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Baby Boomers' kids are flooding schools with a record number of apps. They say that history tends to repeat itself. Most college admissions officers across the country would agree. About 30 years ago, college enrollment numbers reached an all-time high as the Baby Boomers -- those born in the post-World War II years spanning from 1946 to about 1964 -- filled classrooms across the country. The 1980s and early 1990s saw a decline in college-aged students, but today, the number is rising once again: the Baby Boomers' children are ready for higher education. Born between 1977 and 1994, the so-called "Echo Boomers" -- who currently account for 26 percent of the United States' population -- are contributing to growing application numbers at colleges and universities nationwide. According to School of Arts and Sciences Dean Samuel Preston, an expert on demographic trends, today's population of 17-year-olds is about 10 percent larger than it was five years ago. What does that mean for Penn and its peer institutions? A dramatic rise in college applications, which they all have seen over the past several years. However, Preston said that the Echo Boom is mild in comparison to the Baby Boom -- which, at its peak, was 20 percent larger than the Echo Boom. "This is nothing like the boom of the past," he said. "The biggest period of growth is over [and the college-age population] will remain the same for another 10 or 12 years." Penn Sociology Department Chairman Douglas Massey said the Baby Boom generation is nearing the end of its child-bearing age, but the Echo Boom's effects on college enrollment should last about another decade since more middle-aged women are giving birth. While Massey said the Echo Boom is not as intense as the Baby Boom, the generation has left its mark. "All colleges and universities will experience increased pressure for admissions because of the echo of the Baby Boom," Massey said. He added that he expects the effects of the Echo Boom to remain steady. "[College enrollment] will increase a bit in the short term, but there will be no wild swings," Massey said. While the upswing in application numbers is benefitting schools across the country, its effects are particularly evident in the Ivy League, where admissions applications for the Class of 2004 were up almost across the board. Brown University and Penn led the Ivies with increases of 14 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively. According to Penn Admissions Dean Lee Stetson, the number of applications has risen fairly consistently in the past decade, from under 12,000 applications in 1992 to nearly 19,000 this year, at least partly because of the Echo Boom. And while the Echo Boom has played a role in the trend of increasing applications, Joyce Smith, executive director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said there are other more significant contributing factors. "The boom [in applications] is also reflected in students submitting more applications," she said. She added that five years ago, high school seniors typically applied to only five schools, while a growing number of students nowadays are applying to as many as 20 colleges and universities. Smith said technology, especially in the form of online applications, has made the application process easier and faster.

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