June 23, 2004
By Michelle Dombeck
Bucknell Dean of Admissions Mark Davies was busier than he's ever been during the application-reading process for the Class of 2008 — he and the rest of the admissions staff had to tackle a file-filled room with more than 8,320 applications.
Although the beginning of the year is always a hectic time for admissions, there was more work to do this year than last. An 8 percent increase in applications from last year represents an all-time high.
Davies says that the increase in applications is linked to the university's efforts to reach out to more prospective students. Bucknell enjoys great support from a dedicated group of alumni interviewers (over 1,000 strong) who represent the university, interviewing students and hosting events nationally and worldwide.
Working over the last five years to become more visible around the country, Bucknell has been sending representatives to communities to talk about the school at college night programs and encourage prospective students to visit. This effort, in addition to follow-up mailings, an extensive admissions website, and tremendous growth in email contact and follow-up, paid off with a 41 percent increase in summer visitors.
"All the work we do on campus, from mailings to the website, is really to encourage students to visit us. If we can do that and get a chance to articulate what's special about this institution, we have a good chance of getting students to apply," Davies says.
As the number of applications has increased over the years, the acceptance rate has fallen. Just six years ago, 54 percent of applicants were accepted; last year, only 38 percent were accepted. The university doesn't plan to increase its student enrollment, so with this year's record number of applications, the percentage accepted into the class of 2008 was 35.5.
The quality of the classes also has improved. In 1997, the average SAT score was 1240, and 52 percent of students were in the top tenth percentile of their high school class. The average SAT score of the Class of 2007 was over 1300, and 69 percent of students came from the top tenth percentile. (And the average SAT for students offered admission to the Class of 2008 is over 1350.)
"As Bucknell's student profile improves, the value of a Bucknell diploma increases," says Kurt Thiede, vice president for enrollment management.
One aspect of the application process that has changed recently is the way students are applying and learning about Bucknell, thanks to the Internet. Only 1,600 students sent in a paper application though the mail, while 17 percent more students applied online this year than last, making it easier to process applications. And while students are online filling out an application, they're also looking at Bucknell's admissions website, taking a virtual tour or reading about a "Year in the Life" of a first-year student.
Bucknell is aiming for an acceptance rate of 30 percent. To reach this goal, Thiede says that the university needs to "continuously improve; to do all we can as an educational institution and campus community to be a little better in all that we do."
If the trend of increasing numbers of applications continues, it looks as though the admissions staff members will have their work cut out for them. "It's more work, but it's always exciting to have more qualified candidates to choose from. We're looking for the best, brightest, and most diverse class we can possibly have. The deeper the pool, the better we're able to do that," Davies says.
To take a virtual tour of Bucknell's campus or check out "A Year in the Life" of a Bucknell student, go to www.bucknell.edu/x68.xml For more information on the Class of 2008, go to http://www.bucknell.edu/x6219.xml
Michelle Dombeck is a student at Bucknell University and chief copy editor at The Bucknellian, the university's student newspaper.