I have been looking for more data on the tips debate. Director of Admissions Dick Nesbitt ’74 was kind enough to both reply to my e-mails on the topic and to allow me to reprint his comments here.

In response to your query about athletic tips, her are some things to keep in mind:

We have significantly reduced the number of tips from 75-80 in the late 80’s and 90’s to 66, beginning with the class of 2004.

Football has been most significantly cut back from a yearly average of 19-20 matriculated tips (in the 80’s and 90’s) to 14. This is the lowest of any NESCAC school, and compares with 25 per year at Ivy League schools.

While we have been reducing the number of tips, we have also reduced the number of “low band” tips by 50% over the number enrolling just five years ago.

While we do not normally give out SAT averages for any specific group, figure on about a 100 point differential [combined] for the 66 tips. That would make the average for the tips about 20 points higher than the average for the entire class of ’88 ;)


1) Many thanks to Nesbitt for taking the time to reply and giving me permission to publish his comments here. Virtually everyone at the College that I ask questions of — from Morty on down — is helpful and forthcoming. Many lesser colleges are not run but such open and honest folks. [Toady! — ed. I call them like I see them.]

2) I have been extremely anti-tip and pro-athletics throughout this discussion. I am much less anti-tip than I once was. I had, mistakenly, thought that tips were significantly different from the rest of the student population in their academic competence. But a 100 point difference on combined SAT scores just isn’t that important.

3) Moreover, all the changes that the College has made in the last few years — especially the decrease in low band tips — are ones that I agree with. To me at least, the College’s current admissions policy seems perfectly reasonable. I could even be pursuaded to be in favor of the changes advocated by Dave Barnard.

4) Nesbitt is, as his punctuation makes clear, somewhat joking in his reference to average SAT scores for the class of 1988. Since the SAT was rescaled a few years ago, you can’t compare scores from before and after easily. Back in the 1980’s, the recurring joke for senior classes was that, since Williams admissions were more competitive each year, the senior class was always the dumbest on campus. It would be really interesting to see some good time series data on this trendline. For example, has the difference between the median SAT at Williams and at places like Harvard/Yale/Princeton really been decreasing over the last 20 years? I don’t know.

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