Widgets Magazine

Applications up, on pace with nationwide rise in applicants

It’s no news that Stanford is one of the most coveted universities for college-bound students. Applications for the Class of 2015 reached a record high for the University, totaling approximately 34,200 and representing a staggering 7 percent increase from last year. But what is it about Stanford that attracts so much interest?

According to Bob Patterson, director of undergraduate admission, the primary contributing factor to the increase in student interest was the University’s firm commitment to embodying the free spirit of learning, exemplified in the school’s motto, “Die Luft der Freiheit weht,” or “the wind of freedom blows.”

Though Stanford experienced another year of increased applications, the increase remains on par with many of it competitors (ANASTASIA YEE/The Stanford Daily)

“Students are interested in pursuing their academic interests and [the Stanford message] aligns with those interests,” Patterson said.

Stanford’s increase in applications has not been markedly greater than figures at its peer institutions.

“We’re increasing at about the same rate,” said Patterson. “Last year had the highest number of high school graduates. This year, there’s been a decline, but more students are applying to more institutions.”

Another factor to be taken into consideration is Stanford’s prevalence in popular media. For instance, in James Cameron’s blockbuster “Avatar,” Dr. Grace Augustine, an eminent ecologist played by Sigourney Weaver ’72, wears a Cardinal tank top whenever she shifts into an alien body. Stanford’s reputation as a world-class institution, diffused through social media, may have a hand in boosting student interest as well.

“I don’t think it hurts to have that notoriety from the press, in films, important research, Orange Bowl victories,” said Patterson. “But it’s not something we can actually track in terms of affecting increases or decreases in applications.”

Despite the fact that Stanford played a big role in the plots of teen culture staples such as “High School Musical 3” and the series finale of Hannah Montana — the latter of which sparked rumors that its star, Miley Cyrus, would be joining the class of 2015 — the University does not seek to sell the Stanford brand. Any requests to use the Stanford brand must be approved first by University Communications.

“We never proactively market the Stanford brand,” said Lisa Lapin, assistant vice president of University Communications. “Instead, they come to us. We evaluate their request and approve it only if the character in the show adheres to the qualities embodied by the typical Stanford student. For example, in ‘Avatar,’ Weaver is a scientist, which fits with what a Stanford alum would do.”

Regardless of the free publicity, Stanford takes a staunch stance in adhering to the university’s educational mission.

“We’re not soliciting more applications,” said Patterson. “In general, there is a lot of student interest, [so] we try to reach out to students who are not aware of the Stanford message, students who’ve never heard of it before.”

Despite growing fears of a vanishing acceptance rate, Bob Patterson remains optimistic about its stability for the Class of 2015. He anticipates only a slight increase in selectivity, due to efforts by admissions staff to drive home the Stanford mission to prospective students of all backgrounds.

“Class size will be relatively the same,” said Patterson. “I think the acceptance rate will be relatively the same as last year’s, maybe a little more selective. We’re trying to make sure that students do their research before applying.”

Students who applied under the regular admission program will receive their admissions results by the end of March.

  • john

    How can the number of applications go up 7 percent, the class size stay the same, and the acceptance rate stay the same? The acceptance rate will be about 6.8%.

    I am looking forward to the day when the acceptance rate goes under 1%.

    BTW, Miley Cyrus going to Stanford would not help its academic reputation.

  • Bob

    Applications are increasing because Stanford and similar institutions refuse to post sufficient information for applicants to accurately assess their likelihood of admission. The vast majority have no chance and their applications are quickly denied. Virtually all of the increase in applications is from applicants without any chance of admission. Put out more detailed statitics based on SAT scores, GPA, class rank, types of schools, economic background, and applications will quickly drop.

  • “free”??

    @Bob I don’t think that’s why. Stanford has always published detailed data in the leaflets they send to prospective students–before I applied a few years ago, I remember getting something from Stanford in the mail that had a chart that showed what % of the applicants fell under certain statistics (like ranges of SAT or GPA) and what % were accepted, for each range. I also remember hearing from the dean of admissions that 90% of the students who apply are qualified to attend. But I do think you’re right in that students are not able to gauge their likelihood of being accepted, not because of the numbers, but because the factors that most influence your admission probably aren’t easily quantifiable (like essays, recommendations, accomplishments, activities, etc.).

