Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia.
He said this may have kept some students from applying to more colleges in the regular decision round.
According to The New York Times’ “The Choice” blog, four of the five universities that reported the largest applicant pool increases to date are public institutions.
Ramapo College of New Jersey had a 30-percent increase in applications, and the University of California, Los Angeles, University of Virginia and University of California, Berkeley reported 18, 17.6 and 16.5-percent increases, respectively.
Lapovsky said as sticker prices of private universities are increasing, more students may be applying to public schools.
“The value of spending more than $200,000 for four years of college in these uncertain economic times is being questioned,” she said.
Michael Goran, a 1976 College graduate and founder of IvySelect College Consulting, agreed that students may not be aware of financial-aid policies at schools like Penn, causing them to turn away from private colleges.
He said the increasing selectivity of Ivy League universities may have contributed to the decrease in the applicant pool, as well.
“It may have to do with the perception that the Ivies are more and more difficult to get into,” he said. “The admission rates are falling and so they’re adding schools [to their list] where they wouldn’t have before.”
Alan Hwang — who is applying regular decision to Penn from Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, Calif. — also observed a decrease in private-school applications around him.
“Most people at Monta Vista are just applying to the UCs,” he said. “I think if private colleges’ prices weren’t so high and if the Ivy Leagues weren’t so selective, more people at Monta Vista would apply.”
While many of Penn’s peers experienced dips in their applicant pools, a few Ivy League schools saw their numbers continue to rise.
Cornell and Yale universities, as well as Dartmouth College, reported slight increases of 3.5, 5 and 3 percent, respectively.
Overall, Fitzsimmons sees a potential positive effect from this year’s general application trends across the Ivies.
“We may experience a period of greater stability and less frenzy in college admissions — a welcome result for everyone,” he said.