The State of the University

Reports of the Provost

Dr. Chodorow: There are two major topics that I'd like to update you on--the Perelman Quadrangle and the 21st Century Project. First, I'd like to introduce two key members of my team and give you an idea of some of the other issues we are dealing with in the Provost's office. Penn is actively planning and preparing itself to do extremely well in the competitive world we'll face in the 21st Century. These plans will include the ongoing recruitment of the best prepared students as well as a superior faculty. We are also organizing our planning efforts, especially in the uniting of our academic planning with our budget planning and our capital planning. First, I'd like to introduce you to Lee Stetson, the Dean of Admissions, to report to you about our successes in bringing to Penn the best possible students and the largest possible number of applications.

Admissions Trends and Opportunities

by Willis J. Stetson, Jr., Dean of Admissions

It is a pleasure to bring you the news from the field, on what has been happening over the last number of years and--more specifically, in the most recent years, as we find ourselves in a new position in the marketplace for students. It really is a marketplace: in traveling across the country, as the Admissions staff and as some of us in this room have done, talking to potential students and interviewing them on campus, it is clear that we are, as President Rodin noted earlier, at just the position to move very nicely to the next level. We have come a long way, and we have a long way to go, all of which is exciting.

Applications have risen in the last five years from 9,500-9,800 to 16,000 projected for this year. The interest in Penn is deeper and wider than it ever has been: it is strong nationally as well as locally and up and down the Eastern Seaboard. It is also more international, another positive step.

The number of top-quality students applying to Penn and the other "schools of choice" in this country continues to grow, and all signs are that the numbers will increase again this year. We are projecting an increase of 15-18% (at presstime the actual figure had risen to 24% -- Ed.) in early decision applications. We are filling over a third of the class in the early decision period, with more students making Penn their first choice. Joint travel with schools that are viewed as being within our competitive group--other Ivies like Harvard and Yale and also with Duke and Georgetown--has been very effective in bringing us to larger audiences and is, I believe, making a difference.

We have always that the best recruiting approach for Penn is to show prospective students what Penn offers, in campus visits that provide op-portunities to meet with our faculty and our current students--whose satisfaction with their experience here brings more students behind them.

This belief is being borne out: I saw the results of a survey done this summer among admitted students (both those who accepted Penn's offer and those who declined), in which they were asked what they considered to be the most important elements of Penn. Image was most important to them, at least initially; and our personal follow-up was the key to our success. In listing adjectives describing what interested them in Penn, they noted prestigious at the top of the list, then highly respected...challenging... ...intellectual...diverse (there are probably only a few schools in the country that are truly diverse, and Penn is one of those schools) oriented...friendly...and then good in athletics. That may be a matter of which sport one is considering, but we have been doing very well not only in the more visible ones but in some of the less visible ones,also.

Our goal is to identify, recruit, evaluate--with the help of faculty and of staff in each of the deans' offices--and enroll the best students in the country. Faculty have been involved in on-campus activies, and we would like to see that involvement grow. It is very obvious that students really enjoy being identified by an "Admissions effort," but they like to interact with the individuals who will be their intellectual mentors while they are here.

The competition is keen. We are competing with the very top schools in this country, and have been for many years. We are, however, right in the middle of the hunt for the Ivy League student. There is no doubt that students are entering the pool in part because we are a part of that group of eight schools called the Ivy League, and we are one of the top institutions in the country. Therefore the stakes are higher. It means we have to be on the cutting edge in everything we do-- in finding ways to present the true picture of Penn to prospective students when they visit.

One question often asked is "How are we doing against Harvard, Yale and Princeton?" It appears we are making slow but steady progress there. We are moving into the center of the Ivy League--Cornell, Brown, Columbia and Dartmouth. In terms of out-of-the-League pools of choice, we are doing well against Duke and Northwestern but not as well against Stanford, the "Harvard of the West"--or is it, as Stanford claims, that Harvard is the "Stanford of the East"? Those institutions are the schools with which we are overlapping by the greatest numbers of applicants.

Financial aid remains a critical issue. We continue to do very well but pay a high price for bringing here the very best students from all walks of life, in all economic levels. We have to continue to do this if we are going to enroll the very best students. Also, we find that increasing numbers of students--and this is a growing trend--are saying that the experience of being in an urban setting is in part why they are looking at Penn. Security issues are important, but I think the excitement about what is here, the fact that this is in such a vital and yeasty place and has so much to offer, is attracting students. We have to relish this opportunity.

It also is very clear that more students are looking for ways to volunteer their services and to be involved in their local community. We are seeing that in applications as students report their experiences in their secondary school years. Whatever their community, be it rural or suburban or urban, it appears students are reaching out. And this is encouraging, after the decade of the 1980s when we saw so little of that.

The bottom line, then, is that the quality of students is improving on every level. The SATs are rising (and they will go way up this year since they were just recentered by the College Board; we will have to make ad-justments for this). What it comes down to is that we are, as the president said, poised to go to the next level, and working together will move us to that level.

(To next page of reports.)


Tuesday, November 14, 1995
Volume 42 Number 12

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