College accepts 128 students early decision

The 128 admitted students had an average SAT I verbal score of 714 and an average math score of 719. The College admitted an equal number of men and women–64 of each sex. Twenty-two accepted students are children of alumni.

Dean of Admissions Tom Parker said that one of the College’s major goals-yielding more African-American students-has succeeded thus far. Parker said that more African-American students were accepted early decision this year than for the class of 2008. Nine African-American students were admitted to the class of 2009, more than double the number admitted early decision to the class of 2008, according to Parker.

The College wants to have more African-American students in the class of 2009 than the 21 self-identified African-Americans represented in the class of 2008.

Seven Hispanics, six Asian-Americans and two students of mixed heritage were also accepted early this year.

Parker is satisfied with the racial diversity of the admitted group at this point. “It makes us feel good for the spring,” he said. “There’s no question at all that we needed more African-American students. The problem last year was not with the number we accepted or the number that applied. It was with the number of kids we accepted who accepted us.”

Having identified yield as the answer to the diversity dilemma in the class of 2008, the admissions staff launched several initiatives in preparation for the regular decision round of admission. The staff will more aggressively facilitate visits to campus for admitted students. It will also encourage admitted students to contact the admissions office in the event that they are unsatisfied with their financial aid packages. “Part of it is to be more aggressive about getting kids here on campus,” Parker said. “We’ve done that and we’ll do more of it. The other thing is to be more aggressive in letting students know that if there’s a financial aid problem, they should get in touch with our office.”

Parker said that the admissions staff committee is also pressing for improved socio-economic diversity in the class of 2009. “With Tony [Marx] being President, we’re focusing harder on first-generation college students of all races,” he said. “We’re working with the College Board to identify zip code clusters where there would be talented kids from modest socio-economic circumstances, and we’re also working with an organization called Questbridge, which taps databases to identify those kids for us too.”

The early decision round of admission saw an explosion in the number of applicants opting to submit applications electronically.

Approximately 70 percent of candidates applied over the Internet, compared to about half of the early decision applicant pool last year. “What’s going to happen within five years is that the process will be pretty close to paperless,” Parker said. “Kids are saying ‘Don’t worry, the application won’t get lost on the Internet.’ They are ordering online, doing things online for the last 10 years of their lives. They feel like this is the way to do it. It’s great for us because we’re able to upload everything right into the database and we get a better start on reading and doing so thoroughly.”

The 128 students admitted early comprise 30 percent of the class of 2009, a limit that the admissions committee imposed itself. “If you start to accept much more than 30 percent, you start to skew toward affluent kids,” Parker said.

To cater to an increasingly international applicant pool which is also less concentrated in the northeastern United States, the College provided chat rooms to allow candidates to talk to current students at the College. Parker called the chat rooms “extensive and well attended.”

Though the Office of Admissions has adapted to meet a changing climate in college admissions, its chief goal remains the same: “To be one of the best colleges and universities in the U.S. in terms of academic quality and the diversity of the student body,” said Parker.

With 6,260 regular decision applications to read, the admissions committee will perhaps find the electronic application option even more useful in the coming months. The electronic application has been available at Amherst for six years.