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Academic Rating Details

I need to do a post in which I bring together everything we know about Williams admissions. Alas, no time today! But I can share this pdf with some details about the College’s Academic Rating system. See here for previous discussion. Comments:

1) The key importance is that, if you are not an AR 1 or 2, Williams automatically rejects you unless you are in one of the special categories, and those special categories do not include “Wrote an amazing essay” or “Best editor of our high school paper in a decade.” There are plenty such applicants with AR 2, many of whom Williams will also reject. So, if you are AR 3 or below, you are toast.

2) The single biggest exception category is the 65 or so athletic tips. Note that this is not the same thing as great high school athlete. You could be a national champion in something like gymnastics or ski jumping and Williams wouldn’t (really) care because Williams does not compete in gymnastics. To be a “tip,” a Williams coach must tell Admissions that she wants you.

3) The second biggest category is racial affirmative action, mainly black/Hispanic. Actually, it could be that this category is even bigger than athletic tips, but I am feeling PC today. It is unclear if Williams, like other elite schools, discriminates against Asian American applicants.

4) The third category, much smaller (I think) than athletics/race, is wealth. Williams does some non-trivial affirmative action for poor students (and/or students whose parents did not attend college) and for extremely rich students (whose parents have given or might be expected to make million dollar donations to the College).

5) I need a good short hand description for these three categories: race/wealth/athletics. Suggestions? Beyond them, there are very few students who are admitted with AR 3 or below. (At least, that is my understanding. Contrary opinions welcome.)

6) Looking closely at the descriptions, it is obvious that some measures are more objective than others. Who can agree on the difference between an “exceptional” essay versus one that is merely “outstanding?” Given that, I would wager that the harder numbers — above 1450 math/verbal SAT, 33 or above ACT, 4’s and 5’s on AP exams — matter most.

7) Always keep in mind that high school quality is very important. Being in the 90th percentile of your class (that is, at the botton of the to 10%) at Andover or Milton or Stuyvesant is better than being the valedictorian at more than half the high schools in the US.

8) To be honest, I can’t recall the source for this pdf. Probably somehow related to Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 thesis. Sorry! Does anyone recognize it?

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#1 Comment By hc On October 21, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

I think there is also affirmative action for men, to get to 50/50. Which is to say that there are enough male applicants to break out in and compete with the women to fill Williams, but if admissions were to be gender blind, then the majority of the qualified applicants would be women: hence if applicants were selected without considering gender, the split would probably be 65/35.

#2 Comment By hc On October 21, 2014 @ 2:38 pm

65 athletic tips per year… wow.

So at any given time you have about 250 people there, well over 10% of the student body, for sports.

How will these numbers change when Williams increases enrollment by about 500 over the next decade?

#3 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On October 21, 2014 @ 10:36 pm

> How will these numbers change when Williams increases enrollment by about 500 over the next decade?

Huh? Williams plans to increase enrollment? I have not heard about this. Can you tell us more? Is there a news release or is this a local rumor?

It is not an implausible rumor, given various building projects . . .

#4 Comment By hc On October 21, 2014 @ 11:45 pm

Dave- It is a well founded rumor. More like a balloon the school has been floating.

The school will probably convert the old Inn into a dorm and attempt to build a new Inn at the legion location at the bottom of Spring Street. They are also building a large dorm on Stetson court.

All the new offices for faculty… the increase in capacity with the new library complex. New sports complex. New dorms.

It is a no brainer that the school is looking to expand. The floated number is 500. I was surprised by that number because that is a big increase, not sure of financial considerations given economies of scale? I know controlling/ maintaining student to teacher ratio for the brand has to be a huge consideration.

#5 Comment By hc On October 21, 2014 @ 11:55 pm

By the way David, the school does do a form of affirmative action for male applicants. That has been stated openly in the press by members of the admissions department. If it did not, there would be a lot more women than men attending.

That is most likely the largest category of affirmative action at Williams- of course it also crosses over with other categories such as sports, race, wealth, etc.

#6 Comment By Past Eph On October 22, 2014 @ 11:59 am

Williams is not looking to expand at all so far as I’m aware, and if it did, it would not be by anything CLOSE to 500. The school does not have enough dorm space for the current student body, which is why they are building a new dorm — right now, they don’t have enough capacity to do any major renovations that would end up losing a dorm for a year. Once they complete the new dorm, they will be able to do a long-overdue renovation of Garfield and they also plan to convert Bascom, likely, to dorm space, followed by some other renovations. After all is said and done they could return some doubles to singles, have more badly-needed flex space, and possibly accommodate a few (a few meaning like 10-20) additional students — but there is NO plan that I’ve ever heard in the works to do that. Where would they put all the frosh, first of all? There is nowhere to put anything close to 100 plus extra frosh per year on campus.

They are also NOT converting the Old Inn into a dorm. These are the kind of rumors and conspiracy theories that are floated out of paranoia. It’s not happening. If they build a small boutique hotel at the base of Spring Street (which may indeed happen) it would be a supplement to the Williams Inn, and wouldn’t have remotely close to the same capacity. There is a zero percent chance that Williams will expand in any material amount in the next decade — that would require just a massive building campaign for residential facilities that has not been contemplated. Again, the construction that is happening is in response to a perceived lack of sufficient room space to support the CURRENT student body’s needs.

TONS more details here: http://campus-life.williams.edu/files/Williams_RSP_Report_071813.pdf

#7 Comment By hc On October 22, 2014 @ 1:06 pm

Past- I agree that 500 sounds incredible. I have a hard time believing that number as well. These rumors are internal however. I think they have merit. I know a lot of people who work there. It may well be that this is just a concept being considered that will not be acted upon. It is something being considered by the administration however. I believe that.

The Williams Inn as a dorm has been discussed by administrators. I would not be at all surprised if that were to happen. It happened before. Dodd House was the Williams Inn.

But time will tell. In a decade if the school has increased numbers by a significant amount (Say 10%) then these rumors have some merit and the school is acting on them. If not, then they are indeed just rumors inside the bubble.

#8 Comment By frank uible On October 24, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

At some not too distant point increasing enrollment would take Williams out of the small college category and the concomitant virtues thereof but not into the wonders of a multiversity.

#9 Comment By hc On October 24, 2014 @ 6:15 pm

I think that is the question Frank. What is the most profitable model in terms of size? How do you measure those things in terms of loss and gains, which is hard to do.

One thing for sure. Education is the largest part of the business. If you can create a larger structure but maintain alumni relations and giving, that increases a form of revenue drastically.

#10 Comment By frank uible On October 26, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

What do the students get out of all this via quality and price?