Dean of Admissions says record low admissions rate not paramount

April 19, 2012

Georgetown’s acceptance rate for next year’s freshman class was a record low at 16.5 percent, with 3,316 students admitted out of a pool of over 20,000. But while other universities strive to attract more applicants to lower acceptance rates, Dean of Admissions Charles Deacon says his office has not been seeking to increase the volume of applications, due to the time and effort his staff takes to review each candidate.

Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Cornell Universities are also reporting record lows, and among the Ivy League schools, only the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell were in double-digits. Deacon said he thinks Georgetown does not want “to be in a position where we issue a press release saying Georgetown only admitted 5.7 percent.”

“I don’t think that’s a positive message,” he said.

Georgetown does not accept the Common Application, which makes it easier for students to apply to as many as 20 to 30 schools, making it something of an exception among top-tier schools.

Some schools, like the University of Chicago, Deacon said, encourage unqualified candidates to apply in order to lower acceptance rates.

“Their new president came in and said, we want our numbers to be like Columbia’s. They fired the admissions staff and brought new staff in, changed all the things, and if you were interested in applying to Chicago you probably got a hundred emails,” Deacon said. “We think something as important as a life-changing decision should not be a sound bite, and the process where a son or daughter leaves home to go to college a high-touch, not a high-tech, moment.”

Deacon said this philosophy comes from President DeGioia and the Board of Directors.

Nevertheless, the number of applicants and interested students is growing. Although Deacon pointed out that demographics do not support the idea of an explosion in applicants any time soon, he did say that 20 percent more high school juniors have come to visit so far this year than did last year. He joked about hiring a touring agency to help with the 45,000 people going to information sessions and tours.

If applications keep going up, the admissions office will probably have to increase the size of its staff, Deacon said.

“Ultimately, every applicant has some degree of time simply beyond reading the application, whether it means coordinating the alumni interview locally, or answering questions,” he said. “Right now we’ve been able to manage.”

Applications are reviewed “in a systematic fashion,” Deacon said. “First, all the information is processed into the system and then they are read in a sequence, geographically state by state and high school by high school, then by the regional director and run by me in the end.”

If an application is especially competitive, it is funneled to a committee of four, usually including a dean, a faculty member, a student, and an admissions officer. Deacon said “maybe a quarter to a third” of cases receive more attention.

The admissions office also benefits from an experienced staff with little turnover, which means people “tend to know their area, know their schools, which helps a little bit as well in terms of being able to give a fair read but an efficient read,” Deacon said.

Deacon said he hopes to be able to preserve what students have said they value most—the feeling that Georgetown is “trying to know who we are,” and is “going to give a fair shake.”

“[It’s not] a numbers game,” he said.

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