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STANFORD - Applications for next year's freshman class at Stanford are up 7.2 percent over this time last year, the largest increase in nine years, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
As of Jan. 26, the office had received 14,522 completed applications for freshman admission, compared to 13,547 the same time in 1993.
"The increase is somewhat surprising given that the number of high school graduates nationwide will slip another half- percent this year," said Dean of Undergraduate Admissions James Montoya.
Next year, he added, "the nation will experience a 4 percent increase in high school graduates."
Stanford admissions staff members saw several trends from nationwide visits to hundreds of high schools and more than a dozen community colleges last fall.
Jon Reider, associate director of admissions, saw continued strong interest in Stanford on the East Coast, while John Bunnell, associate dean and director of freshman admissions, observed that students seem to be thinking about college earlier and earlier in their high school years.
Many high school juniors, Bunnell said - and an increasing number of freshmen and sophomores - attended college-night programs with their parents.
Cutbacks in high school counseling staffs still concern the admissions staffers, however.
Holly Thompson, Stanford associate director of admissions and former director of college counseling at the Harvard School in Los Angeles, found herself answering many basic questions about college admission at schools without counselors.
"Because she had so many questions about the essay, she found herself offering 'miniworkshops' on writing the college essay," Montoya said.
This year's Stanford application asks students to pick a quote and comment on its significance, or to write about one of the best conversations they ever had.
The admissions staff now faces the task of selecting a pool to which admission will be offered in April. Last year, offers were made to 2,926 applicants, of whom approximately 55 percent enrolled.
"I feel fortunate to have staff members who are willing to work up to 14 hours a day, six days a week, reading files," Montoya said. "Very, very late nights and very, very early mornings become a way of life."
The dean's answering machine at home bears the message: "It's file-reading time. If I am not eating, sleeping or running in the foothills, I'm reading files. Talk with you in March."
Applications to Stanford set a record of 17,652 in 1985; they reached a 10-year low of 12,953 in 1990, after the Loma Prieta earthquake.
Since then, except for a small dip in 1992, the total has been increasing gradually. In 1991 the final application count was 13,528, in 1992 it was 13,206 and in 1993 it was 13,608. The 1994 application count will be final in early April.
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