All applications for the Class of 2002 have been submitted to the Admissions Office. In comparison to recent years, fewer applicants will be selected as Ephs despite their strong academic record.
According to Dean of Admissions Philip Smith, approximately 4500 students, including 413 early decision, applied for the Class of 2002. “We’re just about dead even with last year,” Smith said.
Thirty five percent of the final Class of 2002 (191 students) was accepted early decision. Smith said this has been the trend for the last seven years.
A change in the trend is the admittance of only 1100 students in the regular admissions process. For the classes of 1997 to 2000, over 1200 students were admitted. Last year the number dropped to 1150 admits. “Given the way this year is going, I would be nervous admitting more than 1100…. My personal sense is we will probably be admitting fewer,” Smith said.
Smith explained several reasons for admitting fewer students.
The primary reason is that Admissions is aiming for a smaller total class size. They aimed for a class size of 545 with the Class of 2001, and 551 matriculated. For the Class of 2002, their goal is 535 students.
The lowered number of admitted students is based on the retention rate of the overall student body. “You try to start the fall with 1970 to 1980 students in residence,” Smith said. Because both the Classes of 2000 and 2001 are larger, the Class of 2002 must be smaller.
Smith said they also must admit fewer students because schools like Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale have tended to admit larger percentages of their classes early and reject larger portions of their regular applicant pool. For example, Smith said Harvard admitted 100 more students early action this year. Since students may have fewer options, more may choose Williams, thus reducing the number needed in early decision.
“The big question mark this year is going to be financial aid,” Smith said. Williams has had the same aid criteria as its competitors in years past, according to Smith. This year, however, Princeton and Yale have changed their financial aid policy. “The premise is that families with less than a $40,000 income don’t have to pay a loan,” Smith explained. Smith also said home equity loans for low income students will be dealt with differently. “They [Princeton and Yale’s financial aid criteria] are going to be considerably more generous than the criteria we used last year,” Smith said.
Williams is still debating its own financial aid policy for the Class of 2002, but the costs of shifting to the same policy as Princeton and Yale would be significant. “Were Williams to use the same criteria, it would cost over a million dollars. Where is the money going to come from?” Smith questioned. If Williams does not switch to the new policy, the admissions office may need to admit more students because lower income students will select schools that offer better financial aid. If Williams adopts the same policy, they may need to admit fewer students. “We look at whatever happens to be going on that year, put a ‘seat of the pants’ figure in, and go with it,” Smith said.
In attaining a class of 535, Smith said that Admissions will also consider the same factors it considers every year. “You look at the various sub-groups and see the yield you got in them,” he said. For example, alumni children tend to accept at a higher than average rate while West Coast students tend to accept at a lower than average rate, so these factors must be balanced. Smith said Admissions aims to cover all of the school’s needs in terms of activities and sports teams. “We keep records and make notes of people very talented in sports and activities,” he said.
Academic qualifications are of course the top priority, and the Class of 2002 seems to be one of the most academically talented classes in recent years. “The academic quality â€” as measured by SAT scores â€” is higher in all of the applications,” Smith said. “The early decision applicant pool was substantially higher â€” 15-20 points higher,” he said.
The Admissions Office has completed two readings of every application, and they are entering the third round of readings. Decisions will be mailed April 1. The next class of Ephs will be notified of their acceptance by May 1.