An article in The Wall Street Journal on Oct. 5 predicted that that the recent terrorist attacks could cause a surge of interest in rural colleges such as Williams because of their safe geographic locations. However, because the final application count for the Class of 2006 will not be tallied until January, the Admissions Office is unsure if the prediction will prove true.
“It is too early to speculate on what the impact of Sept. 11 is going to be,” said Richard Nesbitt, Director of Admissions.
However, Nesbitt did discuss some of the causes steering students towards particular colleges at this time. “There are [a few] forces at work that can affect applications,” Nesbitt said. “One is the economy. Will that have the effect of people choosing local public universities over private colleges?? Also, are people less willing to travel far from home? And then there is the urban versus rural setting.”
Nesbitt emphasized that it is too early to determine how the College’s applicant pool will be affected. Initial indications suggest an increase in the College’s popularity, but the most accurate trends will only emerge in May, after accepted students’ matriculation decisions are received.
Even if the College’s safe location proves to be an additional draw to apply, Nesbitt doubts that the quality of the applicant pool would change. “If it’s an increase, I don’t think it will be of students less qualified,” he said. “It will be students who would have been choosing highly selective urban schools.”
John Hanson, admissions director at Middlebury College, which was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, echoed Nesbitt’s doubts that the terrorist events accounted for any sort of solid trend. Although the article in the Journal cited an increase in September college visits at Middlebury, Hanson remarked that this could be purely coincidental, and suggested that most trips were already planned or even executed before Sept. 11. However, Middlebury has recently received inquiries on their transfer policy from concerned parents of students in both the Washington, D.C. and New York City areas.
“Whether or not that will translate into a larger transfer applicant pool is hard to say at this point, and will probably depend on how the next few months play out in terms of security issues in metropolitan areas,” said Hanson.
Prospective students interviewed on campus are also unsure of the Wall Street Journal’s claims, stating that their college preferences have not changed since the attacks. “I am mostly looking at schools in small towns,” said Devon Soule, a prospective student from northern Vermont. “But if I was looking at colleges in the city, I think I would still be looking at them.”
Meg List, a prospective student from Syracuse, N.Y., agreed that the recent terrorist attacks have not changed or even affected her current thoughts on the college choice. “I was looking at a broad range of schools anyway,” she said. “I’m still looking at urban schools, I am still looking at rural schools; it just comes down to which I like best.”
Nicole Eisenman ’04, a student tour guide, also said that she has not received many specific inquiries on the safety of the College’s location on recent tours. “People more often ask me about the transition from city life to rural life,” said Eisenman. “But coming from New York City, I feel tremendously glad to be here right now; I haven’t been home yet. Now I feel like I understand the appeal in the safety of true rural settings like this.”
“In times of trouble, there is even more of a ?flight to quality’ than when times are good,” said Morton Owen Schapiro, president of the College of the predicted trend. “Williams defines quality in the higher education marketplace. The number of highly-talented high school seniors who would love to come to Williams will continue to greatly exceed our capacity to admit them.”
A parent of a prospective student seconded Schapiro’s opinion, stating that such trends matter very little in light of the College’s current admissions policy. Discussing the effect of terrorism on his interest in Williams for his daughter, he said, “I think that places like Williams stand on their own.”