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20,045 high school seniors make Penn first choice Early decision applications to the University increased by 20 percent this year, up from 1,629 last year to 2,045. Admissions Dean Lee Stetson said the rise reflects a trend in recent years of growing interest in the University. He added that although he had expected the number of applicants to increase, he had not expected such a dramatic rise. Stetson based his original estimate largely on the fact that summer visits to campus were up almost 30 percent. He added that based on the preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test scores, it appears that the quality of the applicants might have also improved. So far, the Class of 2000 applicant pool's average SAT score is 1,302, without accounting for the score changes of students who recently retook the exam. When students take the SAT a second time, their scores often increase, Stetson explained. The Class of 1999's average SAT score is 1,311. By applying early decision, the applicants have committed to matriculating at the University if they are admitted. The admissions office will notify all early applicants of its decision in December. Because so many more students applied early, Stetson said the process will prove more selective. "The number of admissions [of earlier applicants] will probably remain near 740 students," Stetson said. "Since we expect to have a stronger regular pool too, we want to have room for them." Early decision applicants typically make up approximately 35 percent of each class. Stetson predicted that based on an increase in regular decision applications, 16,000 students will apply to the University in January -- up from 15,050 last year. The most significant increase for early applications was in the northeastern and seaboard states, according to Stetson. New Jersey's early applicant pool jumped from 296 to 410 and Pennsylvania's from 272 to 349. More international students also applied early, increasing from 106 to 127. The minority applicant pool grew from 434 students to 528 -- including a 13 percent increase in Hispanic students, from 56 to 64, but a slight decrease in black applicants, down from 53 to 50. Stetson attributed the rise to the outreach initiatives by admissions officers, the University's heightened visibility in the media and the presence and efforts of President Judith Rodin. Despite the large number of applicants, Stetson said the admissions officers have made the process more personalized. "When students return from a visit and they request more information, we try to have an officer write a letter personally to the students, saying 'It was good to see you, I hope to follow up and here's the information you requested,' " Stetson said. "Students don't expect that kind of attention, especially from a large urban school," he added. "That gives the University a more approachable image." The admissions office's joint travel program with Georgetown, Harvard and Duke universities to regions underrepresented in applications also helped expose Penn to students who would not have otherwise considered applying, Stetson said. In addition, the University has gained more visibility among the general public. Director of News and Public Affairs Barbara Beck said the Public Affairs department has been more aggressive in contacting the media with the message that "Penn is an institution that is ready for the 21st century."

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