563 ED applications received

Early decision (ED) applications to the College are in, numbering 563 as of Nov. 14. This number is expected to rise to around 580 as late applications trickle in and prospective students are matched through the Questbridge program. The projected total represents a slight decrease from last year’s 600 ED applicants.

This year’s applicant pool consists of 441 white or unspecified applicants, 44 Asian-Americans, 16 African-Americans, 15 Latinos and 47 international students. According to Dick Nesbitt, dean of Admission, the number of African-Americans and Latinos is expected to rise with the addition of applicants through the Questbridge program, which connects high ability, low-income students with private institutions. The “match” deadline for Questbridge is Dec. 1. Currently, the numbers represent a decrease from last year in African-American, Latino and international applicants.

“We’re really pleased because our underrepresented numbers appear to be very healthy,” Nesbitt said. “We proactively recruit high ability, low-income students.”
Nesbitt noted that 30 of the early decision applicants participated in the Windows on Williams (WoW) program, which this year provided airfare and hosts for 120 students who would bring diversity to the campus.

The program is conducted during two separate weekends in the fall. “It was a very successful program, and we’re thrilled with the WoW numbers,” Nesbitt said.

Nesbitt noted that with ED, the main concern is achieving socioeconomic diversity. With the current economic downturn, the Office of Financial Aid is expecting a “healthy number” of aid applicants, according to Nesbitt, though final numbers of ED applicants applying for financial aid have not yet been tallied.

“The economy is really the wildcard this year,” said Nesbitt. “It doesn’t seem to have had a huge effect on ED, though. It may have more of an impact on our yield in the regular decision season in the spring.”

The economic situation does not seem to have affected applications to elite institutions. Having spoken with high school counselors across the country, Nesbitt said, “The word from many guidance counselors that we encountered this year was that students aren’t hesitant to apply to private colleges, but they’re adding at least one more state university with a lower sticker price to their lists.”

The Office of Admission is expecting about the same number of total applicants as last year. Office staff believes that the surge in college applications over the past five years is beginning to level off. NESCAC rival, Middlebury College, however, did report an increase in early decision applications. But Nesbitt, who is on an e-mail list of admission officers, has not received news from any other colleges.

Although there is no set quota for how many students will be accepted from the ED pool, “last year, 41 percent of the class was accepted via early decision,” Nesbitt said. “We’re projecting a larger class this year, but we hope to keep the percentage around 40 percent.” Last year’s class comprised 539 students, 223 of whom were accepted ED. This year’s class is projected to include between 545 and 550.

Nesbitt noted that ED applications are “still trickling in,” since overseas mail is often slow, and some people do not realize the deadline is Nov. 10, which is earlier than most early decision deadlines. “We’re pretty relaxed about deadlines. A few days late is okay, as long as we can still do a careful reading on the application,” Nesbitt said.

This year’s numbers represent a decline in international students, which Nesbitt claims is “not a bad thing,” as last year marked a record number of foreign applicants with 94 applying early. The Office of Admission projects over 50 international early applicants this year. The College’s number-one ranking among liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News World Report is a significant factor in attracting international students, Nesbitt said.

The College’s emphasis on diversity prompted its participation in the Questbridge program for the third consecutive year. To participate in the program, gifted low-income students complete a 15-page application and are matched with participating schools, which include Stanford, Yale, Amherst and Bowdoin, among others.

A strict stipulation of acceptance is that finalists must demonstrate a financial need of four years with no parental contribution. Strong applicants who do not match this demonstrated need are given the option to convert their application to regular ED, an option that results in additional applications coming in late which affects total ED numbers. “We always get a post-Questbridge match ‘spinoff’ of about 10-20 more early decision applications,” Nesbitt said.

Last year the College matched with four Questbridge students and additionally admitted nine students who were unmatched Questbridge finalists via early decision. “We hope for even better results this year,” said Nesbitt.