College Admits the Class of 2014
By Karen Yeh '13, Staff Writer
For months, 8,088 high school seniors and college hopefuls anxiously waited for a letter from Amherst College — one that they hoped would start with the C-word. Only 1,226 such letters were sent out, while 1,098 students were waitlisted. The admittance rate hit a near record low this year at just 15.2 percent, compared to 16.0 percent last year. President Tony Marx stated that the College’s exceptionally low admittance rate this year “is an outcome of providing a great undergraduate education.” In comparison, Williams College’s admittance rate was 18.12 percent.

The College saw a five-percent increase in the number of applicants from last year. 578 men and 648 women were accepted this year, similar to last year’s ratio. The male-to-female ratio is expected to remain at 1:1, and 465 students are expected to matriculate.

There were 87 legacy students accepted and 66 recruited athletes. Marx was impressed with this year’s admitted students: “By all measures, this is the most selective class. The academic firepower is even stronger … the array of artistic, athletic and academic talents is breathtaking.”

One of the concerns brought on by the economic crisis was the potential impact on the College’s policy of need-blind admissions and no-loans financial aid. “We’re very proud that we still offer need-blind no-loans financial aid to students,” said Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Tom Parker. “The thing about the financial crisis is that it really focused what was central to Amherst, so for example, we’ve been hiring faculty while other schools have been firing in order to maintain our commitment to quality teaching ... and we are just grateful to be able to provide the same level of intellectual access to all students.”

Marx has no intentions to change the policy at this point. Capital resources have come from increasing the summer savings expectation.

The College capped the admission rate of international students at eight percent, but according to Parker, “We looked at the usual criteria of academic quality.” The primary criteria remains academic merit: 91 percent of accepted students were in the top 10th percentile of their graduating class, the average SAT scores were 730 for Critical Reading, 720 for Math and 730 for Writing, and the average ACT score was 32.

Parker does not believe in the existence of an “ideal” Amherst student and asserts that high grades alone do not guarantee that an applicant will make it to the final rounds of admission decisions. “[The Admissions Committee] looks for kids who are very bright and have, first and foremost, a genuine interest in learning,” he said.

Another point Parker emphasized was the applicant’s potential contribution to the College community; admission into the College does not rest solely on what the applicant will gain from the College; but also on what the applicant can give. “For me, for a student not to take advantage of a place like [Amherst] is well, criminal. So that’s what we look for: people who will really take advantage of the small community and add to it. Athletics aren’t better than the arts and the arts aren’t better than athletics. We just want students who will be a part of the community,” said Parker.

The Class of 2014 offers an “amazing mix of students,” said Marx. “Amherst aspires to have both the best mix of students and mix of diversity. Once [the students] arrive, it is important for them to interact with each other.”

Community diversity is something that the College always strives to improve. This year, 617 — more than half — of the students admitted self-identified as students of color.

197 international students came from a total of 46 countries, including China, Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe. The first Mongolian student was admitted this year.

It is easy to envision admissions officers as cold and detached — especially if one is rejected from his or her dream school.

But just as students fall in love with and get attached to certain schools, admissions officers likewise get attached to some of the students whose applications they review.

For Parker, the hardest part of the job is saying no: “We’re all very cognizant of the fact that we’re saying ‘no’ to very amazing kids, and during the process you develop a certain attachment to some of these kids, and to see them not get in is hard. But to a certain degree, it’s almost like a lottery.”

Issue 21, Submitted 2010-04-07 11:22:28