Penn ‘not as aggressive’ this year in attracting students
Apr 03, 2008
By Naomi Jagoda
A shake-up in the admissions office and a projected lower yield rate likely contributed to Penn’s slightly higher acceptance rate this year, admissions experts say.
Penn’s acceptance rate increased to 16.4 percent this year, up from 16 percent last year. In contrast, the other Ivies – excluding Cornell University, which has yet to release its information – have all reported record low admissions rates.
While Penn only received 1.3 percent more applications this year than last, other Ivies all also reported increases in the total number of applications of more than 5 percent.
Former Dean of Admissions Lee Stetson mysteriously resigned last August after 30 years in the position, and experts say his departure may have dampened the school’s recruitment efforts.
Stetson was widely credited with increasing Penn’s selectivity.
Steven Goodman, a college consultant based in Washington D.C., said that the University could have done a better job this year enticing students to apply to Penn.
“The Penn admissions office was not as aggressive as it should be” in targeting students likely to attend the University, he said.
Goodman also said it takes a “tremendous amount of effort” to generate large amounts of applications.
The admissions office may not have put all of its energy into recruitment this admissions cycle because they had to deal with a different admissions dean, he said.
University spokeswoman Lori Doyle said that recruiting efforts were not affected by Stetson’s departure.
“The recruitment plan was in place before the change in leadership and absolutely nothing changed in terms of recruitment strategies or staffing,” she said.
Like Goodman, Doretta Goldberg, a college consultant based in Long Island, said some of the other Ivies have been more successful than Penn at “branding” themselves so students find them more attractive.
Wharton generally does a better job at branding itself than the rest of the University, she added.
Another reason Penn’s acceptance rate might have increased – while those of the other Ivies declined – is because of differences in responses to Harvard and Princeton universities’ elimination of their early-acceptance policies.
Interim Dean of Admissions Eric Kaplan said the University planned for its yield rate to potentially be affected by the elimination of early-acceptance policies elsewhere. He did not respond to a request for comment about the effect of Stetson’s departure.
“Penn is speculating that their yield may be lower this year than in the past,” Sally Rubenstone, a counselor with College Confidential, wrote in an e-mail. Last year, Penn’s yield rate was 66 percent.
In response to Harvard’s and Princeton’s policy changes, officials at other colleges have said they plan to utilize their waiting lists more extensively this year, both putting more students on the waitlist and accepting more students from it.
Despite the increase in Penn’s acceptance rate, college counselors do not think that the University is in trouble.
“I still think that students see Penn as a good school,” New York-based consultant Bari Norman said.