Updated, 10:07 p.m.
Barnard sent acceptance letters to just 21 percent of its applicants on Monday, the lowest admit rate in the college’s history and the lowest among U.S. women’s colleges.
Dean of Admissions Jennifer Fondiller said she sees the rising applicant numbers and decreasing admissions rates as signs of a “strong upward trajectory” for the college, which she attributed to efforts to make the college more visible and more accessible to prospective students.
“There are pockets of the country out there, and even in the New York area, who haven’t heard of us,” Fondiller said. “When they think of schools in New York City, they think of Columbia or NYU.”
“There are more and more strong students now realizing that Barnard could be a fit for them,” she said.
Last year, Barnard’s admit rate was 24.9 percent. Because of a higher-than-expected yield, the class of 2015 rounded out at 610 students. With this year’s 3.9 percent admit rate decrease, the Office of Admissions expects the class of 2016 to return to the usual size of 580 to 590 students.
While many colleges, including Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, have eliminated the suspense of waiting for the mailman with electronic acceptances, Barnard still notifies its applicants by mail. The 1,141 admitted students should receive the envelopes Tuesday or Wednesday.
The lower admit rate is also a sign of increased programming directed at high school juniors. Students can come to Barnard for an open house in either the fall or the spring, where they participate in workshops ranging from how to craft a résumé to how to write a college essay.
Fondiller also thinks that in addition to Barnard visiting high schools directly, the college’s “stellar students” are going back to their high schools and talking about Barnard more often. The number of applicants for the class of 2016 was 17.8 percent higher than the number of applicants two years ago.
Applicants also demonstrated more interest in the female-focused leadership projects that President Debora Spar has promoted, like the Athena Scholars Program, Fondiller said.
“It makes sense that the rate has decreased, especially as society keeps putting more and more emphasis on having a college education,” Liora Hostyk, BC ’14, said.
Hostyk said that she thinks that the number of applicants will continue to increase, especially due to the increased publicity for the college generated by recent events featuring Oprah Winfrey and Gloria Steinem, as well as President Barack Obama’s upcoming commencement address in May.
Rishu Chen, BC ’13, agreed, noting that “more and more people realize there is another option” in a single-sex school.
“I think going to a women’s college nowadays is a precious experience,” she said.