College receives an all-time high number of applications
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 22:04
An all-time high number of students applied to join Wellesley College’s incoming Class of 2016.
This year, the College received a total of 4,546 applicants, the highest number in the history of the College, representing a 2 percent increase from the number of applications received last year.
The College has admitted 29 percent and anticipates a target class size of 580 students. This is a slight increase from last year’s class of 575 students. Admitted students represent 46 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. 11 percent of the admitted students are international students, representing 48 nations of citizenship.
The admission process begins with each member of the Board of Admissions reading applications from his or her designated region. The Board consists of Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Jennifer Dejarlais, faculty members and four student representatives (two students designated for each of the Domestic and International Board of Admission).
Wellesley College is one of the few academic institutions that includes current students in the decision-making process.
The Board assigns particular regions to student representatives. In order to prevent the representatives from encountering applicants they are familiar with, representatives are assigned only to regions in which they have not lived. After members of the Board read through the applications, they gather at meetings with tentatively-assigned scores for each applicant. Such meetings usually consist of one student representative, one faculty member and one admissions counselor.
“It’s amazing how much agreement there is between members of the committee,” said Nikki Rossetti ’12, a student representative who reads domestic applications. “Usually we come to the committee with very similar scores for applicants, but sometimes there’s disagreement—that’s where we have really interesting discussions.”
Insiders’ look at the admissions process
The Board of Admission often encounters difficulties in the decision-making process, such as financial aid. Since an applicant’s request for financial aid is disclosed for international applications, the International Board of Admission sees the financial aid factor as a major predicament. It is difficult for the Board to admit students seeking financial aid unless it is certain that the College will be able to provide the student with aid. With a quantitative limitation of the number of students the College is capable of funding, the International Board of Admission often encounters this dilemma.
“When we make the decision at the end, we have to consider how many students we can offer financial aid to, because we know from the Financial Aid office how many students we can fund on Wellesley’s financial aid,” said Grace Abuhamad ’13, a student representative who scores international applications.
“More than half of the students who apply to Wellesley from outside the U.S. are looking for aid. American students will get federal aid or any kind of aid, but with international students, we can’t accept them unless we can be sure that we can fund them. That becomes really hard, because sometimes there’d be really qualified students, but we can’t take them all.”
In addition to financial aid, other factors pose a challenge to the Board’s decision-making process. Unlike the Domestic Board of Admission, the International Board of Admission deals with conflicts that are particular to the pool of international applicants, such as a distorted transfer of quantitative data and a discrepancy between the domestic curriculum and the applicant’s respective curriculum.
“Not everyone understands the other systems,” said Abuhamad. “The U.S. is one country, but there are more than 200 countries in the world. When you can understand the system and know that the student is really good, but somehow it doesn’t translate, that’s something I would fight for. You know something about the applicant that the Board might not understand.”
Other situations, such as deciding between very similar applicants, also spark discord among members on the Board.
“There are some schools from which we receive a lot of applications, and it can be difficult sometimes to distinguish between a lot of students from the same school,” said Rossetti. “They’re all coming from the same environment, and the school values certain things. They have very similar academic records and very similar test scores and it’s hard to compare numbers between these students. We certainly don’t value numbers over qualitative information, but those numbers are informative.”
Rossetti admits, “I struggle most comparing students with similar quantitative backgrounds and similarly compelling scores. If they’re both qualified and have really amazing stories, there’s no question that they would both get in. Oftentimes, the most challenging thing is when there are some weak points in their application and yet they make a compelling argument. How do we choose one and not the other? Making that decision can be difficult sometimes, and those are actually the most interesting students to discuss, because all the members of the committee think something different.”
Members of each regional committee may value a certain quality more than another in applicants. When the members of a committee are in disagreement, the student representative brings in her voice, incorporating the student experience she has had so far.
“Everybody brings their own biases to the table, and that’s why we have a committee,” said Rossetti. “There’s no one person making a decision about any applicant. I personally look for some evidence of real academic or intellectual curiosity and passion for something.