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College admits Class of 2021, questions of support and class structure rise

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On March 21st, the Office of Admissions alerted the campus community to the admission of the Class of 2021 with historic numbers of applications. The admitted class also had record numbers of applications from traditionally underrepresented groups, international students, and first-in-their-family and many through community-based programs like QuestBridge. The class’s intended majors follow a trend from previous years with engineering, political science, and biology are most heavily represented. The office found that, with the high numbers of applications, admitting 960 students fit well with the college’s Visioning Process goals. The admitted Class of 2021 is larger than the Classes of 2017, 2018, and 2019 and approximately the same size as 2020.

Vice President of the college and Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90 detailed the process of balancing the goal to provide a Swarthmore education with the larger number of applicants this year.

“This is a perennial challenge as we always have many more qualified and compelling applicants than we have admission spaces available. The size and depth of this year’s applicant pool made our work more difficult as we had to turn away more students than in the past. We were able to admit more first generation to college students, and we are confident that the admitted students are prepared to take full advantage of the rigorous academic program and contribute tremendously to the Swarthmore community,” Bock said.

Bock stated that applications increased from all demographics, mentioning new promotional materials as a reason, and identified the process of how the college will finalize the Class of 2021 and the transfer population. He then noted the advances the office made to include underrepresented populations in the admitted class.

“Our Director of Access and Programming developed a communication plan geared specifically to underrepresented and low-income students highlighting what makes our community a special and supportive place … Our office has also worked closely with our colleagues in the Communications Office and other campus partners to ensure we are telling the Swarthmore story authentically and effectively to prospective students of all backgrounds,” Bock said.

Students on campus generally responded positively to the higher rates of application and admission of underrepresented groups. Ricky Choi ’20 noted how Swarthmore is a place that supports underrepresented groups, but how building that community on campus is important.

“I think a greater diversity in our student body will bring even greater attention to the issues that are unique to these international [and] first-in-family [students] and generally underrepresented groups. Our school as an institution is already highly vocal and aware of the issues that surround such groups but having greater context and personal experiences can always add weight to the existing voice,” Choi said.

Shelby Billups ’20 stated how this increase will lead to the campus becoming more supportive to underrepresented communities as the campus network will grow, and she highlighted how Swarthmore helped her reach her goals academically and connect as a minority student.

“I believe that this growth in these groups will aid in the normalization of diversity. This normalization will aid in the transition into college for many of these students for many class years to come and help to instill the overarching theme of acceptance that is so prevalent on our campus already,” Billups said. “As someone who comes from a place where there weren’t many opportunities for me to connect with people of my own background, the number opportunities at the college astounded me. From WOCKA to the BCC to the many other cultural groups on campus, I have never felt deprived of support as a minority student.”

Choi went on to discuss how the communities on campus could be strengthened through solidarity between campus cultural groups, and he explains how the Intercultural Center could change its role in relation to this goal.

“Although IC is effective in supporting international students, I think it can most definitely do more than status quo. I think one of the key problems when it comes to international student groups such as SAO, Han, and other cultural groups is that there is a lack of single cohesive voice. Whilst these groups are most certainly unique in their backgrounds and contexts, there can be a unified voice to address issues such as the myth of model minority. IC can play a critical role in facilitating the interaction between such student bodies and should increase such role in the future,” Choi said.

The Class of 2021 will bring more students to campus with new stories and new networks to work in. The college understands the class to be largely consequential in the academic realm, and students hope the incoming first-years will access the resources and support systems of community groups, and they see the potential to strengthen those groups at Swarthmore as the number of students can increase networks of support across the college.

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