From this year’s applicant pool of 6,017 students, the College has offered spots in the Class of 2013 to a total 1,218 prospective Ephs, raising the College’s acceptance rate to 20.6 percent from last year’s 16.3 percent.
The numbers from this year’s round of admissions represent several changes in comparison to those of the Class of 2012. In addition to the higher acceptance rate, the target class size has increased from 538 students to 550, and although the 6,017 applications represent the third highest in the College’s history, the number marks a 20 percent drop from last year’s record high of 7,538.
While 232 students were offered admission in December through early decision, and 379 got their acceptance letters in early- and mid- March via early write, the College mailed out most of its regular decision offers on March 26 and for the first time made the decisions available online the next evening.
“Our early decision round provided us with an outstanding base, exceptional for both its academic power and socio-economic diversity, from which the Class of 2013 will be built,” said Dick Nesbitt, director of Admission. “The balance of the class will emerge from the group of nearly 1000 students that we admitted this spring. While it is too early to tell how things will ultimately shape up, early returns suggest that the Class of 2013 will rival any in the College’s history.”
Of the accepted applicants, 369 received the “intellectual vitality” tag as a key attribute. Thirty-eight students had national recognition in writing, 200 aspired to do scientific research or go on to achieve a PhD in science or math, and 73 planned to seek PhDs in an area other than science. Ninety-nine of the students received top ratings as musicians, 27 in theater, 48 in studio art and nine in dance. About 200 of the students were aspiring varsity athletes, of whom 66 were “athletic factors” – or had athletic talent as their primary tag – and 134 were primarily academic admits with athletic talent and potential to be varsity athletes.The diversity of this year’s group of accepted applicants was wide-ranging, with 148 students identifying themselves as African American, 201 as Asian American, 145 as Latino, six as Native American, 82 as international and 636 as “white or unspecified.” Of the group, 569 were male and 649 were female.
In addition, this year’s accepted applicant pool included 231 first-generation college students, 87 students identified through the Questbridge program and 104 legacies.
Forty-eight states are represented in the accepted pool. New York, California and Massachusetts have the most accepted students with 194, 171 and 131 respectively. Of domestic students, 30 percent are from Middle Atlantic states, 22 percent from New England, 20 percent from the West, 12 percent from the South, 9 percent from the Midwest and 6 percent from the Southwest.
About 1,000 students were offered spots on the waitlist this year, though the active waitlist is expected to be closer to 450 students. In the last several years, the number of students admitted from the waitlist has varied, ranging from two to 73.
While a number of the Class of 2013 have already notified the College of their decision to matriculate, Nesbitt said that the yield for this year is difficult to predict and it is as yet uncertain whether it will be necessary to go to the waitlist.
“The economy is really the wild card this year,” Nesbitt said. “It certainly may have an impact on the yield of students, especially the students who get lured by merit scholarships or decide to go to a state university honors program. Though it will probably have less impact on our students who qualify for financial aid because they usually get good packages, it may have a much greater impact on those who just barely do not qualify for aid and have a merit scholarship dangled in front of them.”
Nesbitt explained that by the end of the first week of May, Admission usually has a good idea if, and in what depth, the waitlist will be used. “Our aim is to yield about 525 students from our initial acceptances by the May 1 common reply date and then to add incrementally from our waiting list to reach our target of 550,” Nesbitt said. “At this time, all that I can say is that we will hope to go to the waitlist.”
The financial crisis has been implicated as a reason for decreasing application numbers at a number of NESCAC schools. Middlebury’s application pool decreased by 12 percent this year, while both Bates and Colby saw 7 percent decreases.
According to Nesbitt, the decrease in applications can be attributed to a number of reasons, including the unusually high number last year. “The aberrant upward spike of 17 percent last year was primarily a result of the decisions by Harvard and Princeton to eliminate their early admission programs,” he said. “In response, many students panicked and applied to more colleges. Williams in particular was on the receiving end of many of those applications. This year the settling of that marked confusion, combined with the world economic downturn, has led to a natural ebb in those inflated numbers.”
Nesbitt noted that this year, as a result of the recession, some students may have chosen to apply to fewer colleges and thus may have cut out some of the small liberal arts colleges. However, according to Nesbitt, the primary reason for the drop in applications was “entirely intentional.” For the first time this year, applicants had to write a 300-word, Williams-specific essay in addition to the Common Application supplement. Nesbitt said that this not only served as a means of more thoroughly evaluating applicants, but it effectively “weeded out the more marginally interested applicants.”
“It created a little more of a hurdle for students who are thinking about applying. The fact that it was only 300 words, as opposed to 500 or more, made it harder for someone to take another essay and just transfer it to our prompt,” Nesbitt added. “I think it is harder to write a shorter essay that is cohesive and really captures someone’s voice.”
Whether the supplemental essay will be kept for next year’s round of admission, though, is under discussion. “I’m fairly certain we are going to keep an essay – whether it will be the same prompt or not, I’m not sure,” Nesbitt said. “If you were to [do a poll], it would be split on who really liked it and who really didn’t. So, we’ll be considering that question.”
Nesbitt did not express worry with the decrease in applications. “Whenever you talk about an applicant pool, it really shouldn’t be a question of how many applicants there are, but rather of the quality of the pool, and the quality of this pool is every bit as good as we’ve had in the past,” he said.