Looking Forward in Smith’s Admissions: Growing Competition and Evolving Practices

Hannah Elbaum ’19
Copy Editor

In recent years, the college admissions process has become increasingly more strenuous and selective. Ease of applying with a single click and colleges’ abilities to advertise more widely has increased the number of applications many colleges receive. These colleges, however, are unable to increase the number of students they accept each year, meaning that their acceptance rate percentages are in a steady decline. Smith has been no exception in the application frenzy.

“For the ninth year in a row, [Smith] received a record number of first-year applications,” Deb Shaver, dean of admission, shared with The Sophian. This year, 5,251 students applied for entrance to Smith’s class of 2020, a five percent increase from last year.

With this increase in applications comes a decrease in acceptance rate, as well. On Smith’s admissions website, a 42 percent acceptance rate is listed, but the total number of applications from that year was 4,466. Given the over 500 application increase since that statistic, but lack of a comparable increase in target class size, it can be assumed that the acceptance rate has fallen significantly.

Typically, between 600 and 640 first-year students arrive on campus each fall, depending on retention rates and the number of transfer students. “We anticipate that we will meet or exceed our target of 620 students in the class of 2020,” said Audrey Smith, vice president for enrollment via email.

At the time of Smith’s email, the class size was not finalized due to cases in which students have deposit extensions after the national May 1 deadline.

She did say that the college has a long-term goal of decreasing the undergraduate student enrollment from 2,600 to 2,500, which means that the target class sizes of just over 600 are smaller than they have been historically at Smith.

Smith is also committed to continually diversifying the college. An email on April 27 to the student body from Dwight Hamilton, vice president for inclusion, diversity and equity, said, “The class of 2019 is the most diverse in Smith’s history … Admissions anticipates that the incoming class of 2020 will also be notably diverse.”

“In [the 2019] class of 609 students were 117 (19 percent) first-generation students (defined as neither parent having graduated from a four-year college) [and] 207 domestic students of color (34 percent of the class and 40 percent of the US citizens),” said Smith. She clarified the difference between the two percentages, saying that “16 percent of the class were international citizens of many different races,” which are not reported in the same way.

Additionally, 64 percent of the class of 2019 received some form of financial assistance in paying tuition for Smith.

As the final enrollment for the class of 2020 has not been finalized, there is not yet a comparison for improvement between the classes of 2019 and 2020.

Going forward, Smith is at the forefront of development and implementation of a new form of the college application process. Unlike the popular Common Application, the Coalition Application – created by the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success – allows students to build a portfolio over their four years of high school that includes information about their academics, extracurricular activities and home responsibilities.

This initiative – signed by colleges and universities ranging in size and acceptance rate, and covering both public and private institutions – aims to provide a clearer picture of each student to admissions officers. This coming year will be the first application cycle with the Coalition Application.

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