The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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Odds without ends

In light of the recent surge in applications the University received this year, I have one word of advice for St. John’s: a number is just a number.

Granted, that phrase sounds about as insightful as something Yogi Berra might have said, but those words are important to keep in mind when considering this year’s rather large increase in applications.

Perhaps rather large is an understatement: 51,978 prospective students applied this year, 32,047 of which were from outside of New York state. This represents a 31 percent overall increase in applications from last year, and a 64 percent increase in applicants from outside the state.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that St. John’s has grown to be a very attractive school for a number of reasons, most notably a combination of its dorms and its close proximity to Manhattan.

But I can’t help but think there may be another factor involved in this gargantuan increase – namely, perhaps the application process to get into St. John’s is just too darn easy.

Karen Vahey, the director of the Office of Admissions, told the Torch that the online application St. John’s provides is the most widely used option for prospective students.

“We make the application process as easy as possible,” she said. “Students just have to submit the application for admission, a high school transcript and their standardized test scores, and letters of recommendation and essays are optional.”
Vahey is certainly right on this point.

I logged onto the St. John’s Web site just last week and began filling out a free SJU undergrad application as if I were a prospective student. To the University’s credit, the site was easy to navigate and made everything as clear as possible.
But, on the flip side, I finished filling it out in about 10 minutes.

It’s precisely this application ease that worries me. If it is so simple and quick to apply to St. John’s, then what does having 51,978 applicants really say? Not much: that number is just a number.

I enjoyed the clarity and ease with which I could apply to St. John’s, but why not make any sort of essay mandatory? Or why not make recommendations a necessary hurdle to jump?

Personally, I’d rather be attending classes with students who I know had to actually want to go to St. John’s when they applied; as it stands, the system allows for too many slackers and disinterested high school students to send in an application just for laughs.

And, what’s worse, it’s those types of students that turn into apathetic ones – ones that don’t come out to St. John’s basketball games, don’t attend on-campus events, and don’t even attempt to be engaged at the University. With this in mind, that increase in applicants may actually be more a curse than a blessing.

Of course, it’s impossible to figure out the main reason why most students apply to St. John’s. And many, like Vahey, believe the easy application process currently in place is a solid one.

“I think this approach is the most effective to manage our numbers,” she said.

“The fact of the matter is, the best essay in the world will not make up for a poor GPA and poor SAT scores. So, if you argue that an essay is required then you’re making students go through hoops when in the end, they’re not going to be admissible.”

Vahey also said that including mandatory essays or recommendations in the future is not entirely out of the question.

“It’s the decision of a number of people if we decide to require essays and recommendation letters once again, and we may be getting to that point,” she said.

“But right now, I think what we require of students, we do pore over. . . the way we review applications do benefit the students.”

Vahey and the Office of Admissions is doing a fantastic job in getting students interested in St. John’s, especially the out-of-state market. But with the process as easy as it is now, there is too much possibility that students are applying to the University for the wrong reasons.

So, until a mandatory essay, recommendations, or any other hoops to go through are added, I won’t be entirely convinced that the 31 percent rise in applicants directly reflects how attractive St. John’s is.

Until then, that number, to me, is just a number.

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