The Swarthmore Phoenix published the final applications figures for Williams, Amherst and Swarthmore’s Class of 2008:

Williams leads the pack with 5707 applications, the highest number of applicants to Williams in recent history. Assuming Williams ends up accepting a few less students than last year (in light of the higher number of early decision admits, increasing yield) Williams will have an admission percentage of 18-19 percent, the first time I can recall this figure coming in at under 20 percent. It’s interesting to note that Swarthmore attributes its relative paucity of applicants to failures in marketing and publicity. Funny, I don’t think of Williams as exactly a marketing machine; to the contrary, I wish the school would do more to get it’s name out to the 95 percent of the country that is totally unaware of Williams’ existence.

I’d like to think the application increase is attributable to all the noteworthy happenings and concomitant press coverage associated with Williams in the past year or so: Rhodes and Marshall scholarship recipients, national success of basketball team, expansion of faculty and tutorital program, ambitious fund-raising and campus construction project, the Wall Street Journal survey of top grad schools feeders, altruistic donations to a variety of worthy local institutions and causes*. Alas, I think the real reason is much simpler (and much sillier): U.S. News. I’d be curious to see if anyone has ever studied the correlation between U.S. News rankings and application figures at top 25 liberal arts colleges / national universities.

* Joking on the last item listed.

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