College reports lowest admit rate ever
Though the College generally admits 32 to 36 percent of applicants, only 29 percent of applicants for the class of 2015 received acceptance letters, the lowest admissions rate in Colby history.
The pool of approximately 5,700 applicants for the class of 2015 represented 23 percent increase from the applicant pool of the class of 2014. This increase in applicant pool size is the second largest in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), surpassed only by Trinity College, which did away with the supplemental application altogether.
“The increase in the most recent applicant pool is in part due to the elimination of the supplemental essay, but it is also part of a greater positive feedback loop,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Parker Beverage said. According to Beverage, the amount of high school graduates who are pursuing a higher education is increasing, driving application pools up, admissions rates down and college rankings up. Higher rankings make colleges more appealing to applicants, which perpetuates the cycle as more applicants apply for the same number amount of limited spots.
Despite a sustained increase in the applicant pool, the College’s acceptance rate has demonstrated little fluctuation, remaining in the 30 to 35 percent range over the last eight to 10 years. Though the applicant pool is increasing and the College has not made any significant increases in graduation class sizes, the acceptance rate has remained relatively stagnant as a result of the yield, or the percentage of admitted students who actually choose to enroll in the College.
The admissions office needs to properly estimate the yield in order to determine how many students to accept. However, properly estimating the yield is difficult because it is highly subjective. In part, it is informed by previous yields, but future yields are also a function of current trends that are almost impossible to identify. For this reason, incoming classes are often over or under-enrolled. “The yield for the class of 2015 is going to be tough,” Beverage said. “This is the first round of applicants since the elimination of one of the supplemental essays; it is hard to tell how many of the qualified applicants were actually serious about making Colby their first choice.”
While the top 10 to 15 percent of colleges and universities in the United States are seeing decreases in acceptance rates and increases in yields, the next 10 to 15 percent of schools are experiencing similar increases in applicant pools, but are having much more trouble calculating yields that are flexible enough to function within the structural constraints of the current applicant pool. The lack of predictability on the part of the applicant and the admissions committee leads to an emphasis of binding the early decision application.
This year, the admissions office accepted 40 percent of the class via early decision, amounting to about 190 students. According to Beverage, the acceptance rate in the early decision pool is so much higher because “these students are making an emphatic choice by asserting that Colby is their number one option. They are also competing against fewer applicants.” The College filled the remaining 290 spots with regular decision applicants and admitted an additional 36 students to enter mid-year. At the end of the admissions process, the college admitted a total of 1,500 students for the class of 2015. “We are predicting a yield of about 34 percent,” Beverage said.
However, the College does run the risk of incorrectly predicting the yield. According to Beverage, “If [we] have low-balled the yield, we will look to the waitlist, which is full of well-qualified students.” Last year, the College took 20 students from the waitlist, 12 of which enrolled as part of the class of 2014. There is also the risk of under-estimating the yield, and according to Beverage this might have an impact on how many students will live on and off campus. The College is taking steps to construct additional on-campus dorm space over the summer in order to minimize the amount of off-campus housing.
According to Beverage, “Decisions may seem arbitrary, but this is not the case. As an admissions committee we are not just looking at grades and test scores, we are trying to build a class consistent with our institutional goals. We want strong academics, a gender balance, geographic diversity, as well as a balance regarding interests and potential majors.”