On March 23 the Admissions Office mailed letters notifying approximately 1150 students of their acceptance to Williams. The number of students who applied and the number who were accepted mirrored similar numbers from last year.
“I say this every year, but again it’s true, this year’s applicant pool is the strongest in the College’s history,” Director of Admissions Thomas Parker said.
Parker noted that the average SAT verbal score was 713 and the average math was 705. He said the applicants were very strong in all other academic credentials.
“We have been getting a stronger and stronger pool each year. This is because Williams’ name is getting more and more recognizable. The U.S. News [and World Report] have certainly helped us. Somewhat ironically, the fact that our athletic teams have done so well also helps us. When we get press from athletics, our coaches always point to the emphasis on academics at Williams,” Parker said.
The Admissions Committee received 4526 applications this year. Of those, 2219 were women and 2307 were men. 575 women and 577 men were accepted.
Parker noted how Williams has become increasingly well known and thus enabled the College to get an annually stronger applicant pool.
“We have had a bit of a shift in the admissions office in the last few years. We have become more proactive in marketing the College to students across the nation. The guide books, which it seems that everyone is now reading, and our web site have been tremendous helps.”
Parker speaks of the results of this publicity. “The bottom of the pool is now dropping out. People are recognizing the kinds of credentials people need to get into Williams. Consequently, as the pool gets stronger, we are turning down more qualified applicantsâ€“applicants whom a few years ago we would have accepted.”
Dean of Admission Philip Smith, explains the Admission Office’s attempt to become more proactive rather than reactive.
“We try to shape our applicant pool in a number of ways,” he said. “We mail letters to 30,000 students on the basis of the National Merit Semifinalist scores, we visit schools where we have traditionally had a high concentration of [applicants], and we hold information sessions across the country.”
Smith continued, “Essentially, we are working a 20-month cycle in a 12-month year. Applicants start looking at schools in the January of [their] junior year and the process doesn’t end until they decide where they what to go in May.”
Smith said the Admissions Office travels five to six weeks in the fall. During their trips they offer information sessions “to cultivate the strongest applicants,” according to Smith. He did note that the Admissions Office has to make sensible decisions about where it will travel. “The whole calendar has moved up, and the fall is a short season. We have an admissions staff of nine, while some of the Ivy league schools have staffs of 23.”
“This year 30 percent of the admitted class was contacted by Williams before they contacted Williams. Those students are much more likely to matriculate here.”
The “Previews” that will occur April 13 to 14, and April 20 to 21, invite the admitted students to visit Williams with others who have been accepted.
“Previews show the students what their options are and give them a sense of what Williams will be like. They also allow students to see who their classmates will be,” Smith said.
Parker noted the importance of Previews from an admissions point of view. He said the percentage of students who decide to matriculate and have visited Williams during Previews is very high.
This year Williams accepted approximately 23 percent of its applicants. The Admissions Office is more concerned with getting a stronger pool of the 4500 students that apply rather than simply increasing the number of applicants. While Williams accepted 23 percent, Swarthmore, according to the Swarthmore Phoenix, accepted 19 percent. When asked if this is a problem, Smith said, “Intrinsically, you don’t really worry about this too much. Extrinsically, you do because it factors into things like the U.S. News ranking. We could lower the percentages by admitting more students early decision but that is not something that we want to do.”
The percentages have included more of, in Smith’s words, a “national slice of applicants.”
Diversity of Student Body
The admitted group includes 101 African Americans, 94 Latinos, 6 Native Americans, 60 non-U.S. citizens, 143 Asian Americans, 551 whites and 196 individuals who chose not to reveal their ethnicity. 684 students applied for financial aid, and aid packages were given to 500 students.
Of the admitted students, 653 attended public high school, 458 attended private school and 41 attended parochial school. About 10 percent of the admitted class is a legacy, i.e. one of the student’s parents graduated from Williams.
“Once the applicant has reached a certain academic threshold we begin to look at the student’s interests,” Parker said. “We take into account such things as athletics, first generation college, theater, a student who has traveled extensively, music, a student who has been active in his religious faith, a student who would like to pursue a non-science Ph.D., community service, a student who would like to pursue a science Ph.D., writing, art, all of these things.”
He also noted some problems. “One of the hardest things for us to tell is how ‘intellectual’ a student is. Which student will take advantage of the speakers that come here and contribute to the intellectual life of the College. It’s not something you can tell from scores or grades.”
“The arts are also one of our bigger battles and that’s a function of location. We are not in New York and do not have the museum and theater scene that is there. I think, though, with the new art studio we are beginning to attract and will continue to attract more art students.”
“It seems as though athletics is what people pay attention to,” Parker said, addressing Williams’ athletic stereotype. “That’s how colleges get known. I wish that people knew more about the cultural events that go on around campus every week.”
The Wait List
This year approximately 600 students were put on the wait list. Trends show that less than half will stay on the wait list. “The stronger the wait list, the less likely students will be to stay on it,” Parker said.
The results of the wait list vary greatly from year to year. Over the past 10 years as many as 145 and as few as zero students have come off the wait list and matriculated. Furthermore, not everyone accepted from the wait list matriculates.
The later students find out they have been accepted off the wait list, the less likely these students will accept admission.
As the College continues to have less students withdrawing, the Admissions Office is accepting fewer transfers.
Anywhere between 15 and 30 students will be accepted as transfer students.
The majority of these will come from large universities like the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Michigan.
This year 684 of the admitted students applied for financial aid and 500 financial aid packages were given. Director of Financial Aid Philip Wick predicts that 225 to 250 of the students to whom packages were offered will matriculate.
“The percentage of aid recipients is down a bit from the last couple of years,” Wick said. He does predict, though, that between 40 percent and 45 percent of the Class of
’02 will receive financial aid.
With talk of increased financial aid at other schools, Wick noted, “Our financial aid awards are very comparable with our four ‘peer competitors’ [Amherst, Swarthmore, Brown and Dartmouth]. The admitted student questionnaire gives us good evidence of that.”
He also noted, “Our office is pretty flexible with aid requests. About 20 percent of the packages will ask for a review. And in half to 60 percent of the cases we will increase the award.”
The financial aid office takes the education of siblings into account when determining a financial aid award. Wick explained, “If a student has a sibling at an undergraduate institution of comparable cost, we divide the estimated family contribution in half. We also take into account if a family pays up to $6,000 for a private primary or secondary school.”
Between Feb. 1, when the financial aid applications are due, and around Mar. 15, when the financial aid office becomes aware of who was admitted, Wick explained, “We play a waiting game, making sure that applicants have sent in all the relevant information.”