Off-campus study application numbers are lower than expected

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Using a new all-online submission system, applications for off-campus opportunities during the 2011-2012 school year were due Tuesday. However, the Office of Civic and Global Opportunities was surprised at the relatively low number of applications.

"The number of applications we got was surprisingly lower than we expected considering the high number of students in the sophomore class," said Mary Brookins Blinn, an Associate Director of Global Opportunities.

Usually, the bulk of applicants are sophomores applying to go off campus their junior years. This year, 194 students applied as compared to last year, when 191 students applied. While the number has gone up, the percentage of applying sophomores has gone down. According to DePauw University Institutional research, there are currently 633 enrolled sophomores, as compared to 571 last year.

Besides a lower percentage of students applying than expected, Blinn is excited by the applications and says the process has gone smoothly so far, and likely will continue to improve.

Once students apply to the Office of Civic and Global Opportunities, they have to wait to be accepted by DePauw. They may then apply directly to the program in which they want to participate. The committee expects to have the applications read and back to students by the end of spring break.

"It's a two-part step," said Rajai Bimbo, another Assistant Director of Global Opportunities. When applications are submitted, a committee looks at the application and decides the next step for the student. The selection committee includes Blinn, Bimbo, Director of Global Opportunities and Assistant Dean of Academic Life Kate Knaul, and Internship Coordinator Stephanie Hogue.

"There are 3 categories: approve, rewrite, and deny," said Bimbo. "And, the deny often comes when students choose not to rewrite. The approval rate is very high, because of the rewrites process."

Few applicants are denied from all of their programs, but sometimes will be accepted only to their second or third choice. A student can also be asked to rewrite their application before being approved.

"A rewrite is not the end of the world, it's just an opportunity to clarify your goals," Blinn said. "We try not to deny anyone. If someone wants to try and go off campus, our philosophy is that we want to encourage them as much as we can."

The budget for off-campus opportunities is the same as it was last year, which worried the committee because a large sophomore class would typically mean a larger number of applications. However, Blinn thinks the lower application numbers will result in a higher percentage of the pool accepted than there would have been otherwise. That's because denials usually are a result of cost.

"It's a budgetary situation: We have limited resources but a lot of demand," said Blinn. "We want to spread those resources as best we can."

Turkey and countries in Asia — namely China, Japan and Korea — were popular this year, but the most popular destinations are English-speaking countries, like the United Kingdom and Australia.

London was the most popular destination this year, and has been one of the most popular destinations in the past.

The Mexican Solidarity Network, a program for students interested in social justice and conflict studies, was new this year. It was particularly popular, Blinn said, especially for a program introduced for the first time.

"The distribution and variety of places can surprise people and provoke thought in terms of how far students can really go." Bimbo said. "Students have an opportunity to learn so much about themselves but also about the most diverse cultures and communities in the world." 

The headline of this story, which appeared in the Feb. 18 issue of The DePauw, stated in its headline that off-campus study application numbers decreased this year. This is innacurate — there were more applications this year, but the number was lower than expected.