Rigorous Process Sets Record-Low Acceptance Rate
By Megan Duff ’14, Staff Writer
On Thursday, March 31, the College’s Office of Admission mailed acceptance packets to all students admitted to the Class of 2015. Of the 8,438 applicants, 1,077 were accepted — a mere 12.8 percent acceptance rate compared to last year’s 15.3 percent.

This is the largest number of students to apply in the College’s history, coupled with the lowest ever acceptance rate. Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Thomas Parker believes that around 440 of the 1,077 accepted will matriculate. If this happens, the Office of Admission hopes to accept around 25 more students from the waitlist. The College admitted a group of students with average scores of 32 on the ACT, 728 on the critical reading section of the SAT, 726 on the math section and 729 on the writing section.

Parker explains that the regular decision acceptance rate is low because more early decision applicants were accepted. Of the 444 early decision applicants this year, 151 were accepted, which is 10 more than last year. Also, since the Class of 2014 was over-enrolled by about 50 students last year, Parker states that the College “cannot afford” to over-enroll again because of limited housing. In addition, there were only five QuestBridge matches last year compared to 15 this year. Questbridge is a program that “matches” high-achieving, low-income students to top tier partner colleges such as Amherst. When a student is matched to a partner college, the college pays his/her tuition, which opens up opportunities for low-income students to attend schools they otherwise could not have afforded.

“I think it’s great that the College is trying to reach out more to that demographic,” said Alexandra Coston ’14, one of the five QuestBridge matches from the class of 2014.

The admissions process at the College was extremely rigorous this year, and not just for the students applying. Acceptance decisions are made by two committees that are split by region consisting of all of the College’s admissions professionals. The committees convene for a two-and-a-half-week period wherein each committee is assigned an adjunct reader. The readers are hired specifically for the purpose of reading each application in its entirety, summarizing the application in a paragraph of prose and then presenting the application summary before one of the committees. Parker described the process of choosing whom to accept as difficult.

“We exhausted the meaningful criteria and had to rely more on our intuition about the intellectuality and intrinsic motivation of the applicants,” Parker said. “It was a terrific year for Amherst, and I never want to take it for granted. It’s a privilege to be here.”

Of the 1,077 accepted, 550 were women and 527 were men. The accepted students came from 781 different secondary schools from all over the world with the most represented U.S. states being New York, California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas. Five hundred seventy-six self-identified as students of color, an unprecendented 53.5 percent. Among these there were 180 African-American students, 144 Latino students, 157 Asian-American students and 92 students of mixed heritage. There were also 100 non-American citizens accepted. The most-represented foreign countries among the accepted students were Canada, China, South Korea, Jamaica, Singapore, United Kingdom, India, Brazil and Thailand, with at least three students, and often more, hailing from each. Parker is a huge supporter of the College’s dedication to diversity, calling it “really quite extraordinary.”

“It’s an example of what is possible in higher education,” he said. “We’re thrilled.”

Issue 22, Submitted 2011-04-13 04:20:59