Colleges change admission policies

Students in the Mercer Island High School class of 2010, seen here lining up for graduation, were some of the first to face a different type of admissions process when applying to college. - Jenny Manning/Staff Photo
Students in the Mercer Island High School class of 2010, seen here lining up for graduation, were some of the first to face a different type of admissions process when applying to college.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Staff Photo

Faced with budget cuts and flurries of worried phone calls from applicants every spring, the University of Washington is to change from “rolling” to “pooling” admissions, meaning it is to move its application deadline to December and make acceptance decisions only after the admissions office has reviewed all 20,000 or so annual applications.

In a change intended to cut costs, but not change the criteria for acceptance, the application deadline for the UW is to be Dec. 15 this year and all applicants are to be notified about admission in the last two weeks of March, according to university officials. Other Washington universities said they are planning to keep the rolling system.

“In the past, the deadline was Jan. 15, but we encouraged applicants to apply by Dec. 1 because it really helps to get applications early,” said Paul Seegert, Associate Director of Admissions at the UW. “That was creating a lot of confusion.”

Seegert said some applicants mistakenly thought Dec. 1 was an early action deadline that would assure them faster notification about acceptance. Others got nervous when they learned their friends had already been accepted thanks to the UW’s rolling admission system and flooded the admissions office with phone calls.

Under the rolling system, the UW would send out about half of its acceptance letters to students who clearly met the criteria for admission before it had reviewed every application, according to Seegert. Under the pooling system, all applicants are to find out if they have been accepted within the same two-week window.

“Our hope is that by easing anxiety, it will ease the number of applicants worried there’s something wrong with their applications,” Seegert said. “That will free up time for dealing with the applications themselves.”

Seegert said this, in turn, would allow the application readers to give every application an equal amount of time and consideration. For admissions for the fall of 2012, he said that his office was thinking of moving the deadline for applications to Dec. 1 to give staff even more time to make decisions. Though this decision has not been finalized, Seegert said high school juniors thinking of applying to the UW next year should not assume that Dec. 15 would be the admissions deadline in the future.

Seegert said he didn’t expect the changing admissions process to make it harder to get into the UW, and the university would use the same review process it has in past years for applications.

Also, he hoped it would allow UW Admissions to accomplish more with a smaller staff. Seegert said the office normally hires about 20 graduate students to help read applications, but this year because of budget cuts, it would be able to hire only about 12.

The Seattle PI reported in April that the UW lost about a third of its state funding between 2009 and 2011, leading to layoffs and cutbacks around the campus.

Seegert said the admissions office may increase the number of out-of-state students whom it accepts in response to budget shortfalls because they bring in more tuition revenue. He said, though, that this would not affect Washington residents because the UW will continue to admit the same number of in-state students, and residents compete against only each other for admission.

The Western Washington University admissions office, meanwhile, was also planning on increasing the out-of-state students in its student body over the next few years to about 9 percent, though it decided to do so before the budget cuts began, said Karen Copetas, who works as Director of Admissions there. She said about 7 percent of Western’s students are currently from outside the state, which is one of the lowest percentages in public universities in Washington.

Copetas said Western is planning to keep the rolling admission system, which she thought actually eased anxiety by letting some students know early about their acceptance and thus reducing their suspense.

Wendy Peterson, Director of Admissions for Washington State University, agreed. She said they were always trying to make the admissions office more efficient, but she did not think budget cuts and student anxiety could necessarily be mitigated by a pooling admissions process.

“Honestly, I think its an anxiety-inducing process to begin with,” said Peterson of applying to college. “I think the best bet is to apply early and talk to some admissions counselors.”

The priority deadline for applying to WSU is Jan. 31, Peterson said.

Both Peterson and Seegert said high school seniors interested in applying to WSU and UW should pay close attention to deadlines and get their applications ready early. Seegert said under the new system at the UW, the honors program was to change its deadline for priority scholarship consideration to Nov. 15.

For autumn quarter 2010, Seegert said the UW admissions office had received 162 applications from Mercer Island High School graduates and had offered admission to 100 of them. The acceptance rate for Mercer Island graduates was slightly higher than the overall acceptance rate for the university, Seegert said.

Peterson said WSU received about 20 more applications from Mercer Island graduates than last year, with 76 total MIHS applicants, 63 of whom were accepted. At Western, Copetas said 80 of 99 Mercer Island graduates who applied for the upcoming academic year were accepted.

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