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Welcome to the Class of 2019 III

See the news release on early admissions for details. There is enough good information here that we need to spend four days reviewing it. This is day 3.

Twenty-two students are first-generation college students (that is, neither parent has a four-year college degree), almost twice last year’s total, and nearly 20 percent of Early Decision admits come from low-income families. “We are especially gratified by the socioeconomic diversity represented in the Early Decision group, a direct result of the success of two expanded fall fly-in programs for high-ability, low-income students,” Nesbitt said.

1) See our Socio-Ec Admissions category for much more background on this topic. Highlights: Defining low socio-economic status is hard, both because opinions vary as to what disadvantages matter and because of a lack of data from applicants. Different colleges do it different ways. At Williams, the traditional definition is, as above, neither parent with a four year college degree and checking the need-financial-aid box. So, even if your parents are (retired) millionaires and you have gone to Milton for 12 years, you add “socioeconomic diversity” to Williams as long as the no-4-year-degree criteria is met.

2) Does the Williams definition still require checking the need-financial-aid box? Is there such a box on the Common Ap? Annoyingly, a PDF version of the Common Ap is no longer available.

3) How does the College know that 20% of students come from “low-income families?” Unless the Common Ap has changed (corrections welcome), there is no income information. I suspect that the College counts anyone who asks for a fee waiver as “low income,” but this seems highly suspect to me. Students, at least smart ones, know that Williams gives advantages to poorer applicants, so why not ask for a fee waiver? Note that the requirements for asking for (and always receiving?) a fee waiver or incredibly loose. They include:

You are enrolled in a federal, state, or local program that aids students from low-income families (e.g., TRIO programs such as Upward Bound).
Your family receives public assistance.
You can provide a supporting statement from a school official, college access counselor, financial aid officer, or community leader.

So, if you grab an apple from the local food bank one time (and therefore receive “public assistance”), you can check this box.

Advice to applicants: Always ask for a fee waiver.

4) As much as Williams likes to preen about the its “socioeconomic diversity,” that diversity has been decreasing dramatically in recent years, even by the College’s own (suspect) metrics. For the class of 2012, 21% of all students were first generation. In recent classes, according President Falk’s public talks, it has been around 1/7. So, there will be around 58 fewer first generation students in the class of 2019 then there were in the class of 2012. Progress, comrades!

(Yes, I see that 20% of the students in ED were first generation, but that percentage will almost certainly come down for the final pool, at least assuming that the class of 2019 is similar to recent classes.)

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#1 Comment By PastEph On December 17, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

58 fewer? I think your math is way, way off there.

In all events, as of now, the pace for 2019 is the same as 2012. And nearly half the class has been admitted so I don’t see that moving dramatically downward. Unsurprisingly, like every admissions statistic, these things tend to fluctuate up and down over time. If it ends up a few tics lower, I don’t think calling that a “dramatic decrease” is fair. Also, as someone who, presumably, is somewhat acquainted with statistical analysis, wouldn’t you scoff at anyone trying to make generalizations based on a single data point? Perhaps 2012 was a one-time outlier.

You may think the “public assistance” criteria seems “loose” but believe it or not most people who are in the borderline of this criteria would not willingly self-identify as receiving “public assistance;” it still bears a pretty large (unfair) stigma. People tend not to be psyched to be included in that group. And honestly, how many people at Williams have EVER had to worry, even for a single day, about where their next meal is coming from? It’s not like Williams has a lot of truely middle class or lower-middle-class people and this criteria is barely distinguishing a marginally different class of applicants. Anyone who has ever received, even for a short while, public assistance, whose family has been in a desperate financial situation, is very likely to have had a VERY different set of challenges and life experiences from the median Williams applicant (and indeed, the median applicant to any NESCAC institution).