Dean of Admissions Richard Nesbitt ’74 got a nice mention in a Boston Globe article on college admissions.

In the college admissions game, plenty of students get a boost, with the most controversial preferences benefiting athletes, underrepresented minorities, and children of alumni.

But at least one “tip factor” rarely ends up in headlines: Students often get a leg up in admissions just for living down the road.

Few colleges seem worried that a student’s family might relocate to a new city or neighborhood to improve their child’s chances of getting into a given college. “That would be extreme,” said Richard Nesbitt, director of admission at Williams College. “I really don’t worry about that.”

I am moving to Williamstown for the climate.

Williams examines applicants from Berkshire County separately from the rest of its pool, which results in a small advantage for the local students. In a typical year, 12 to 16 Berkshire residents are among the 525 students in the freshman class. Nesbitt notes that the local newspaper, The Berkshire Eagle, closely follows the achievements of local athletes, musicians, and other performers who attend Williams. “There’s certainly the community relations factor,” he said. “Lots of really nice publicity comes out of it.”

I actually don’t see too much of this, and I look pretty closely for mentions of Williams in the Eagle.

The author, Ben Gose, is a little sloppy in his argument. For example, the fact that 26 applicants from super-elite Boston Latin were admitted into Harvard doesn’t tell us much about local preferences given by Harvard since a similar number were probably admitted into Yale.

In any event, the preference at Williams is probably so small that it can’t matter too much. Evaluating local kids is also easier for the admissions office. That is, you can get a more accurate reading about a kid that lives down the street than one who lives 1,000 miles away. So, even in the absence of explicit preferences, you might end up with lower average SAT scores for local enrollees.

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