Applications for Northwestern University’s freshman class have set another all-time record, continuing a surge that has seen applications jump 54 percent in just three years.

More than 25,000 high school students have applied for this fall, a number that could go higher as the University continues to process the last wave of applications.

“We are witnessing something nearly unprecedented among the nation’s elite schools,” Michael Mills, associate provost for undergraduate enrollment, said in a statement.  “While many of our peer schools are also receiving more applications, I’m not aware of any other school seeing the kind of growth we’re seeing at Northwestern.”

Mills attributes this growth to several factors, including the recent success of Northwestern undergraduate students in winning prestigious fellowships like Fulbright and Gates Cambridge awards; faculty receiving prestigious awards like the MacArthur “Genius” Grant and Templeton Prize; and the University’s growth and expertise in faculty research in a wide range of disciplines, ranging from the life sciences to nanotechnology to poverty studies.

Twenty-four Northwestern students received Fulbright awards for 2007-08, fourth highest among all universities. Political philosopher Charles Taylor received the $1.5 million Templeton Prize and author Stuart Dybek was awarded the $500,000 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” last year.

“The world’s best high school students pay close attention to the achievements of the universities they are considering,” said Ron Braeutigam, associate provost for undergraduate education. “I believe that any of these students who spends an hour on our web site reading about the accomplishments of our students and faculty would be attracted to Northwestern.”

The 25,000 applications for the class of 2,025 students represent a 12.3 percent increase over the previous yearly record — 21,941, set just a year ago for the class entering in fall 2007.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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