The Office of Undergraduate Admissions has offered admission to about 5,600 freshman applicants as of Monday -- about 40 percent more than this time last year, an admissions official said Monday.
The increase in offers is part of an attempt to alleviate stress for applicants during the college process, Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions Anne Rohrbach said.
"We had been hearing from high school counselors and some students and families that the time from application to [Penn State's] decision was longer than expected," Rohrbach said. "We felt that getting earlier decisions out would help reduce some of that anxiety that goes with hearing from the university you're interested in."
The university has received 27,299 freshman applications thus far, about 1 percent more than last year, Rohrbach said. As of Monday, 5,613 students had received offers of admission to the university, she said.
About 2,290 students have received offers to attend University Park as of Monday, Rohrbach said. By this time last year, only 1,710 offers for University Park had been sent to freshman applicants, she said.
The university has not finalized projections for how many students will accept their offers of admission, but the university does not expect to continue accepting students at the current rate, Rohrbach said.
"It won't be 40 percent higher in the end, because we're not going to accept 40 percent more students," she said. "It's just the beginning is an increase over last year's."
The admissions department is working closely with the Department of Housing, Food Services and Residence Life to map out possible scenarios for potential sizes of the incoming freshman class, Rohrbach said, though she could not offer an estimate on how large next year's incoming freshman class will be.
For 2008's summer and fall semesters at University Park, 37 percent of accepted freshmen chose to attend Penn State; the year before, 35 percent accepted Penn State's offer of admission, Rohrbach said.
In 2006, an unexpected 41 percent of accepted students chose to attend Penn State, Rohrbach said, which put a strain on housing resources. By January 2007, more than 700 students remained in supplemental housing.
A local guidance counselor praised Penn State's new admissions system, which will likely continue next year, Rohrbach said.
Earlier offers of admission can help students through an often-stressful college admissions process, said Kate Scalise, the head guidance counselor at State College Area High School. About half of the high school's class of 2008 chose to attend Penn State, she said.
"It's wonderful what they're doing," Scalise said. "They're sensitive about admissions; they work well with all the high schools. If they're sure they're going to accept a student, why shouldn't they let the kid know?"
Jenny Papo, a senior at Clarkstown South High School in West Nyack, N.Y., said she appreciated this year's admissions policy, adding she sent in her application on Nov. 4 and received an offer of acceptance by Nov. 12.
"That took off all the stress, because now I know that I can go somewhere," Papo said. "It's a pretty good idea."