This application season, the Office of Admission received a record-breaking 8577 applications for the class of 2021, a 22-percent increase in applications compared to last year.The College saw not only an increase in the size of the applicant pool but an increase in its diversity as well.
“We also saw dramatic increases in applications from American students of color and international students,” Director of Admission Dick Nesbitt ’79 said. The Office of Admission has devoted more time to international recruitment, traveling further and for more time this cycle than in previous years. These efforts, led by the new Assistant Director for International Recruitment Misha Garg, have proven successful; 22 percent of applications came from international students, an increase from 17 percent last year.
Changes in the College’s admissions requirements accompanied changes in the applicant pool. For the first time applications included the College Board’s redesigned SAT and lacked SAT Subject Tests, a previously required but now optional admissions supplement. “It’s likely that the change to our standardized test policy – dropping the subject test requirement – had the biggest impact on application numbers,” Nesbitt said. Eliminating the SAT Subject Test requirement removed another hoop that many prospective applicants were unwilling to jump through, especially if only required by a single school to which a student may apply, as many colleges and universities have dropped similar requirements in recent years.
Applications from low-income students went up as well, resulting in more applicants applying for financial aid. The larger presence of low-income individuals in the applicant pool is the result of efforts by the Office of Admission to eliminate barriers that discourage low-income persons from learning of or applying to the College.
The SAT and its Subjects Tests, the ACT, the Common Application and the College Board CSS financial aid form all harbor costs that many low-income, high-achieving students cannot bear. In addition to the costs, the complicated and often intimidating application process can prevent the College from connecting with low-income students who are often unfamiliar with the admissions process. Consequently, the College has sought to eliminate financial barriers for those applying. The abandonment of the SAT Subject Test requirement was done with this concern in mind. In addition, the College has allowed students to submit screenshots and unofficial score reports to eliminate the cost of sending scores.
The Office of Admission has been attempting to attract low-income students through pamphlets and mailings that demonstrate the College’s commitment to affordability and financial aid. The online “Quick Cost Estimator” reaffirms this commitment by providing students with a rough estimate of the cost of attendance given their financial background. The “Windows on Williams” program pays for low-income applicants’ travel to and from College for those would otherwise be unable to visit. The Office of Admission hopes to encourage admitted low-income students to attend by paying for the cost of travel to the College for Previews.
Nesbitt stressed that the increase in diversity of applicants reaffirms the College’s previous commitments. “The goal this year is to build upon the successes of the last several classes in enhancing the socioeconomic diversity of the student body while maintaining the high standards of academic excellence and community-mindedness that characterize Williams,” Nesbitt said. “Attracting a broader and deeper applicant pool is the first step in achieving that goal.”