International dilemma

I would not have been admitted to Williams as an international applicant. In fact, I would guess that most of us would not be here if we did not call America home. Of the 239 students admitted through the early decision program in December, only 14 hail from a country other than the U.S. In the press release announcing the early decision results, the Office of Admission even boasts that each of those students comes from a different country. (Does anyone really believe there was only one highly desirable applicant from China?) That amounts to less than 6 percent of the current incoming class of 2016. In comparison, 11 percent of the Harvard student body is international. And as much as it pains my loyal Eph heart to admit it, we should be emulating Harvard on this score. According to admissions, the acceptance rate for international students in the latest round of early decision was around 15 percent. The overall acceptance rate was around 42 percent. That is a huge difference. This reluctance on the part of the College to admit international students is a mistake that should be avoided moving forward.

The simple truth of the matter is that there are large numbers of students outside of the U.S. that are highly qualified to attend the College. According to admissions, about one in five applicants is international, yet only one in 15 spots at the College actually goes to international applicants. Why should that number be so low – even lower than that of some of our competition? Perhaps it derives from the fact that our alumni base is historically skewed in favor of U.S. citizens, or perhaps it originates from well-meaning but misguided impulses masquerading as patriotism. Regardless, the College seems to privilege domestic applicants over their international peers. And in a process as cutthroat as admissions to elite colleges, this stance by the powers that be probably means that some amazing people who might have contributed inestimably to our community have been rejected.

The College should strive to become a school for the best and the brightest around the world – not just the U.S. Admitting more international students will benefit everyone at the College by increasing the geographic and intellectual diversity of our community. Each and every student will have a richer experience for having been exposed to people of different backgrounds. Furthermore, I would argue that the College provides its home country with a valuable service by bringing smart international students here: They may even choose to stay in their adopted country and use those skills that they have acquired at the College.

Even seen through the most cynically self-interested lens, admitting more international students makes sense. As some may have noticed, the American economy has not been doing incredibly well in the past few years, and building strong alumni networks around the world would probably be a sound strategy for the College to pursue in the future. To put it bluntly, the College needs to hedge its bets.

My appeal does not go primarily to the students because we have almost no control over these matters. If things are to change noticeably, it will have to start with the alumni who pay the bills. Especially in light of last year’s decision to eliminate need-blind admissions for international applicants, the College seems fairly indifferent to its international presence. And such an impression could have detrimental effects on the future of the institution. I know that there are people more important than myself who read the Record, and it is my hope that those individuals will make revising international admission policy a priority in the coming year.


Spencer Flohr ’14 is from Chambersberg, Penn. He lives in Carter.

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