Let’s read the College’s news release on Early Decision closely.

Williams College announced acceptance of 216 of the 533 applicants for its Early Decision program. The 216 accepted applicants represent 39 percent of the total number of students projected for the Class of 2014.

216 is 39% of 554. Bad news! Williams should be cutting costs further to get its expenses in line with its revenues. Instead, it is continuing the practice (started with the class of 2013) of having classes that are over 550 instead of the usual target of 538 or so.

Fifteen extra students may not seem like much, but that is 15 singles turned into doubles for every year. Do this for two more years, and there will be 60 students in doubles who would have been in singles under the traditional class size.

Nothing creates housing conflict more than doubles. Williams ought to aim for a slogan like: Every room a single. Or at least: Every upperclass room a single. How much worse would your Williams experience have been if you had had an extra year in a double?

The people who run Williams are unwilling to make the hard cuts, so they take the easy way out. They don’t care if students live in doubles, if popular classes are harder to get into, if limited resources like tutorials are stretched further. They just want to keep their Children’s Center and Bolin Fellows.

“Williams is once again well on its way to enrolling one of the strongest entering classes in the country,” Nesbitt said. “We have read and considered their files closely, and we’re excited about the abilities, energy, and commitment they’ll bring to all facets of life on campus.

“Although the total number of applications was down relative to last year,” said Nesbitt, “the quality of the pool was exceptional, and the admitted group was as interesting and talented as any in recent memory.”

Hmmm. I am sure that all this is true, but, in past years, hasn’t the College done more bragging about the quality of the incoming students? Perhaps not. Back in the day, Admissions Director Phil Smith ’54 was famous for telling (truthfully!) each incoming class that they were the smartest, most accomplished class in Williams history. Seniors would then ruefully remark that they must, therefore, be the dumbest class on campus.

Accepted Early Decision students include 108 men and 108 women, with average verbal and math SAT scores of 706 and 705 respectively. Nineteen of the students identified themselves as African American, 16 as Asian American, 11 as Latino, two as Native American, and 11 as non-U.S. citizens.

Recall our debates from fall 2008 about whether the economic crisis would lead to a drop in demand for a Williams education as some families choose cheaper (but still high quality) state schools over Williams. Has there been a decrease in the quality of Early Decision admitted students? From 2002:

The admitted group has average SAT scores of 712 verbal and 700 math, compared with last year’s 709 and 702.

So, the average SAT scores (for accepted Early Decision students) was 1411 for class of 2006, 1412 for class of 2007, 1419 for the class of 2010, 1417 for the class of 2012 and 1411 for class of 2014. Seems fairly stable to me!

[Needless to say, there are a lot of complexities here, the composition of the ED pool may have changed, and so on. But, big picture, there is no good evidence that demand for a Williams education has been affected by the financial crisis and, so, the quality of Williams students has stayed mostly constant.]

Factoid: Dick Nesbitt gives an annual talk at reunion about the college admissions process, with lots of Williams specific details. Highly recommended! He mentioned that 50+ of the College’s 66 athletic tips are admitted Early Decision.

Mystery: I am still confused about how much of an advantage “normal” students have in apply for Early Decision compared to Regular Decision. Does anyone care to speculate? The College claims that there is no advantage, and the similarity between these average SAT scores and those for the class as a whole would tend to support that, especially since 1/4 of the ED students are tips. But, at the same time, The Early Admissions Game argues convincingly that applying early to places like Williams (and I believe that Williams was in their dataset) is worth 100-150 SAT points (on Math/Verbal combined). Thoughts?

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