Illinois’ high rank leads to more applicants

By Stephen Spector

The University is ranked No. 10 in best public schools nationwide by U.S. News and World Report. In the most recent rankings available, the College of Engineering is ranked No. 4 in the country, and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science is unsurpassed at No. 1.

The University is establishing itself as one of the best in the world; just ask one of the 25,000 students that applied to attend next fall.

“All I want is to get into Illinois,” said Jordan Arbus, a senior at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Ill., who is being deferred.

Arbus said it seemed like more people at his high school were deferred rather than rejected, and only a handful received an acceptance letter.

Between the lucrative in-state tuition fee in tough economic times and the University’s increased efforts to recruit high school students, applying to the state’s flagship school is more popular than ever before. Yet, with only roughly 7,000 spots available, not every applicant will wear orange and blue next fall.

“We are building what will be the world’s fastest computer, our faculty are creating new knowledge every day and our students are the best and brightest anywhere,” said University spokeswoman Robin Kaler. “I think we are clearly recognized as among the very best.”

William Morrison, a high school college consultant at Highland Park High School in Highland Park, Ill., is not surprised by the number of applications that have flooded the admissions office.

“If you look at the out-of-state schools you’ll find either an inferior education or a school that offers the same education but charges a lot more,” Morrison said. “The combination of affordability and education at Illinois is second to none.”

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s 2008 report, more than half of all colleges and universities rated the following as the top four factors in an admission decision for the previous year: grades in college preparatory courses, strength in curriculum, admission test scores and overall grades.

The association’s report said that among all the factors, class rank has decreased the most in importance since 1993. Its value has dropped nearly 20 percentage points.

Highland Park High School stopped using class rank three years ago. Morrison said it was hurting the students with solid B averages who were not ranked in the top of their class.

“We’ve noticed that other nearby suburban high schools are doing the same thing,” Morrison said.

Kaler said the University reviews applications using a holistic approach rather than setting admission thresholds. The most important factor is always an applicant’s high school performance, but other factors are put into consideration.

“Test scores, activities, work experience, services and essays are also considered,” Kaler said.

The University admits about two-thirds of its applicants. Yet, the University of California-Berkeley, the nation’s top-rated public school, admits fewer than half of its applicants, Kaler said.

Kaler added that each college values different criteria.

The College of Business prefers leadership qualities whereas the College of Media likes experience in activities parallel to communications.

While a number of applicants have been given the thumbs up from the University, others like Arbus will discover the fate of their application on Feb. 13.

“I’ll wait for as long as I have to,” Arbus said.

Increase in applications

High school seniors accepted to the University will have even more reason to celebrate than past classes because the University’s admissions office received about 2,000 more applications this fallthan last year. But why?

The economy

It is possible that students might be inclined to apply to state schools with lower tuition rates, however it is not certain if this is a state-wide phenomena, said Don Sevener, spokesman for the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Also, adults might want to market themselves.

“Generally, in times of economic downturn many people will return to school because they want to better their careers, or earn degrees to start new careers,” Sevener said.

The baby boom

Kaler said there is information that shows last year was the peak in the “baby boomets,” or the children of the baby boomers. If the peak was last year, numbers should eventually begin to decline.

“This is expected to be the end of the peak,” Kaler said.

Compiled by Sarah Small