Class Project

By President Steven Poskanzer

100916_Poskanzer_3.jpgCreating a robust admissions pipeline is one of the best ways to preserve Carleton’s strength in the long run. We have experienced two exceptionally successful years in the admissions office, increasing the number of applications from 4,900 in 2011 to more than 7,000 in 2013.

Admissions dean Paul Thiboutot, his staff, and their alumni and parent volunteers have adopted new approaches to recruiting in an increasingly competitive market for the best students. For example, staff members have intensified their efforts in critical areas of the country that are experiencing an increase in the number and diversity of 18- to 21-year olds, including the Pacific Northwest, North and South Carolina, and the greater Chicago area.

We continue to find creative ways to communicate with prospective students and their families, integrating publications and contemporary electronic communications. We recognize the importance of campus visits in the admissions process, and our tour guides (who are current students) show visitors such outstanding facilities as the Weitz Center for Creativity and deliver important messages about the value and distinctive quality of a Carleton education and our college community.

In addition, our new partnership with the QuestBridge organization has played a key role in this year’s admission success. Part of the Quest Scholars Program, QuestBridge matches high achieving, low-income students with top-tier colleges such as Carleton. While we don’t yet know how many Quest Scholars will enroll in next fall’s class, the 680 applications we received in our first year of this partnership have helped our efforts to recruit a diverse pool of students.

I couldn’t be prouder of what our admissions staff members have accomplished through their focus on these initiatives and their energy and enthusiasm. They review every application submitted to Carleton personally. We don’t accept or reject applicants based on a formula that unfairly privileges formal data, like SAT scores and high school grade averages. While such factors are significant, we’re most interested in an applicant’s intellectual spark, curiosity, and personality—qualities we look for in interviews, essays, and high school course selection. While students who have family connections to Carleton aren’t admitted automatically, such relationships are important to us.

Of course, we don’t just care about the number of applications. We also track the acceptance rate (the percentage of applicants who are admitted), and the yield rate (the percentage of accepted students who enroll). But what matters most to us is the quality of our admitted students.

For the class that entered in fall 2012, 1,496 students were accepted from 5,856 applicants and 529 enrolled (247 males and 282 females), placing Carleton firmly alongside other top national liberal arts colleges. Members of the class represented 45 states and 18 countries; 22 percent identified themselves as students of color; 10 percent are among the first generation of their families to attend college; and 80 percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class. We expect this fall’s class to be equally strong and diverse. Students and their parents continue to recognize that attending a top-rated college or university is both a great educational value and a gateway to future success both personally and professionally.

Consistent with Carleton’s recently adopted strategic plan, we will be pressing even harder to ensure that a Carleton education remains accessible to families across a spectrum of socioeconomic diversity. Thanks to the generosity of Herb Fritch ’73 and Barbara Fritch, we have new resources to support financial aid for middle class families who reside outside of urban areas. The Fritch Scholars Program works in conjunction with Carleton’s already robust financial aid program to meet the full demonstrated need of every Carleton student.

Carleton operates in a highly competitive admissions environment. We monitor our chief competitors carefully to see why we win or lose when it comes to enrolling accepted students, and we try hard to correct for deficits and cultivate distinctive advantages. Developing a strong admissions pipeline also helps Carleton recruit high-caliber faculty members, raises our institutional profile, and shows our alumni and friends that the college is doing well.

The real proof of our success comes each fall when we welcome a class of students who are recognized as academically qualified, are deemed to be a great fit for this institution and each other, and have chosen to come to this college to get an education that will change their lives.

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