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January 25, 2002
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Many laid-off workers and college seniors are deciding to wait out the recession by honing their skills in graduate schools, according to The New York Times.

College job placement offices may be in the doldrums, but admissions officers at many of the nation's professional schools and graduate programs tell the Times that they're inundated with applications.

Admission officers at Emory University business school say applications were up 80 percent at the end of the first round in the admissions cycle in December in comparison to the same period last season. Their counterparts at UCLA report a 90 percent increase and those at the University of Chicago report a 100 percent jump.

Yale University Law School says applications are up 57 percent at this point in the season compared to the same point last year, while Vanderbilt says its applications are up 47 percent. Engineering and education schools talk of similar surges.

The only professional schools unaffected by this recession, according to the Times, are schools of medicine. They are usually immune to economic cycles because the completion of a medical degree and the required residency can take eight or more years.

It's not unusual in harsh economic times for people turn to graduate and professional schools as havens from market storms; it allows them sharpen their skills and improve their credentials for better times to come. But the number of applicants this year is the largest in decades, according to many university officials interviewed by the Times..

The reaction to hard economic times is not automatically predictable. During the recession that occurred at the beginning of the 1990s, for instance, the numbers of applicants to both law and business schools nationwide slipped, while the application increases to the other professional and graduate schools were modest.

At the University of Pennsylvania, the job placement office was eerily quiet on a recent afternoon. But one block away, at the admissions office of the university's Wharton Business School, virtually every employee of the admissions office ,including the director, was busy opening application envelopes pouring in from all corners of the country.

Rosemaria Martinelli, the director of admissions for Wharton's M.B.A. program, has led a team that is 15 people larger than last year's to read the applications day and night and even on weekends. Christopher E. Hopey, the vice dean of admissions at Pennsylvania's school of education, where applications are up 70 percent, has just ordered 10,000 more letterhead stationery as the last batch, already an additional order, runs out.

"It's a logistic nightmare," Hopey told the Times. "But it's a happy problem."

Refugees from the dot-com crash are just beginning to show up on campus, according to the newspaper. When many Internet startups first failed last January, it was already too late to meet the application deadlines for fall 2001 entrance, usually in February or March. But this year, the dot-commers, "disenchanted, disillusioned and disabled to pay rent," in the words of a University of Pennsylvania spokeswoman, have shown up as applicants here and elsewhere.

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