January 24, 2011 — Though the number of American high school graduates is expected to decline for the second straight year, the University of Virginia has again received a record number of applications for admission to the Class of 2015.
As of Jan. 19, the University had received 23,942 applications – about a 6 percent increase over last year's total of 22,510. The deadline for first-time undergraduates to apply was Jan. 1.
The University plans to enroll about 120 more students this fall, for a total entering class of about 3,360. That will likely translate into about 200 to 250 additional offers extended, said Greg W. Roberts, dean of admission.
Roberts theorizes that two factors may be fueling the application boom.
"Students are looking for value and a return on their college investment, and at U.Va. they can receive a world-class education while not paying the high cost you see at many private universities," he said.
Also, with applications up at several very selective schools, "We're in an environment now where students are clearly submitting more applications" – thus making it more difficult to project how many offers will be accepted, he said.
It appears that the diversity of applicants may also be rising. The numbers of students designating themselves as African-American, American Indian or Alaska native, Asian, Hispanic, native Hawaiian or Pacific islander, or nonresident aliens – or some combination thereof, as applicants could choose more than one – were all higher, as was the number of white applicants. However, some of those increases may be attributable to a sharp decrease in the number of students who declined to specify race, from 1,377 last year to 495 this year.
Roberts said he believes the number of minority applicants is increasing, and credited the work of the admission staff – particularly the efforts of the outreach office, headed by associate dean Valerie Gregory.
With the application deadline passed, the Office of Admission now faces the daunting task of building an entering class. The office has brought on 10 temporary readers to help distribute the load (though all of the applications will receive at least one review by Roberts or an associate dean). Their decisions will be released by April 1.
"While we are flattered that so many students have interest in the University of Virginia, our primary focus is on the entering class," Roberts said. "At this point, the admissions staff is in the process of evaluating the applications with the hope of enrolling an academically powerful and diverse group of students in the fall."
A well-read blog, "Notes from Peabody," penned by Jeanine Lalonde, senior assistant dean of admission, seeks to soothe applicants' anxiety during the reading process. The blog receives nearly 300,000 visits annually, with an all-time, single-day high of 23,147 on March 26, the day the 2010 admissions decisions were released.
Once this year's decisions are released, the admissions staff will begin the cycle all over again, but with a new twist. Beginning this fall, U.Va. will offer a nonbinding "early action" admission plan, in which students may apply by Nov. 1 and receive a verdict – admitted, declined or deferred to the regular admission cycle – by Jan. 31, 2012.
The new option is likely to boost the application total still higher, Roberts said.