Early decisions accept 30 percent of applicants

by Katie Silberman | 1/5/06 6:00am

"We have gotten a really great start on the class of 2010," said Karl Furstenberg, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. Thirty percent of the applications were granted admission, filling nearly one-third of the future freshman class.

The majority of accepted students hail from the Mid-Atlantic, while many others come from New England and the West Coast, a geographic trend that has held true for the past five years. Twenty-four students live outside the U.S. and 19 are non-U.S. citizens. Fifty-nine percent of those accepted attended public school, while 38 percent attended private school and three percent attended parochial. In a slight drop from last year, only 60 of the accepted students were legacies.

Academically, the new class remains on par with Dartmouth's exceedingly competitive admissions figures. Ninety-five members of the class of 2010 are valedictorians, and four are Salutatorians. Among the accepted students the mean SAT verbal score was 706, the mean SAT math score was 718, and the mean SAT writing score -- a new addition to the SAT test -- was 704.

"Over the last couple years, especially as the applicant pool has become worldwide, students have continued to recognize the quality of Dartmouth," Dean Furstenberg said. "We have received more than our fair share of qualified applicants."

The new SAT system proved to be much less complicated than some had feared. Although there are still difficulties in comparing the new 2400-point SAT to the old 1600-point SAT, Furstenberg believes there is no real difference between the two.

"I don't feel like we're getting any really new information," he said. The college changed the number of SAT IIs required from three to two, so that the same number of scores are looked at for each applicant. "The SAT is a useful measuring process in something as competitive as Dartmouth's application process. We do need some standard national measurement because we read so many applications." As more and more high schools disregard ranking systems, the SATs become even more important. "The lack of school rankings and increasing incidents of grade inflation make the SATs very helpful," Dean Furstenberg said.

Dartmouth received 1,317 Early Decision applications this fall, a 12 percent increase over last year's 1,180 and an important trend reversal against last year's lull in applications. Every Ivy League school received fewer early applications in 2004 than in 2003, which had some college officials worried. This year, however, every Ivy League school -- with the exception of Harvard University -- experienced an increase in applications, from Columbia's 3.5 percent to the University of Pennsylvania's 21 percent jump.

"There was so much discussion about Early Decision and its downsides, and people were much more cautious [last year]," Dean Furstenberg said.

Early applications received an explosion of popularity when rumors of easier acceptances inspired many students to apply early in recent years. Many parents and high school counselors began to discourage applying early, however, especially after realizing that students who apply to binding schools are required to attend no matter what financial aid package they receive. In 2002, Yale University and Stanford University switched from binding Early Decision to non-restrictive single-choice Early Action policies that allow students to apply to other schools after being accepted.

Most of these downsides do not affect Dartmouth applicants, according to Dean Furstenberg. "As a 100 percent need-blind school, nobody accepted early is locked in for financial aid," he said.

"I think Early Decision works very well for Dartmouth, because it is a first-choice institution -- people applying here know they want to go here," he continued. "Dartmouth is clearly a first choice for a lot of people."

Monica Hernandez, a high school senior at Phillips Exeter Academy who was accepted early, agrees.

"Since I knew Dartmouth was my first choice, applying early took away the stress of applying to multiple schools," she said. The benefits of only filling out one application and finding out before Exeter's winter break only added to her desire to apply early.

"I can relax and enjoy my spring knowing where I'll be next year," she said.

As the new members of the Dartmouth community prove, the college continues to be one of the most competitive schools in the country. The academic caliber and unique campus atmosphere will continue to attract qualified Early Decision applicants.

"Looking back on it now, I don't regret anything," Hernandez said. "I would definitely recommend applying early to other people applying, but only if you can find that one school that you are still excited to go to when everyone is getting their letters in May. Dartmouth was definitely that school for me."