First-year applications increase
First-year applications to the College increased by 22.7 percent since last year, with 5,170 students seeking to join the class of 2015. Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Parker Beverage cites the College’s recruiting efforts, the state of the economy and the elimination of the supplemental essay as some of the factors that contributed to this increase.
Beverage said that the College accepted 222 of the 444 students who applied early decision in rounds one and two, a six percent increase. Still, “that’ll be about the same percentage of the entering class we’ve been enrolling early decision over the past few years,” he said.
In order to spread the word about the College, “we [as a staff] continued to travel international and broadly across the United States,” Beverage said. The College also “employed an outside vendor to help us with a stream of email messages that we sent to about close to 10,000 students, about 5,000 of whom were already in our inquiry pool, and about 5,000 additional names we purchased from the College Board,” Beverage said.
Beverage said that this year, the College received almost 200 applications from students of color—“a record number”. Beverage said that the College has recently “received some very favorable recognition” for enrolling students of color, with 35 African-American students currently in the class of 2014, almost an 100 percent increase from the 18 students in the class of 2013. The Black Issues in Higher Education journal published this data, and “if you’re an African American student or from any minority that’s an appealing statistic,” Beverage said. He noted that the College “had the biggest increase [in African-American students] of any of the schools [from which Black Issues in Higher Education] collected data.”
The College has also continued to partner with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) across the nation year after year, “working with underserved and underrepresented urban youth,” Beverage said. Overall, however, “whether or not this class will be more diverse is hard to say because of the yield question,” he said. “There is certainly plenty of academic strength among our applicants this year, but not all of these impressive applicants will have Colby as a top choice. Making an accurate yield prediction is likely to be a special challenge this year.”
Another reason Beverage cites for this year’s increase in applications is that “the economy has improved, and I know from a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that last year was a year a number of students applied to schools closer to home,” Beverage said. This year, however, “we’ve seen a lot of applicants from Texas, California [and] the southeast.”
Although Beverage was “initially…ill-disposed” to eliminate the supplemental essay, “we’re getting very good, I think better responses to the question we do have on the supplement,” known as the “Why Colby?” question, he said. Beverage said that along with the quantity of this year’s applications come highly qualified applicants. “It’s been harder to go through them; we’re making some very difficult decisions,” he said.
As a result of the number of qualified applicants, “we’ll probably have pretty large waitlist,” Beverage said. “Last year we only took 10 students from the waitlist, this year we may need to take 25 or 30.”
Class sizes will not change as a result of the increase in applications, Beverage said. Once more slots are offered, “you’re beginning quickly to change the character of the place,” and trustees prefer maintaining an enrollment of about 1,850 students, he said.
However, Beverage said the College’s acceptance rate will “almost certainly be below 30 percent, probably 28 or 27 percent,” and this is “something that feeds into the ranking formula.” However, as Beverage noted, while “there are many criteria that go into that ranking…it certainly will have a positive effect.”