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.
Swarthmore received 5,244 applications for admission to the Class of 2011 and admitted 890 students in all for an acceptance rate of seventeen percent. The number of applications represents an eight percent increase over last year and a forty percent increase over three years ago. According to Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90, “this is the most selective admitted class in history.”
152 students were admitted in the two Early Decision rounds and 738 were admitted during Regular Decision. Bock expects these acceptances to yield a class of about 365 for next fall. The yield for the Class of 2010 was about forty percent between Early and Regular Decision, and “we took about twenty students off the waitlist.” This year over 900 students were offered a spot on the waitlist.
The Class of 2010 was 372 students strong, but this year, Bock says “we wanted a slightly smaller class,” explaining that more students want to live on campus and thus a smaller class is needed to guarantee housing for everyone.
For Regular Decision students, “decision letters were mailed March 27th in the hope that they will receive it by April 1.”
Bock also hopes to enroll ten to twelve transfers, but since the deadline for transfers is not until April 1, he does not yet know how many applications he has received, although it is usually in the range of one hundred to one hundred and twenty. He explained that “the transfers help us shape the class a little bit… if too many students choose to enroll, we can accept fewer transfers.” Transfer students hear about decisions around May 15.
The admitted students come from six continents and thirty-two nations. Fifty-five students, 6% of the admitted class, are international citizens. The most common countries of residence are South Korea with seventeen students followed by four each from India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom and three each from Hong Kong, China, Japan and Turkey.
The admitted class comes from forty-eight states (all but the Dakotas) as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. 53% of admitted students self-identify as domestic students of color–22% identify as Asian-American/Multiracial, 15% as African-American/Multiracial, 15% as Latino/Multiracial, and 1% as Native American/Hawaiian.
The most popular majors are the perennial “Undecided,” followed by Engineering, Biology, Political Science, Economics, and English. 52% of accepted students identify as female and 48% as male.
Why the increasing application numbers? Bock says that “we’ve done a lot to reach students who might not otherwise consider Swarthmore, particularly high-achieving low-income students.” War News Radio, Swat Sudan, and the Lang Center continue to show up continually in “Why Swarthmore?” essays, suggesting that positive publicity for student activism in the outside world is also translating into more applications.
Bock also attributes the rise to “the ease of applying online, particularly through the common application… more applicants are also submitting more applications. You might have submitted five or six applications five years ago, but applicants today are submitting eight or nine… even that small bump can increase the number that we see pretty dramatically.”
Bock continued, “we’re also seeing an increase in first-contact applications… from students who haven’t already filled out a card or taken an official tour. Their first official contact with us is the application.” He explained that “because of the Internet there are ways students can look into us and never officially register with us.”
Looking to the future, Bock anticipates that the increase in applications will eventually slow down. College admissions is currently facing the large numbers of children produced by the “Baby Echo,” the generation of children produced by the “Baby Boomers.” Bock says that “the demographics will shift a little bit… in three or four years the data suggests that there will be fewer students going to college… will we continue to see the increases? It’s hard to say.”
Another concern is rising costs. Swarthmore tuition rose 5% this year, and Bock wonders, “When does cost become prohibitive… at what point do we reach the point where cost is perceived to be too high and families are concerned about applying to schools like Swarthmore?” Although Swarthmore will continue its commitment to providing full need-based aid for the foreseeable future, “we’re going to have to reaffirm that as a priority… we have to keep reaching out.” Bock is determined to keep attracting “the right students… I think there are far more students out there who could be a great fit for this place but who don’t know it yet.”
Ride the Tide will be held this year on April 19th-20th. One important change is that “we used to have department open houses but now we’re doing an academic fair in Upper Tarble… that will be a set time so prospectives can walk around and talk to professors and students.” The admitted students website is also “live and kicking… people are just now getting their letters, so we expect traffic to pick up soon.”