AU receives second-highest number of applicants during online application season

University expects to welcome class of around 2,005 first-year students

AU receives second-highest number of applicants during online application season
Cherry blossoms in bloom on an empty campus.

Despite transitioning to an entirely virtual admissions process amid the coronavirus pandemic, American University maintained a steady student application rate, according to Andrea Felder, assistant vice provost for undergraduate admissions.  

Felder said that admissions had the second-highest number of applications received in AU’s history, even after experiencing a slight decline from the previous year. Felder also explained that admissions accepted more students to increase the first-year class.

“The first-year class this year is expected to be about 2,005 students,” Felder said. “Versus last year the target was about 1,780 first-year students, so [there was] a pretty significant difference in terms of the targets.”

Stacie Burgess, director of public affairs at AU said that “as the admissions process is ongoing, we will share the final admit rate later this spring.”

Since students were unable to visit the campus in person for tours, information sessions and prospective student events, the University hosted numerous virtual admissions events to create a campus feeling for students all over the world, according to the University’s website.

Lucy LaVigne, a 17-year-old from Texas, said that AU was clearer with expectations during the virtual admissions process compared to other universities she applied to. 

“In the virtual world, after stressing about applications, I think AU was very good about making their admissions the less stressful part of this virtual process,” LaVigne said. “It was a huge weight off my shoulders and I knew, AU was handling it.”

Gabriella Weissbart, a student accepted through early decision, agreed. From her hometown in New Jersey, Weissbart said AU was one of the only universities that she applied to that stayed in touch with her after her acceptance.

While many students chose to apply early decision, the pandemic posed many challenges for families, making this decision more difficult. Even though the regular decision applications remained steady, the University did see a decline in early decision applications compared to previous years, said Jessica Waters, dean of Undergraduate Education and vice provost for Academic Student Services.  

Waters said families and students were concerned with making a financial commitment without knowing if the fall semester would be in person or online. 

This was a reality for early decision accepted students like Suria Rimer. Rimer said she was nervous to apply early decision because she did not want to make a binding decision that she might not be able to financially commit to, even though AU was her top choice.  

However, Felder emphasized the University’s continued commitment to meeting students’ need-based aid in the upcoming year as well as ensuring AU is as affordable as possible for all students.

Looking ahead, members of the AU community are hopeful for the future and the return to in-person campus life soon.

“I can’t wait to be back on campus with students, I miss it,” Waters said.  

Waters also said that the admissions process has become much more accessible in its virtual format. Felder agrees and hopes to continue fostering “creativity and thoughtfulness” into admissions in the coming years.  

The virtual admissions process was one that not only impacted incoming first-year students but current AU students as well, right in the middle of their admission.

Like many others, Grace Kenney, a first-year student majoring in Justice and Law at AU, did not have a chance to attend an in-person information session or campus tour after her acceptance.

As her first year comes to a close, Kenney has been taking all her classes virtually and still has yet to step foot on AU’s campus. Despite this, she said she hopes she chose the right university.

“There is no way for me to know if I will be a good fit at American,” Kenney said. “But I do think, even having never been to campus, I made the right decision.”

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