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Nearly 19,000 high school seniors await the University's admissions letters. The Penn Admissions Office is in the midst of the most competitive admissions period in the University's history, according to Admissions Dean Lee Stetson. Admissions officials are weighing the fates of the record 18,803 applicants for the roughly 2,350 spots available in the Class of 2004. The total applicant group is 6.6 percent larger than last year's pool. The rise in applications means that the final acceptance rate may drop to 23 percent for the applicant pool as a whole, compared with 26.6 percent for the Class of 2003, Stetson said, adding that Penn will accept a smaller number of students this year to make up for last year's higher-than-expected yield. "We're going to be more conservative with admissions? and we will use the wait-list to control the class size," Stetson said. About 200 students more than were expected accepted admissions offers to this year's freshman class, resulting in a housing shortage in the fall. Stetson said this year's applicants are stronger than ever. "Penn has moved into a new realm," Stetson said. "The personal qualities of the students are exceptional." The average SAT score of the applicant group is 1355. But, Stetson said, "It's not even close to where we're going to end up with our average [for the Class of 2004]." Each of the four undergraduate schools reported an increase in the number of applicants this year. The College received 11,986 applications, up 7.7 percent from last year, Stetson said. Engineering applications rose to 3,325, marking an increase of 7.4 percent. Wharton received 3,278 applications, 1.8 percent more than last year's 3,220. And applications to the Nursing school increased by 5.9 percent. In addition, interest in the dual degree programs increased this year. Management and Technology -- the joint Wharton and Engineering program -- received 829 applications, 36 percent more than the 610 received last year. And 641 students, 1.6 more than last year's 631, applied to the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business. The applicants hail from all 50 states and 87 foreign countries. Also, the University received record-high numbers of applications from 23 states. A record number of minority students applied for admission to the Class of 2004. African-American students submitted 1,222 applications, Asians filed 5,847 applications, Latinos submitted 907 and Native Americans sent in 40 applications. Those figures are all increases from last year. Admissions Officer Leslie Smith estimated that 85 percent of the applicants are academically qualified to attend Penn. And Admissions Officer Martin Bonilla said the statistics suggest that Penn is a hot school for high school seniors right now. "The message is that Penn is a really elite institution but not elitist," Bonilla said. Stetson agreed, saying the applicant pool shows Penn's growing popularity. "I think students are telling a good story about the University," Stetson said. Bonilla attributed part of the rise in applications to the popularity of schools located in cities. "Urban universities seem to be quite in vogue," Smith said, noting that many students are attracted to the city's internship opportunities. The Admissions Office will mail acceptance, rejection and wait-list letters on April 1. Penn has made a remarkable climb through the ranks of the nation's top colleges and universities over the past decade. In 1991, the University accepted 47 percent of applicants applying for admission to the Class of 1995. Since then, the number of applications has continued to rise while Penn has moved higher and higher in national college rankings.

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