Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
897 students have been admitted to the Swarthmore Class of 2010, 18.4 percent of the record 4,850 who applied. Not only does the number of applicants shatter the previous record of 4,585 applicants for the Class of 2002, it is also up nineteen percent overall from last year’s tally of 4,085, which was in turn up 11 percent from the previous year. Of the 897 accepted students, Swarthmore expects to yield a class of 372 for next fall.
The admissions office saw a thirty-three percent increase in Early Decision applications alone, receiving over 400 Early Decision applications for the first time ever. Thirty-six percent of these applicants were accepted; as in past years, forty percent of the incoming class will have been accepted Early Decision.
Fifty-two percent of accepted students self-identify as domestic students of color. Asian Americans make up twenty-one percent of the admitted class, Latino students sixteen percent, African Americans fourteen percent, and one percent of students identify as Native American or Hawaiian. Jim Bock, dean of admissions and financial aid, explained that “we had far more applicants who were students of color, we had far more female applicants, we had far more male applicants… the increase was across the board.”
Surprisingly, said Bock, “the quality of the pool was almost identical to last year… average scores went down slightly, but not what you would expect.” With more applicants in the pool, you can usually assume that there will be more underqualified applicants, but that was not the case in this year of record-breaking applications; “it made it more difficult,” said Bock, “because we were choosing from even more excellent applicants than usual.”
Bock attributes the rise in applications to a combination of demographics and increased outreach on the part of Swarthmore. “We are currently experiencing the ‘baby echo’ of the baby boomers… the number of college-age students should continue to rise through 2012.” Because students are sending out more applications to more schools than ever before, there are not only more people in the pipeline, but also more applications.
These demographics are one of the reasons that Bock is not worried about all 897 students choosing to enroll. According to Bock, as a school becomes more selective, its yield actually drops, because it’s taking students who have more choices about where to go to college. “The kids we admitted are choosing between six or eight great schools… just by the law of averages, a lot of them are not going to show up.” Swarthmore wants a class of 372 students for next fall, and if fewer than that choose to enroll, over 900 students were offered a spot on the waitlist.
The “Swarthmore Unscripted” DVD and viewbook have remained important tools for recruiting prospective students, but even more imporant, says Bock, is that “while everyone talks a good game, we actually show it.” Groups such as Swat Sudan and War News Radio attract the attention applicants and frequently get mentioned in “Why Swarthmore?” essays. “You’d be surprised how many Swarthmore applicants mentioned /The New Yorker/ article on War News Radio in their essays,” said Bock, “but then, you’d be surprised how many Swarthmore applicants read /The New Yorker/!”
Bock thinks his office has done a good job at “recasting some of the negative stereotypes about Swarthmore in a positive light. There are a lot of schools similar to us in selectivity but we’re the only one with that negative reputation… I want to help people understand who we really are, and I think that our message will always resonate with a particular subset of students.” While Bock knows that people have accused him of making each succeeding class more “mainstream,” he wants to remind them that “You weren’t a Swattie either when you came in… over the course of four years, this school molds people.”
The admissions office is currently expecting around 260 students for Ride the Tide. Of these, about 210 will be Regular Decision applicants and another 50 will be Early Decision applicants. This will be the second year that Swarthmore has held a one-night, two-day admitted students program, and Bock said that it’s been a good decision. “Both the attendance at Ride the Tide and the yield of students who come to Ride the Tide have gone up now that it’s a two-day program,” he said, “they complain that two days is too short, but that’s just how we like it: we’re going to leave them wanting more.”