A record-breaking number of students have applied to the University of Washington for fall 2016. The biggest growth is coming from outside the state.
The University of Washington has again set a record for applications, recording another double-digit increase in the percent of students who want to study at the Seattle campus.
The application boom is driven largely by out-of-state and international students who want to come here. In five years, the number of out-of-state students applying to the UW has more than doubled.
The admissions office received 6,500 more applications than last year — an 18 percent jump — by the December deadline. That topped last year’s increase of 16 percent, which in itself was a record breaker for the school.
The numbers were so big that the UW’s admissions office has hired six additional temporary application readers to get through all 43,334 applications by early March, when acceptance letters will go out in the mail.
UW admissions director Paul Seegert says he’s informally surveyed his colleagues at other universities about application increases. While most schools experienced a jump in applications last year, few had double-digit increases, and Purdue University was the only school he’s aware of that had a slightly bigger freshman application increase than the UW in 2015.
“More and more, the University of Washington is the place to be,” he said. “Other public flagship universities don’t seem to be seeing the same increase.”
It’s also likely that Seattle’s stature as a hip, growing city with a thriving tech economy is propelling the increase.
Washington high-school seniors who want to be Huskies will be relieved to hear that in-state applications were only up 5 percent.
The big application surge for the 2016-17 academic year came from out-of-state students, whose applications rose 26 percent from the previous year. In all, the UW received nearly 21,000 applications from U.S. students living in the other 49 states, nearly twice as many applications as from in-state students.
Nearly 11,000 students living outside the U.S. applied to come here, a 19 percent increase from the previous year.
Lower tuition may be a factor for the increase in in-state applicants; tuition dropped 5 percent this year, and will drop another 10 percent in 2016-17, the result of a decision by the Legislature to cut in-state tuition at all public colleges.
Last year, the UW admitted about 65 percent of all in-state applicants, and it’s likely this year’s admit rate for residents will be similar, Seegert said.
But the acceptance rate for out-of-state and international students — which was 53 percent for out-of-state and 39 percent for international students in 2015 — will likely drop. That in itself may be fueling some of the popularity, Seegert said. Because it is becoming harder to get into the UW from outside of Washington, the UW is seen as more selective, which makes it more desirable.
Last year, out-of-state and international students surprised the UW by accepting admission offers at a rate much higher than expected.
“We did not intend to enroll so many nonresident freshman last year,” Seegert said. This year, he said, the admissions office will be more cautious with offers to nonresidents, with the goal of admitting about 2,220 non-Washingtonians, or about 300 fewer than last year.
In all, the UW expects to enroll about 4,300 Washington freshmen for the fall quarter, 2,200 out-of-state and international freshmen, and about 1,240 transfer students, most of them from Washington community colleges.
Last year, it enrolled 4,283 residents, 2,509 out-of-state and international freshmen and 1,237 transfer students.
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Between now and early March, a staff of 50 — including 30 temporary employees, most of them graduate students — will pore through applications and decide who should be given an offer to become a Husky.
Although high-school seniors are applying to more colleges than ever before, Seegert thinks that accounts for only a small percent of the application boom.
Population changes don’t explain the increase, either, because the number of high-school graduates in-state and nationwide has held steady in recent years, both in Washington and nationwide.
National numbers for 2016 won’t be available for a while, but the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) noted in its 2014 State of College Admission report that in 2013, about 65 percent of all colleges saw an increase in admissions — although it did not say by how much.
Seegert attributes the UW’s popularity to its high standing on national and international rankings.
“The UW keeps rising and rising in rankings — it seems like new rankings come out all the time, and we’re more and more prominent,” he said.
Ironically, the UW is dropping, not rising, on what has long been the nation’s most influential list, U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges. In 2015, U.S. News ranked the UW 52nd among national universities — a 10-place drop since 2010.
But Seegert said he thought the U.S. News list isn’t as influential as it once was, and the UW has done well on other lists, including ones published by USA Today and Reuters. Washington Monthly’s College Guide, which ranks schools based on their contribution to the public good, puts the UW at No. 7 among national universities.
And in recent years, the UW has also done well on international rankings — such as the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities, published by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which ranks the UW 15th in the world.