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Applicant pool increases by 15 percent

By Andrew Ta and Asiya Kazi     3/11/14 5:44pm

An unprecedented 15 percent rise in the number of applications for Rice University’s fall 2014 incoming class took the Enrollment Office by surprise, Vice President for Enrollment Chris Munoz said.

An unprecedented 15 percent rise in the number of applications for Rice University’s fall 2014 incoming class took the Enrollment Office by surprise, Vice President for Enrollment Chris Munoz said.

“For the last seven years, we’ve grown our applicant pool,” Munoz said. “But this, I confess, has been a surprise. There are very few universities this year who are going to report being up 15 percent. I already know ... that some other universities are down in applications, including Harvard. Dartmouth is down. Vanderbilt is down. Chicago is down. We’re countering that experience.”



According to Munoz, the number of applicants with high test scores has risen disproportionately, but this follows a trend of an increase in applicants with perfect grades.

“Our overall applicant pool has grown by 15 percent,” Munoz said. “[But] students with SATs over 1500 on a 1600 scale has grown by over 30 percent this year compared to a year ago. We have a sizable portion, maybe 65-70 percent of the students who apply to Rice, that have nearly perfect academic records and, at one time, that was maybe 40 percent. There are going to be students who, in previous years, were admitted to Rice, that would not be this year.”

Munoz said although the primary reason for the increase cannot be pinpointed, the increase of the applicant pool from 8000 to 17000 in the last six years, partly directed by the Vision for the Second Century that called for a growth in the student body, contributed to the large jump. 

“It’s all interrelated and interconnected,” Munoz said. “There are those who are strong advocates for athletics that would say it was because the football team went to a bowl. There’s some anecdotal evidence [that] as you grow your applicant pool ... you get an effect where a student who applied from, say, New York, a number of other students start to become aware of Rice because more students from their community are applying to a university far away.”

According to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson, the increase in applications resulted from Rice’s rapidly growing national and international reputation. 

“This is at least in part due to the publicity over our ‘happiest students,’” Hutchinson said. “But, more than that, I think prospective students have discovered that we offer the opportunity to join a world-class research institution and have the residential college experience, all on one campus.”

Munoz said his initial findings echoed Hutchinson’s statements that quality of life appeals to the students that apply to Rice.

“We have read [in] a number of statements from students who have applied this year recognition from surveys that suggest that Rice students are very happy with their experience at Rice,” Munoz said. “We’re hearing that, frequently.”

Munoz said publicizing high levels of student satisfaction in national media has greatly contributed to recent increases in the university’s perceived value. 

“I think we’re better known,” Munoz said. “For several years now, we have grown our applicant pool in Texas, outside of Texas, and internationally. This consciousness and this awareness of Rice is growing at such a rate that it’s compensating for the fact that the number of high school graduates is declining.”

Hanszen College senior Mike Schubert said he thinks the university is most likely trying to increase the number of applicants in order to lower acceptance rates.

“A lower acceptance rate would make us ‘more prestigious,’ and more applicants allows Rice [to truly] pick the best of the best,” Schubert said.

According to Munoz, while the administration views higher application numbers and lower admittance percentages as positive trends, it has no target for either.

“There are [peer universities] that have larger applicant pools and even lower admit rates,” Munoz said. “We want to be in that company, but we want to earn it. We want it to be because students and parents find us to be very appealing and the right choice for them.”

Munoz said Rice is specifically targeting students who would seriously consider attending.

“At Rice, we’ve tried hard to interest and speak to students who will find Rice appealing,” Munoz said. “We’re not interested in growing the applicant pool just for the sake of [it]. It doesn’t serve us to increase our applicant pool amongst students who really don’t have any loyalty or intention. There are some universities that appear to do that at times, but we are not [one of them].”

Schubert said he does not believe there is any downside to an increase in applications, as long as Rice does not consequently become over-enrolled.

“I love that Rice is becoming more of a well-known academic powerhouse as opposed to a ‘best kept secret,’” Schubert said. “Rice deserves to be in the same conversation as schools like Stanford, and I think its increase in popularity will allow for that to happen more frequently.”

Brown College junior Reilly Solis said high-yield rates could create overcrowding issues. 

“The best things Rice has to offer could be quite easily dismantled by increases in the student body without sufficient capacity expansion,” Solis said. “Think student-to-faculty ratio, residential college culture and access to university resources, among other Rice qualities.”

Munoz said he does not foresee another large jump in the applicant pool in the near future.

“I’m not expecting another increase in the [application] rate, like we had this year, for next year, but I think it’s conceivable that we will be up again,” Munoz said.



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