University tightens admissions

By Christine Kim

With the end of the school year rapidly approaching, Aaron Moy, senior at Naperville Central High School, Naperville, Ill., is forced to choose a future that he did not envision.

Moy has a 3.8 grade point average on a scale of 4.0, scored a 28 out of 36 on his ACT college exam, was a French honor society student, and took honors courses in both science and math. He is musically talented, and joined the wind ensemble, the top band at Central, when he was a sophomore. He also played the drums in marching band, winter drumline, pit orchestra and drum show.

But despite his credentials, Moy was rejected by the College of Agriculture this year.

“I think I did all right,” Moy said. “I think I could have done a little better, but I thought I was up there .. I think it’s a lot harder now to get into wherever, especially U of I.”

Approximately 22,300 freshmen applications were received for the 7,200 enrollment spots for fall 2006. Last year the University admitted 7,584 freshmen out of 19,000 applicants.

Stacey Kostell, director of undergraduate admissions, says last year was uncommon. The past five years of data show 21-to 22,000 students as the typical number of applicants.

This year’s attempt to prevent last year’s over-enrollment means more students are being placed on the waiting list. Kostell says 1,121 students have been placed on the waiting list this year, possibly the largest number put on the list, but not significantly more than in 2004. Last year, between 500 and 600 students had been placed on the wait list.

“One of the things we hope to do is to, percentage-wise, admit a few less students,” Kostell said. “Plan on the higher yield, and if that doesn’t happen this year, we do have that wait list to make sure we don’t under-enroll. [It’s] a safety net to not over-enroll either.”

Students are not ranked within a wait list. If a college has not met its enrollment target, the Admission Review Committee for the college will select wait-listed students according to their credentials.

Normally, approximately 66 percent of applicants are admitted. Last year, the admission selectivity reached 75 percent. Although it is too early to tell, Kostell says admission selectivity will be closer to the average.

“For the most part, we’re similar to where we’ve always been as far as the percentage of students that have been admitted,” Kostell said. “I think one that is different this year is the number of students who applied to business.”

Because the College of Business is a college uninterested in growing, it has been more competitive as more students apply. Compared to last year’s approximate 2,300 applicants, the College of Business received 2,800 applicants this year. The college accepted a little more than 1,100 students last year and did the same for this year as well.

“I think we’ve become better recruiters,” said Jewell White, assistant dean for admission and recruiting in the college of business. “Historically we’ve had a great program .. I think the students that are admitted over the last couple of years will definitely be prepared to make a difference in the community and campus when they arrive.”

The rising number of applicants to the University may be due to increased recruitment activities. New receptions were held and new visitation programs were added, as well as more visits to high schools within the past year.

Another explanation is the change in the application process. The one open-ended personal statement was replaced with two 300-word defined essay questions. Activities and honors have also been added and carefully reviewed.

“I do think we look at applicants a little differently than we have in the past,” Kostell said. “(The changes) really allow us to look at everything a student brings rather than just academic credentials. For students who have great leadership or have done outstanding things, we can consider that in the whole picture of what that student will bring to our campus.”

Over a period of several years, the University is looking to decrease the class size of admitted freshmen to 6,500 students. Another goal is to increase the number of students accepted who graduated in the top ten percent of their class. Applications are examined not just for the transcript or test scores, but for the activities and essays as well. There are no minimum requirements stated, but Kostell predicts that there is a possibility that academic standards would increase.

The University is also working to improve its quality, Kostell said.

“Some of the programs that Illinois offers, as well as other premier publics, are the best in the nation,” Kostell said. “So I think students can come here and get a great education for a great price . I think we have a lot to offer.”