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Penn's admissions rate has been steadily declining since 1991, when 47 percent of applicants were admitted. High school seniors across the country found some long-awaited letters in their mailboxes this week. And for a record-low 22 percent of the 18,815 Penn applicants, the news was good. Next year's freshman class will again be the University's most selective ever, according to Admissions Dean Lee Stetson. At one minute after midnight Saturday morning, the University released acceptance letters to 4,280 -- or 22 percent -- of its 18,815 applicants, including early decision applicants, for the class of 2004. The admissions rate is a continuation of the University's decade-long decline, down from 26.6 percent last year and a whopping 47 percent in 1991. And for the first time ever, the percentage of regular decision applicants accepted dropped into the teens, at 19 percent. "We admitted fewer to keep the class size under control," Stetson said, adding that he expects the yield rate -- the percent of students accepted to choose to matriculate -- to be close to last year's at 53.7 percent. That number was higher than expected, resulting in a larger than usual freshman class. "We'll be right where we want to be? with a class size of 2,350," if the yield rate is between 53 and 54 percent, Stetson said. The number of applicants for admission also reached a record level this year -- the total applicant group was 6.6 percent larger than last year's pool. About 42 percent of the Class of 2004 will be comprised of students who applied early decision. In addition to the overall decrease in the rate of admission, three of the four undergraduate school saw decreases in their acceptance rates. The College of Arts and Sciences accepted 23 percent -- 2,796 out of 11,986 applicants -- down from 27.4 percent last year. The School of Engineering and Applied Science admitted 26 percent -- 853 out of 3,325 applicants -- down from 32.9 percent. The Wharton School accepted 16 percent -- 521 out of the 3,278 applicants -- marking a one percentage point decrease. And the Nursing School accepted 51 percent of its applicants, up from 43.4 percent last year. The Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business -- the joint College and Wharton program -- accepted 72 of its 641 applicants. The Management and Technology Program of Wharton and the Engineering School accepted 87 out of 829 applicants. And 12 students were accepted to the the Healthcare Management Program of the Nursing School and Wharton. Admission offers were made to 2,175 women, representing 50.8 percent of all acceptances. And 447 international students were accepted. They comprise 10.4 percent of the admitted group and represent six continents and 79 countries. Additionally, minority students -- including African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans -- make up 41 percent of the accepted group. But that number falls significantly, to 17 percent, when Asians are excluded. This year's group of admitted students boasts an average SAT score of 1412 -- up from 1407 last year -- and the average students ranks in the top two percent of his or her graduating class. According to Stetson, 757 of the accepted students are valedictorians or salutatorians, and 663 valedictorians and salutatorians were denied admission. "This just shows how selective [we] had to be," he said. Stetson explained that the admissions office is relying more heavily on the waitlist this year -- with 500 names on the list -- in order to yield the desired class size. Last year the yield rate unexpectedly increased by five percent, resulting in a housing shortage in the fall. "We're better off being a little more conservative with admission," Stetson said. "Otherwise, we're at the mercy of who says yes [to his or her admission offer]." Mark Cannon, deputy executive director of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said the trend of increased waitlist use is being employed by more and more schools so they can better control class sizes. "[Students] are increasingly delaying their final decision? some students are double-depositing, going through pre-registration and orientation [programs] and not opting to enroll ultimately," Cannon said. "The waitlist is there as a cushion. Now that acceptances have been sent, Stetson and his office are shifting their focus toward getting the best yield possible, through tours, luncheons and campus visits. He said 50 to 60 percent of accepted students are expected to take advantage of the services over the next few weeks. "The competition to get them to enroll is intense," Stetson said, adding that the next month will be a chance for "Penn to put its best foot forward." Admitted students have until May 1 to accept their offers of admission.

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