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The Scarlet & Black

Admissions hits record high

By Peter Sullivan 

sullivan3@grinnell.edu

The number of applications to Grinnell for the Fall 2012 semester leapt up 52 percent from last year’s level to a record high that will likely lead to the lowest acceptance rate ever.
Once the last few applications arrive, the total applying for Fall 2012 entry will be around 4,525, compared to 2,969 for Fall 2011. The number of applicants fell sharply last year, but the increase this year’s number is substantially higher than any recent class.
“It would be a much sexier story if I could say there is some big new program at Grinnell or something that changed remarkably, but in all honesty I think we did a better job recruiting students than we’ve done in the past,” said Doug Badger, Acting Dean of Admission.
According to Badger, recruitment changes in the past 16 months begin with better modeling to select which names of high-achieving students to buy from the PSAT and PLAN tests.
The Admissions Office then worked on its marketing toward these students and others. It replaced the big, foldout “No Limits” book that current upperclassmen received with a new Viewbook. Within a few days of each inquiry to the College, the admissions staff member responsible for the geographic area in question would follow-up with an email or call. Admissions also hired current Grinnellians to reach out proactively to prospective students in much larger numbers than years past.
Factors outside the work of the Admissions Office also played a role.
“Certainly the social justice prize created some buzz for the college,” Badger said, referring to the Young Innovator for Social Justice Prize created by President Kington and first awarded in Spring 2011. “I have got to believe that did not hurt.”
The growth is spread throughout subgroups in the applicant pool. There are a record number of international and domestic applications. The Admissions Office divides the U.S. into six regions, and every region had at least a 20 percent increase in applications. There were also large increases in applications from students of color.
Grinnell’s increase is drastically higher than any of its peer institutions that have also released data. Amherst College’s applications rose 0.77 percent, Bowdoin College’s rose 2.01 percent and Pomona College’s rose 1.64 percent, according to data the schools released to The New York Times.
“I have thought that a selective liberal arts college can be pretty comfortable when it has ten applications for every spot in the class. Frankly in recent years we have been a long way from that,” Badger said. “We are at that point essentially now.”
The acceptance rate will fall from 44 percent for Fall 2011 to about 29 percent for Fall 2012, according to a preliminary estimate by the Admissions Department.
For Caleb Sponheim ’15, the relatively high acceptance rate in past years, now likely to plummet, was not a major factor in his interest in Grinnell. “[The acceptance rate] did not really matter to me,” Sponheim said. “I focused more on the academic rigor.”
Academics may, in turn, benefit from more selective admissions.
“We think we have the opportunity to bring in an exceptionally strong class,” Badger said.
1.64 percent, according to data the schools released to The New York Times.
“I have thought that a selective liberal arts college can be pretty comfortable when it has ten applications for every spot in the class. Frankly in recent years we have been a long way from that,” Badger said. “We are at that point essentially now.”
The acceptance rate will fall from 44 percent for Fall 2011 to about 29 percent for Fall 2012, according to a preliminary estimate by the Admissions Department.
For Caleb Sponheim ’15, the relatively high acceptance rate in past years, now likely to plummet, was not a major factor in his interest in Grinnell. “[The acceptance rate] did not really matter to me,” Sponheim said. “I focused more on the academic rigor.”
Academics may, in turn, benefit from more selective admissions. “We think we have the opportunity to bring in an exceptionally strong class,” Badger said.

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