Admissions selectivity on the rise, lower yield expected
BY YINGJIA WANG
Once again this year, Swarthmore’s admissions acceptance rate has dropped to an all-time low. The college received 6,118 applications this year for the class of 2012 and admitted only 15 percent, a two percent decrease from last year’s acceptance rate of 17 percent.
According to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jim Bock ’90, many reasons account for the increased number of applicants this year. The number of seniors applying to college each year in America continues to increase.
Additionally, these seniors are submitting, on average, more applications.
Bock also cites Harvard University and Princeton University’s decisions to drop their early action and early decision programs, respectively, as causes for Swarthmore’s rise in applications.
“Harvard and Princeton discontinued their early programs, so there are many more students who are now in the pipeline,” Bock said. “Those students have submitted, probably on average, another 10 to 12 applications.”
Even with the class of 2012’s increased selectivity, Swarthmore actually admitted more candidates this year than it did last year, admitting 929 prospective students versus 890 for the class of 2011.
Bock said that this approximately 4.4 percent increase is due to Swarthmore’s expected drop in yield, which is the percentage of admitted students who actually choose to matriculate at the college.
The same factors that accounted for Swarthmore’s increased selectivity may also explain the drop in yield. According to Bock, the more colleges that students apply to, the more options they may have come decision time. Therefore, there is a greater likelihood that any admitted student will choose another college over Swarthmore.
There is also increased unpredictability involved in predicting yield this year., according to Bock.
“This year is doubly difficult,” he said. “What I’ve been saying is that all bets are off in determining yield … How do you predict yield? It’s hard. It’s part art, part science,” Bock said.
Harvard and Princeton’s decisions to drop their early programs come into play with regard to predicting yield as well.
“It’s harder to determine yield not only because apps are up but because two large competitors have yet to fill their classes,” Bock said.
Bock also cited the often unpredictable ways in which students choose colleges as yet another factor that makes yield difficult to forecast.
“[Students applying to college] are 17, so much of what they do is not logical,” Bock said. “I remember one student who said, ‘Well, I chose _ Ivy League university because I have a better chance of finding a wife there. How do you predict that?’” Bock said.
As a student who was deferred Fall Early Decision but admitted come Regular Decision time, prospective student Anna Levine is one example of the varying factors that come into play when making college decisions.
“I really didn’t think I was going to get into Swarthmore regular decision, so I thought about other colleges too,” Levine said.
“I heard back from the University of Chicago first, so I got pretty psyched about that. It has the same atmosphere and intellectual climate as Swarthmore. But then I heard back from Swarthmore, and now I’m getting excited about that. I think Swarthmore’s still my number one choice,” she said.
As a result of the expected decrease in yield, more students were offered a spot on the waitlist this year. According to Bock, approximately 1,000 applicants to the class of 2012 were given this option.
As for the number of students actually on the waitlist, Bock says that the number is unknown, as students are not automatically placed on the waitlist, but are rather offered the option to be put on it. Since decision letters were sent out recently, the Admissions Office has yet to receive any replies to its offers for the waitlist.
In response to those who question why Swarthmore offers so many students positions on the waitlist, Bock said that his reasoning is twofold.
“The quality is there,” Bock said. “What I always say is that Swarthmore is a highly self-selecting institution. Few students apply on whim here … The vast majority is absolutely qualified to do the work here. So a reason that we waitlist so many is because they’re deserving. Another reason is that it makes sense to give the students the opportunity to come here. Also, we are not putting them on the waitlist, we are offering a spot on the waitlist. They have to accept the spots.”
Bock plans to use the waitlist the same way this year as he has in years past, stating that the office uses it to round out the class after all the admitted students have sent their reply cards back. In the past 12 years, Swarthmore has admitted as few as zero to as many as 75 students off the waitlist.
Current students are happy to see the college’s selectivity increasing. “I think that something like this can only be positive for Swarthmore,” Angelica Saada ’10 said. “People always say that they came here or want to come here for the intellectual atmosphere, so it’s good to see that not only are supposedly smarter students coming here, but that they also want to come for the ‘right reasons.’ That is, for the intellectualness that we are reputed to have.”