Although this year’s early decision pool contained over a hundred fewer applicants than last year’s group of 510, Williams sent out early decision acceptances to 180 members of the class of 2004 on December 15. The group, selected from a pool of 401, includes 89 women and 91 men.
According to Acting Director of Admissions Richard Nesbitt, the decrease in early applicants is no cause for concern. “It’s a perfectly comfortable number, as far as we’re concerned, as long as the quality is good,” Nesbitt said. “The strength of the pool was there. It was as strong as it’s ever been.”
The early decision class of 2004 has a higher average SAT score than any such previous group, averaging a Verbal score of 716 and a Math score of 706. Fifty percent of the accepted students scored over 700 on the Verbal section.
Geographically diverse, the class is comprised of students from 32 states and Washington, DC. The most highly represented states are New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, California and Connecticut. The group also has members from eight foreign countries: England, Jamaica, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, Hungary, Trinidad and Tobago and Bulgaria.
While early decision pools are generally less ethnically diverse than regular admission, this year’s includes six African-Americans, six Latinos, four Asian-Americans, and one Native American. Fifty-five percent of the students are from public schools, 42 percent are from private schools and 3 percent are from parochial schools.
“When you look out over a lot of our direct cohorts it seems like a lot more take a higher percentage of their students in early decision,” Nesbitt said. Williams has bucked that trend, in part because the regular decision pool generally provides a group of higher academic quality.
Nesbitt explained, “There are so many good kids applying regular decision. The more spaces you take up [now], the fewer spaces you’ll have left in the spring.”
Williams received over 5,000 regular decision applications, which were due January 1. The target number for the class of 2004 is 528, approximately 34 percent of which was filled by the early decision pool. But the exact yield, said Nesbitt, is increasingly difficult to predict.
“There are all kinds of different factors involved—uncertainty about financial aid seems to be creating some instability. We also get affected by how many people are taken early at some other places, particularly Harvard and Princeton.” Both of those schools have begun taking large portions of their classes from early action and early decision pools.
Recent trends in Ivy League early application decision making have made the admissions process more difficult for Williams in other ways, as well. “What some of the Ivy League schools have done that is somewhat troublesome to us is that they have moved the calendar up quite a bit, so if you’re applying early action to one of the Ivies now I think you have to have the pre-application in by October first,” Nesbitt said.
The effect of this development, he explained, is that “most of the kids have to make up their mind by the spring of their junior year as opposed to making up their mind in the fall. It’s really changed.” Since Williams does not even begin offering overnight visits for prospective students until October first, it has been put at a recruiting disadvantage by the Ivies’ move. Williams has a November 15 early decision deadline, with a November 1 deadline for the pre-application.