February 1st marked the application deadline for first year undergraduate students and I am pleased to report the College has experienced a sizable increase. The College received 15,641 applications for the fall semester, a 13 percent increase over last year’s 13,813. Of particular note, international applications increased 18 percent and ALANA applications grew 24 percent. As I have mentioned our freshman application gains to select groups across campus, I am quick to receive two important questions…
Why did applications increase?
While we have yet to explore the reasons behind our freshman application gain in any scientific way, it is possible to note a few factors that have likely contributed. First, it appears that the attributes of the IC 20/20 strategic plan, specifically the Integrative Core Curriculum, have resonance with students and their families. ICC messaging was woven into our information sessions, articulated in print, and represented at our fall open houses. Families responded to those conversations in favorable ways and we can now begin to quantify that impact.
Secondly, we believe that the College’s adoption of a test optional admission policy attracted additional applicants. In its first year of implementation, 24 percent of applicants chose to withhold their standardized test scores as part of their application portfolio (a typical percentage for schools which have adopted such a policy). It is important to note that the test optional policy did not diminish the quality of the applicant pool, as other indicators of academic success remain consistent.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the contributions of folks across campus toward this effort. From the involvement of many at our open house programs, to the added exposure of the NYSACAC conference, to the increased visibility contributed by our ‘Ready’ branding campaign, it has been a busy yet impactful year. I thank each and every member of the Ithaca College community who has contributed to these and related efforts.
What does the application increase mean for freshman enrollment?
On the surface, this sizable increase in applications would suggest that our enrollment targets are easily achievable, but challenges do persist. A number of the additional applications we received are for academic programs with capacity constraints. The additional applications may result in greater selectivity, but they cannot yield much more in the way of additional enrollment. Secondly, the competitive pressures we face continue to rise. The application increases that we enjoy this year are atypical among our peers. I fully anticipate that colleges and universities which have experienced more muted application gains, stagnation, or even decline will be aggressive with both offers of admission and financial aid.
In the coming days, the Office of Admission will be making final admission decisions for our remaining applicants, and we plan to be aggressive with those offers of admission. Our sizable applicant pool enables us to make more offers of admission while maintaining historic admit rates. This strategy should help buffer against competitive pressures and yield rate concerns. However, we cannot solely rely on a robust group of admits to yield this year’s class. Admitted students and their families are visiting the campus throughout the spring semester, culminating with our Ithaca Today program on April 13 and 14. Each individual can play a role by welcoming our visitor to campus and demonstrating what Ithaca College has to offer. Indeed, it takes a village, or in our case a community of educators, to yield a class and I look forward to working with you on those continued efforts.