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College Receives Record Applications for [2020]

Susanne Bushman, Copy Editor

The numbers are in, and Grinnell is coming out on top. This year, the College boasts 7,368 applications for admissions, an all-time high for Grinnell. This is exciting news for the admissions officers, who have been working diligently to increase our admissions numbers since 2012, when there were only 4,554 applications.

This increase in applications is also accompanied by a decrease in the rate of admission, as the College hopes to enroll about the same number of applicants as before. This year the rate of admission will be about 18 percent.

Grinnell College Admissions Graphic“It’s exciting, with one caveat — it’s difficult to say no to so many deserving students who apply for admission,” said Joe Bagnoli, Vice President for Enrollment.

Grinnell is forging ahead of similar institutions in this regard, as few other schools have seen an increase in applications in recent years.

“National liberal arts colleges in the Midwest have not observed the same level of growth in their applicant pools over the last four years as we have at Grinnell, generally. In fact, of all of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, only Colorado College had more applicants for admission this year, than did Grinnell … by about 500,” Bagnoli said.

It’s harder to tell how Grinnell compares to its official group of peers from across the country, called the Peer 16, because the admissions department doesn’t have the same access to their admissions data, but Bagnoli believes we compare favorably with the colleges that students most frequently cross-apply.

“If you looked at the qualifications of the students who comprise our applicant pool, what you would find is that there are not just more students, but there are better qualified students, overall, who are applying,” Bagnoli said. “We are, in fact, saying no to students who we believe would be successful at Grinnell, it’s just that we don’t have space for every well-prepared applicant.”

Bagnoli believes that this increase comes from Grinnell’s increased visibility across the country and some strategic moves by the admissions department and in marketing, including better targeting students who are likely to apply, changing campus visits, streamlining the admissions process, updating admissions materials and the press that has surrounded Grinnell recently.

“I think it’s a reflection of a lot of hard work of many professionals here in the

Enrollment Services Division in the last four years,” Bagnoli said.

An increase in the number of applicants is also exciting for admissions because, according to Bagnoli, it allows them to have more flexibility with regards to the make-up of the incoming class.

“Were we to have only 440 applications, which is how many students we’re hoping to enroll in the fall, … we wouldn’t have very many choices and we’d just simply have to accept the composition as it is,” Bagnoli said. “But we have a lot of goals that are aligned with our institutional mission, related to all forms of diversity for example. Diversity of geographic origin, diversity of country of origin, diversity in terms of socioeconomic status, diversity with respect to race and ethnicity, diversity with respect to students from the Midwest as compared to outside the Midwest. Grinnell is proud of the diversity in its entering class of students. In order to achieve that it’s important to have a variety of applicants with strong qualifications for admission so we can shape the class as we would like for it to look.”

According to Bagnoli, nearly 50 percent of this year’s domestic applicants identified as students of color, which he feels reflects positively on Grinnell. In addition to being more diverse with regards to race and ethnicity the applicants are also more socioeconomically diversity.

“The change in our applicant pool has not been that there have been fewer people with high need applying for admission to Grinnell. We have seen a growth in our pool of students with less financial need. In fact, I think it was true for a long time that [at] Grinnell, at the expense of appealing to people for whom this would have been a really good choice, but who are not exceptionally high need students, we were leading with our financial aid appeal. It was a great place for people who have a lot of financial need,” Bagnoli said. “We still think it’s a great place for students with a lot of financial need but we don’t think that it’s a good place only for students with low household income. We think it’s a good place for students regardless of household income.”

Ultimately, the class profile will not be determined until the class is finalized in May after accepted students either accept or reject their offers.

“Ideally, a college’s mission is expressed in the composition of its entering student body, realized by the contributions its alumni make,” Bagnoli said. “And I think Grinnell’s goals and aspirations, core commitments and core values, continue to be expressed by entering classes of students.”

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