For the fourth consecutive year, Princeton University set a record for students applying for admission, receiving 21,262 applications for the class of 2012 (updated Jan. 28).
The number of applicants represents a 12 percent increase over last year's record of 18,942 applications for the class of 2011, which had an applicant pool 8 percent larger than for the class of 2010. Applicants for that class were up 6 percent over the applicants for the class of 2009.
The record-setting interest from students applying to attend the University comes even as Princeton marks the completion of its first application cycle after ending its early decision admission option.
"In a transition year when we changed to a single application deadline, we have increased the number of applications and the quality of our pool," said Dean of Admission Janet Rapelye, "which exceeded our expectations."
The University announced in September 2006 that it would end its binding early decision admission process through which students whose first choice was Princeton committed to attend if offered admission. The goal of the move to a single application deadline was to broaden and strengthen the applicant pool, and to provide greater access to students from a wider range of socioeconomic backgrounds who may not have the resources to apply early.
Rapelye credited this year's number of record applicants to increased recruitment efforts, including a joint national tour with admissions staff from Harvard and the University of Virginia, two other schools that have ended early admission.
"We traveled with Harvard and U.Va. and visited 19 cities around the country," Rapelye said. "We reached out to more students from many backgrounds, including lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and we did a significant amount of travel during the month of November that we never had done before. While we don't tie an individual effort to the increase in applications, we do think this had an impact."
According to Rapelye, other likely factors contributing to the interest in Princeton were information about the University's landmark "no-loan" financial aid program, which allows students on aid to graduate debt free, and also the University's online "early estimator," which allows families to calculate how much they would be expected to contribute to their child's education.
A growing number of applicants continue to apply online, with 95 percent of students using the online option, up from 87 percent last year. The increase in applicants was distributed evenly across geographic areas, Rapelye said, though the University did experience a notable increase in female applicants. The number of applications is split almost equally between men and women, countering a trend over the past several years in which applications from women lagged slightly behind those from men.
Applicants will be notified of decisions in late March. The admitted freshman class will range from 1,240 to 1,250 students in keeping with the gradual expansion of the undergraduate student body. The University in the fall of 2005 began an estimated 11 percent increase of the student body to enroll 5,200 students by the 2012-13 academic year.