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Applications to MIT Class of 2001 Down By Almost 2 Percent

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor

The number of high school students applying to MITthis year is projected to be at least 100 fewer than the number of applications last year.

Last year, a record total of 8,022 high school seniors applied for admission, said Associate Director of Admissions Elizabeth S. Johnson.

While some applications have yet to be processed, "we definitely won't hit 7,900 this year," Johnson said. MIT has processed 7,812 applications so far, compared with 7,968 processed by last year at this time.

This year's numbers should not change appreciably, Johnson said. "I don't think [the number of additional applications still to be processed] will be significant," she said.

While the number of applications decreased slightly, the candidates for admission this year are "very comparable"to those in last year's application pool, she said.

Early decision plays a role

The gradual shift from early action to early decision programs by some colleges in recent years is cited as a reason for much of the changes in MIT admission figures.

Most Ivy League schools - many of which compete with MIT for potential students - have implemented binding early decision programs in recent years. Such programs require students to attend their first choice school if admitted early.

As more students receive binding early acceptances to other schools, they do not apply to MIT for regular admission, Johnson said.

In addition, many of the Ivy League schools are admitting more of their class under the early decision plan than in prior years, Johnson said. "Someone said that unless you apply early and get in early, you won't get in," she added.

The number of high school seniors in the United States has been increasing in recent years. "If nothing had changed, we would expect our pool to grow" as a result, Johnson said. Instead, while early action applications continue to increase, the number of applications received for the regular decision process is decreasing.

While the total applicant pool has decreased, the number of applications received from foreign citizens has remained stable in recent years, Johnson said. International students are generally not permitted to file early admissions applications, and thus are not affected by the shift to early decision programs, she said.

Other schools also see declines

MITis not the only school to see a decline in the number of applications this year. According to a Boston Globe report, the number of applications fell at all the Ivy League schools except Columbia University, where applications increased 9 percent.

"This could be the beginning of a return to greater sanity and less of a craze of applying practically to any place in sight," said William Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid at Harvard University in the Globe. The number of applications to Harvard fell 8 percent this year.

"Those students who would have applied to numerous schools are instead committing early to one," said Richard Shaw, dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale University in the Globe.

While applications fell dramatically at some Ivy League schools, the drop was smaller at MIT. Still, other Ivy League universities "had been up much more" than MITduring the early 1990s, when the number of applications to Ivy League schools increased dramatically, Johnson said.

Between 1991 and 1996, the number of applications to Harvard increased by 49 percent. MIT saw a 23 percent increase during the same time period.

Admissions completing reviews

The Admissions Office is currently reviewing the application materials of all those who have applied to enroll in the Class of 2001.

Two admissions officers will review each applicant's background, Johnson said. Beginning March 6, admissions personnel will begin the process of choosing who will be admitted. "Unlike other schools, we bring everything to the table," and summaries of each applicant are reviewed by the committee, she said.

The President's Office, in consultation with the Planning Office, determines the size of each entering class, Johnson said. The Admissions Office is aiming for a class of 1,070 students this year, compared with 1,080 last year, she added.

To ensure that the class will not be too large, the Admissions Office is predicting that the percentage of applicants accepted who choose to attend MIT will be larger this year than last year, Johnson said. Waiting lists will then be used if necessary to even out the class size.

Letters of acceptance and rejection should be mailed in mid-March, barring any difficulties, Johnson said.