    But the statement that students are applying more because of the “commitment to embodying the free spirit of learning” is complete BS. It sounds like BS, but more than that, Stanford does a lot that is in direct opposition that. Students have to take 15 required courses–how is that free spirit of learning? Every student, regardless of interests, has to take IHUM (or SLE), which is one of the last bastions of classical education; Stanford prides itself about not being locked into tradition like East Coast schools, but it pitifully tries to emulate some of the hallmarks of the education they offer. If there’s a free spirit of learning, why are there so many classes that don’t let a lot students in (like in creative writing, or undergraduate business classes, or introsems, or Sophomore College, where most don’t get in)? Obviously it’s a space issue, but Stanford hasn’t really worked to fix it. And the faculty don’t all take it to heart either; I tried to take an upper-division course that, according to the department chair, was for both undergrads and grads, but when I asked the professor, she kept telling me not to take it, even though I was qualified and REALLY wanted to take it because it was an extension of research I had done over the summer. She said she only wanted grad students in the course.

    None of that would fall under “free spirit of learning.”

  • @”free”??

    Compare Stanford’s reqs to U of Chicago or Columbia. All, in all, Stanford’s GER’s/EC’s give students more flexibility than most schools.

    Where did you get your 15 required courses number?
    PWR: 2 classes
    IHUM: 3 classes
    Humanities: 1 class
    Social Science: 1 class
    Math: 1 class
    Natural Science: 1 class
    Engineering Science: 1 class
    EC-1: 1 class
    EC-2: 1 class

    For a total of 12 classes.

    Plus, a lot of GER’s/EC’s end up getting taken care of while completing your major. For instance, if you’re a fuzzy, your Social Science and your Humanities (and maybe your EC’s) will get taken care of. Same, if you’re a techie, your EngrSci, NatSci and Math requirements are taken care of. You can also combine PWR with fulfilling one of those req’s as well. If you do SLE, that 5 freshman/sophomore classes becomes 3 classes.

  • @the above comment

    Why does it matter what other schools’ GER’s are? Stanford is not U of Chicago. Stanford is not Columbia. Also, those two schools are known to have monstrous core curricula, so they are definitely not good candidates for comparison. They are also among the schools that follow a more classical education; Stanford always touts that it breaks away from these kinds of traditions.

    The 15 required courses includes the 3 quarters of foreign language that you must take to graduate.

    It also doesn’t matter whether the GERs are covered by some of your other courses. It’s a restriction that is directly opposed to the “free spirit of learning.” YOUR major might cover a lot of the GERs, but most majors don’t. This is especially frustrating when a student who’s an English major has to take a GER in engineering, hates the class, doesn’t do well, doesn’t take anything from it, and resents Stanford for making them take it. This happens surprisingly often, which is what the committee on undergraduate education has been discussing.

    Finally, saying that SLE is “3 classes” is disingenuous. SLE takes up 9 units, last I heard, so that’s two class “slots” per quarter, for 6 classes total, more than the 5 that would be required if you didn’t take SLE. That makes sense, because SLE is supposed to be more intensive.

  • gianni

    Too bad Harbaugh left. The best ones are now probably going to end up at USC.

  • Alum

    RE: “free”??
    Bob is correct about the data provided. Schools like Stanford release just enough data to give applicants the idea they might have a chance. They don’t break each factor (such as SAT scores) into narrow enough ranges and they don’t combine factors. (Such as showing the number admitted with a specific SAT score plus a specific GPA.) They also tend to report everything in percentages and not actual numbers. Law schools have for years given specific numbers and combined factors so it can’t be that hard.

  • @Alum

    It’s true they don’t combine factors, but there’s really no point in giving extremely detailed statistics about the numbers of those admitted. Why? Because most of their admission is based not on the numbers like SAT and GPA and class rank and AP scores (contrast that with law schools, where admission is highly dependent on LSAT and GPA, so it makes sense for them to give detailed statistics). It has much more to do with recommendations, essays, and non-quantifiable factors like extracurricular involvement. There wouldn’t be much point in giving them tons of data about the numbers, because it still would not help them gauge their chances. Even if a person has all the numbers that match what kinds of students tend to get in, they can’t really think “I have a better chance,” because most of the people who match that are rejected anyway. It’s unpredictable, which is not to say it’s random. That’s another reason why the numbers aren’t helpful, because even knowing percents or frequencies will not allow you to say “my chance is X”: college admissions are not a random event, and so that probabilistic line of thinking does not apply (it must be a random event for you to draw conclusions about chances from numbers). This goes back to the greater point that non-quantifiable factors have the greatest influence in your admission.