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2013 Spring Issue 4 (May 3, 2013)

Admissions: Class of 2017 Commits to Carleton

May 5, 2013
By J.M. Hanley

The snow did the trick.

Following the May 1 reply deadline, more than 550 high-schoolers have enrolled in the class of 2017, fifty more than the 500 anticipated by the Admissions Committee.

They represent a yield percentage of about 37.3% of the 1,475 applicants admitted, an increase of about 2% over last year’s yield. Those 1475 admitted students, meanwhile, were culled from an applicant pool that grew by more than 20% over last year’s, causing the school’s acceptance rate to fall from 25.55% to 20.98%.  

 In light of the fact that not all admitted students will choose to attend, admissions officers must gauge how many additional students they need admit in order to end with the desired class size.  This year, Carleton’s Dean of Admissions Paul Thiboutot said, he and his colleagues under-estimated Carleton’s popularity.

“Intuitively, if you have more applications than you’ve ever had, if your acceptance rate drops to its lowest level in history, and your overall sense is that you’ve admitted a high-quality group, you expect yield to drop,” Thiboutot explained, “But it didn’t.  The opposite happened.”

What happened, in short, is that even within a group of more accomplished students than in years past, Carleton grew more popular.

Thiboutot added that the total could decline by as many as twenty students due to “snow melt” – moderate attrition that occurs as students are taken off waiting lists at other schools and enroll there.  Even under such circumstances, though, the Class of 2017 would have 30 more students than anticipated.

Though yield rates for most institutions have yet to be released, Carleton’s steeply dropping admissions percentage constitutes an anomaly among the school’s peers.  At Bowdoin College, 14.48% of students were accepted, 1.3% fewer than last year.  At Swarthmore College, the acceptance rate fell by 0.05% from last year’s.  And at Amherst, the acceptance rate rose following a decrease in applications.

Thiboutot was at a loss to explain the jump in enrolled students.

“Maybe it’s the snow,” he joked.

He also offered that the spike might be attributed to a upsurge in the matriculation of students of color, who comprise 26.5% of the class of 2017.  The 4% increase in such students, Thiboutot said, roughly corresponded to the increase in yield. 

Though racial diversity climbed, the number of international students held steady at approximately 10%.  Though more than twenty countries are represented, as in years past, there are nineteen students from China, more than from any other non-American country

‘17ers also hail from a number of exotic locales, including El Salvador, Portugal, Ecuador, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Zimbabwe, Peru, and Belgium, which contributed two students.

Some are even international a couple of times over.   One student, from Hong Kong, is the first non-British head boy at Charterhouse, an elite four-hundred-plus year-old English boarding school that also educated Roger Williams. 

Within the U.S., 46 states are represented.  More students, 92, came from Minnesota than from any other state.  California came in second with 64 students, an all-time high for the Golden State, followed by Illinois at 52, a figure roughly the same as last year’s. 

Enrollees from Minnesota declined from 2012, continuing a persistent trend of the last few years.  Meanwhile, incoming students from the South increased substantially.  Ten come from North Carolina, and a number of deep-South states that normally contribute no students, Mississippi and Louisiana among them, are represented.  Applications from the Northwest also edged up slightly, consistent with the objectives of the school-wide strategic plan released in September.

The strategic plan’s influence extended beyond geography.  According to Thiboutot, admissions officers acted “under the directives of the strategic plan” in abolishing a fifteen-percent cap on need-sensitive admissions.

SAT scores for the group were slightly lower than they were for the 2012 cohort, while ACT scores were higher. 

Consistent with previous years, there are 75 National Merit Scholars, an area in which Carleton is a traditional leader.
When asked about applications for next year, Thiboutot broke into guffaws.

“If I can claim ignorance after twenty years in the business, I claim it,” he said, “but I told President Poskanzer that we might be bringing in snow on trucks for the prospie weekends next spring.” 

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