College Welcomes Largest Class in History
By Elaine Teng '12, Editor-in-Chief
With their suitcases, pillows and parents in tow, the 490 members of the Class of 2014 arrived at the College last Sunday as the largest class Amherst has ever enrolled. This includes the largest number of women in a single class ever at the College, with 251 women to 239 men, and a diverse group of students across races, with 42 percent of the class identifying as students of color.

California, Florida, Texas and Arizona are the most represented states, with 22 percent of the entire class between them, a trend that Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Tom Parker saw as a good sign for the College’s appeal.

“What that demonstrates is that Amherst reaches more and more national[ly] and is in fact becoming more and more international,” he said. “I believe we had about 1,400 non-US citizens applying, including 150 from China. You’re seeing really the internationalization of our applicant pool as well as the student body. All these things are good.”

However, the Class of 2014 is larger than expected, with the initial projection at 465. Contrary to the Office of Admissions’ predictions, which they make using a five-year average, more students accepted their offer of admission than usual, creating a change in housing that has reopened the Mods and placed first-years in Waldorf Dormitory. This was only done because the College had initially been expecting an even larger number of first-years — 507 — far more than the 488 beds available on the freshmen quad.

While the increased size did not pose a problem this year, Parker was quick to reassure that Admissions would be instituting changes to ensure this does not become a repeat occurrence.

“We can’t afford to do this again,” he explained. “It’s not a problem this year because we can accommodate them all in freshman housing quite comfortably, but if we do it another year, we begin to cause problems for housing. To do it two years in a row would be straining the College’s resources. We’re just going to have to be very conservative next year.”

This conservatism will manifest itself in accepting anywhere from 75 to 100 fewer students, potentially creating the lowest acceptance rate in College history.

Nonetheless, Parker does not believe the increased student body will affect many aspects of the College, other than perhaps traffic at the dining hall. In fact, he sees it as an opportunity for the campus to see the benefits and drawbacks of a larger population but stressed that a consistently expanded class would not be possible without careful planning.

“In a way it’s kind of an unintended experiment,” he said. “There are a lot of attractive things about a bigger class — 25 more interesting people from interesting backgrounds. There are some pluses involved in this, but nonetheless to be able to say … ‘Let’s do this every year,’ would involve a whole heck of a lot of planning about space, class size, etc.”

As always, Director of Admission Katherine Fretwell welcomed the Class of 2014 with a speech about them, including a list of their anomalies and quirks. Alexandra and Daniel are the two most popular names, ages range from 16 to 22 and 59 percent are receiving financial aid. They also have, as Fretwell put it, “an unprecedented abundance of chess talent and interest in film.”

One of the first-years, Angie Epifano ’14, has been thoroughly enjoying her orientation experience and noted the openness and acceptance of her new home.

“I love it here. There’s this really great atmosphere of acceptance and you can just basically get out there and do things you’ve never done and you’ve always wanted to do and haven’t had a chance to do,” she said. “Like how you can just easily get involved with [the art museum] and it’s just right there, and everyone’s been really accommodating for getting into classes you want to get into.”

She also noticed the great diversity that Parker and Fretwell discussed and emphasized. “Everyone has their own cool little story and where they’re coming from. Everyone’s interesting in their own way,” Epifano said. “I haven’t met any boring people.”

Issue 01, Submitted 2010-09-02 16:23:44