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There are lies, there are damn lies, and there are admissions statistics. As the University's 47 percent admission's rate created a stir at the University, students and faculty at Brown and Cornell Universities were likely breathing a sigh of relief. After all, they weren't last in the Ivy League, according to statistics released by various peer institutions, and they were 24 percent and 16 percent ahead of the University respectively. But their definition of an "applicant" in determining admissions rates differ from the University's. The University includes students who apply Early and Regular Decision, complete an application, and either pay their application fee or qualify for a fee waiver in its pile of applicants. According to admissions officials, the University does not count students as applicants if they only have their transcripts, references or other parts of the application sent. Other peer institutions count incomplete applications in their official applicant pool, admissions officers said this week. This could mean that the number of applicants to these schools is higher, making the percentage of students accepted lower than the University's -- not because the University receives fewer applications, but because the admissions office has a stricter definition of an applicant. And the University does not count students as applicants if they are admitted Early Decision to another institution, but other Ivy League schools do continue to count them as applicants. As a result, these other schools may look more selective and the University less selective than they are in reality. Nancy Meislahn, the director of undergraduate admissions for Cornell, attributed the different tallying techniques to a "difference in philosophy" among admissions officers. Meislahn said Cornell's application consists of two parts -- one with an information sheet and a second with essays. If a student turns in an incomplete application, she said, Cornell makes every effort to make a decision based on the information it has and therefore counts him or her as an applicant. She said Cornell does not keep statistics on the numbers of completed applications, but said "the majority" of the applications her office receives are complete. If the Cornell admissions office does not have enough information to make a decision, the application is withdrawn and not counted in the statistics for applicants. Cornell also counts applications to its state schools in its admissions statistics. Julia Bengochea, an admissions officer at Brown University, said Brown considers students applicants when they turn in their applications whether or not they withdraw it later. She said this year 278 applicants withdrew but were still counted among Brown's 11,774 applicants. Beyond these data-gathering differences, University admissions officials offered numerous other explanations for the disparity between the statistics for the University and peer institutions. Western Regional Admissions Director Glenn Singleton and Associate Dean of Admissions Christoph Guttentag say that the University falls into several categories which are currently having trouble attracting students for its admissions pool. Urban schools seem to be less popular because of media coverage of financial and safety problems in large urban areas, they said. A nation-wide decline in the pool of 18-year-olds is concentrated in the northeast, which Guttentag said has "been our bread and butter over the years." The change in demographics is also hitting public high schools harder than private schools, the officials said. The University has traditionally taken 65 percent of its class from public institutions -- far more than many of its Ivy counterparts. Finally, financial constraints are causing students to apply to less expensive state schools or to only private schools with greater name recognition than the University, the officers said. Both Singleton and Guttentag said they are frustrated because many incoming students tell them they chose to come to the University because it is not as elitist as other competing schools, but each year students complain that the University is not selective enough. "We don't get wrapped up in the pecking order," Singleton said. "We are the southern-most of the Ivies and we should be away from all that." Singleton and Guttentag emphasized that while the admissions office will continue to recruit in areas less affected by demographic shifts and will work to increase the pool, the quality of the students is not dropping. Guttentag said the Consortium on Higher Education -- of which the University is part -- agreed last year to not release the average Scholastic Aptitude Test score for students who are accepted because the Consortium decided it is not an accurate, helpful figure for students. Instead, they said the Consortium schools will release a range of SAT scores for the middle 50 percent of students who matriculate at the institution. But the SAT scores for the students accepted this year are "comparable" to those of past years, Guttentag said. Last year the average SAT score was around 1300.

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