By Katie Guthrie, News Editor
In what many call the most grueling college admissions year ever, Amherst College finally sent out 1,096 letters of admittance to the class of 2012. The College accepted 14.2 percent of all first-year applicants (including early decision), a considerable decrease from last year’s acceptance rate of 18 percent. The College admitted 85 fewer students than it did last year, out of a record large applicant pool (17 percent bigger than last year) in an effort to offset this past year’s unexpectedly large first-year class.
The College’s peer institutions likewise accepted the smallest fractions of their applicant pools ever. Harvard University broke all records, accepting just 7.1 percent, while Yale University accepted 8.3 percent, and Princeton University, 9.3 percent. Brown and Dartmouth Universities accepted 13 percent and 13.2 percent, respectively. In the NESCAC, Amherst once again proved most competitive, as Williams, Bowdoin and Middlebury Colleges accepted 16.3 percent, 18.4 percent and 18.3 percent, respectively. Swarthmore College also granted admission to a record-low 15 percent, while the University of Pennsylvania proved less selective than in year’s past, admitting 16.4 percent.
With a regular decision acceptance rate of 12.5 percent, the lowest in Amherst’s modern admission history, the Office of Admission has selected a group of students even more diverse than the class of 2011. Among the accepted students, 16 percent identify themselves as African-American; 14 percent identify as Hispanic; 13.5 percent as Asian-American; .09 percent as Native American; and eight percent label themselves as multi-racial. Eight percent of accepted students are non-U.S. citizens, while nine percent are sons or daughters of Amherst alumni.
One of the most dramatic changes in the applicant pool, for both early and regular decision, has been the 26 percent increase in the number of international applicants. The College also experienced a 14 percent increase in the number of applicants identifying themselves as students of color. Students accepted to the class of 2012 averaged 726 on the critical reading section of the SAT, 716 on math and 718 on writing, figures slightly improved from last year’s averages. The number of candidates who received the admission committee’s top academic rating also increased.
These changes stem from an increasing number of students applying to the College, as well as Amherst’s increased recruiting efforts outside the U.S. and its relationship with QuestBridge, according to Director of Admission and Senior Associate Dean of Admission Katie Fretwell. According to Fretwell, the partnership with QuestBridge has improved both the diversity and quality of the applicant pool by encouraging highly qualified candidates from low income backgrounds to consider Amherst and to apply.
Harvard’s and Princeton’s elimination of their respective early decision programs could have also affected the unprecedented number of applicants, as well as the number of students who will accept the College’s offer of admission. “This year, candidates for whom Harvard and Princeton are a first choice institution did not have the early application option available, so were obliged to apply there as regular decision candidates,” said Fretwell. “As a result, those students who in previous years would have been offered admission to one of these institutions have appeared in our regular decision pool as well.” She added, “We will not be surprised to see increases in our ‘losses’ to Harvard and Princeton as a result.”
The College’s Open Houses, one of which is taking place this weekend and one scheduled for later this month, play an instrumental role in helping accepted students decide whether or not to attend Amherst. While the College has yet to encounter as cooperative a weather forecast as the one it enjoyed last year, the Office of Admission awaits the arrival of approximately 350 accepted students, along with their families, during the two Open Houses.
While competing institutions, such as Harvard and Princeton, have eliminated early admission, the College has no plan to eliminate its own early decision program. The Office of Admission believes that early decision plays a positive role in its recruitment of students and formation of the incoming class, noted Fretwell. The committee believes that its self-imposed cap of 30 percent on the percentage of incoming freshman enrolling through early decision is a judicious utilization of such an option.
With such a large number of applicants, the College anticipates that approximately 900 students will remain active waitlist candidates. The College estimates a 39.5 percent overall yield on the accepted students, which will hopefully produce a class of 2012, numbering 440 students. “Ideally, we will have the opportunity to enroll circa 25 students from our waiting list which will enable us to meet our target as precisely as possible. We have no intention of over-enrolling!” commented Fretwell.
Despite this year’s unusually large applicant pool, the College anticipates to witness an even further swell in next year’s number of applicants. “Demographic trend lines project that next year will be a peak in the number of 18-year-olds in the U.S. This year’s count of high school juniors visiting the Office of Admission during February and March was double that of last year,” said Fretwell. “So we anticipate that this degree of early interest will be reflect in our applicant pool for the class of 2013.”
Issue 22, Submitted 2008-04-09 05:22:27