A sharp uptick in applications is leaving leadership at University of Washington Bothell scratching their heads.
More than 4,200 people applied to be in the university’s freshman class this fall, up from 3,100 last year. Assistant vice chancellor for enrollment Steve Syverson said there isn’t a clear reason for the almost 35 percent increase.
“I wish we had concrete knowledge of what drives it,” he said. “We’d like to presume it’s increasing due to people having good experiences here.”
Large jumps like this normally come after a university launches a new program or strategy, he said, but UW Bothell has held status quo for the past few years.
“Thirty-five percent in one year is sort of phenomenal,” Syverson said.
Two years ago, the school capped its admittance at about 800-850 incoming freshman. Since then, it hasn’t added any new programs that might attract students the university doesn’t have room for.
“We’re out of space,” Syverson said. “Unless we get another building, there’s no more room to teach them.”
While not a new trend, he said incoming students are showing increasing interest in science, technology, engineering and math majors. That’s partly due to students growing up hearing about local career opportunities in those fields.
The admission rates at UW’s Seattle campus have hovered between 45 and 48 percent since 2016, according to director of admissions Paul Seegert. It’s too early to tell what this fall’s will be.
Up north, Western Washington University’s admission rates have increased from 83 percent in 2016 to about 88 percent last year.
Henry M. Jackson High School has continued to feed into UW Bothell, contributing 106 applications this year. That’s a 20 percent increase over last year.
Lower admittance rates aren’t necessarily something to strive for, Syverson said. While some universities wear low admissions rates as a badge of honor, he said, UW Bothell isn’t as worried about becoming the most exclusive school.
The school has historically prided itself in focusing on underserved student populations and maintaining a diverse student body.
The college traditionally admits about 78-80 percent of applicants. With the growing number of applications, that rate has dropped to 68 percent.
“So there are a whole batch of students perfectly qualified to be here that would have been admitted any other year,” Syverson said.
UW Bothell was founded largely to serve the commuter population and those UW Seattle didn’t have room for.
While the increase in those wanting to attend UW Bothell is encouraging, it also makes that commitment more challenging, Syverson said.
“Right now it looks like we have the same kind of diversity in this incoming class,” he said. “But we’re trying to build into our review process a way to even better pull out the personal qualities as an issue we give the same amount of weight to as academic qualities.”