Philadelphia Inquirer : Swarthmore Applications Soar as Essays Shrink
... By its Jan. 1 deadline, the college received 7,885 applications - a whopping 42 percent increase [from last year].
"To my knowledge, there's never been this big of an increase," said Jim Bock '90, who has been in Swarthmore admissions office for 18 years, 14 of them as dean. ...
Swarthmore also advertised application-fee waivers for low-income students a month earlier than in past years, and incorporated all of its Swarthmore-specific questions and essay within one application - the Common Application - so no supplement was needed. Colleges were allowed to do that this year.
Admissions officers, too, visited and reached out to more prospective students, he said.
"When you put those things together, it's hard to say which one had the most direct impact," Bock said. "We pulled several levers. . . . We made it more accessible for all applicants."
Swarthmore officials were particularly concerned about reaching students from lower-income families, who may not be able to afford the $60 application fee or have all the opportunities of their peers from more affluent families. The college reminded prospective applicants in mid-November of the fee waiver as opposed to mid-December. ...
One thing's for sure: It will be harder to get into Swarthmore this year, with so many applicants vying for 418 freshman spots. Last year, the college accepted 17 percent of applicants for 403 spots.