The College offered admission to 232 out of the 614 Early Decision (ED) applicants, in line with last year’s ED acceptance rate of 37 percent. These students will comprise 42 percent of the Class of 2013. This year’s Regular Decision applicant rate dropped approximately 20 percent from last year’s unusually high number, down from 7,552 to 6,001.
Among the 232 students accepted early, 21 are African American, 16 are Asian American and six are Latino. The group also includes eight international students. Dick Nesbitt, director of Admission, attributes the high number of minority students to the College’s hard work to diversifying the ED pool.
Socioeconomic diversity was also more apparent in this year’s ED class, which includes 31 first-generation college students. While ED tends to attract more affluent students who will commit to a college without comparing financial aid packages, the QuestBridge program provides the opportunity for lower-income applicants to apply early to participating colleges. The Class of 2013 includes 12 QuestBridge finalists, a large jump from the Class of 2012, which had only four. Nesbitt cited the QuestBridge program as a factor in making the ED pool a “socioeconomically more balanced group.”
While the number of ED applicants and accepted students remained relatively stable from last year, the Office of Admission saw a drop in Regular Decision applications, which were due Jan. 1. The total number of applications for the Class of 2013 was 6,001, dropping sharply from last year’s 7,552 applicants. Nesbitt attributes last year’s spike partially to Harvard and Princeton’s decisions to drop their Early Action and Early Decision programs. “A lot of kids panicked [last year] and applied to more colleges,” he said.
The economy also plays a part in determining where students will apply. “If the theory is that kids apply to 14 schools and we were number 13 or 14, then they’ll drop to 10 applications or apply to less expensive, larger universities for the last four schools,” Nesbitt said. “Across the board, liberal arts colleges saw a decrease in applications, and larger universities such as Harvard and Duke saw an increase.”
Nesbitt also cited the College’s decision (along with many other colleges) to sign an agreement “not to make any reference to rankings in any of our literature” as a reason applications are down, particularly among international students.
The addition of an extra essay to the Williams supplement to the common application was also another change in the application process. According to Nesbitt, students may have decided against applying to the College due to the requirement to write a new, “fairly unique and difficult essay.” In the long run, however, Nesbitt believes that the extra essay could help discourage those who are not truly interested in the College from applying, which may increase the yield at the end of the admission process.
Waiting by the mailbox turned into waiting by the computer for applicants to Class of 2013, who, for the first time, had the option of checking their admission decisions online. The electronic process “all went off without a hitch,” according to Nesbitt. The same online notification will be used for the Regular Decision acceptances in April.
“The Admission Office is thrilled with the results of the Early Decision round,” Nesbitt said. Despite the decrease in applicants for Regular Decision, Nesbitt noted that “the overall applicant quality is outstanding.” He added, “If of last year’s record high number of applicants, the bottom group has dropped out, then it’s not a bad thing.”