abl made these interesting comments on admissions two months ago. Let’s spend a week going through them. Day 5.

I understand that you’d like the Williams’ admitted class profile to more closely resemble schools like Harvard. But unless Williams dramatically increases its applicant pool and/or its yield, doing so will come at a cost: Williams can’t admit a class that is both as interesting and talented as Harvard’s and has SATs/GPAs as high. Increasing the focus on AR ratings, as you propose, will make the Williams class worse in some material respects even as it makes it better numerically. There is going to be some balancing and trade-offs that have to be made, regardless. I’m just trying to get a sense of what specific trade-offs you’re looking to target, and why you think Williams is not making those trade-offs in an optimal manner.

It is unclear what you mean by “interesting and talented.” AR 1 students are, almost by definition, more academically “talented” than AR 4 students. I want more of the former. Neither Williams or Harvard have a way of figuring out who is “interesting.” And they don’t really try! This is how elite admissions works today. Let me know if you have any questions.

The “specific trade-offs” I propose are simple. Williams students, as a group, must be as academically talented (and interesting!) as HYPS students. In order to do that, we need to reject 100 or so of the AR 4s and below that we currently enroll and replace them with AR 1s that we currently reject. That Williams will be less black/Hispanic (and more Asian-American/Interntional), less poor and less athletic than the Williams of today. But we would still be as black/Hispanic as Middlebury, as poor as Bates and as athletic as Hamilton.

UPDATE: Here is another way to conceptualize the scenario. I want the trustees and/or new president to say to Admissions: Make the class of 2023 as academically talented as the class of 2023 at HYPS (and much more academically talented than the class of 2023 at Amherst/Swarthmore/Pomona). I recognize that this is not what Admissions “wants” to do. Their preferences are to make a class similar to the ones that they currently produce. I am making these claims:

1) This is an achievable goal. If we measure “academically talented” as AR — and if you have a better measure than AR, you should tell Dick Nesbitt about it — then Williams has enough “slack” in the system (enough AR < 4 whom we accept and AR = 1/2 who we reject) to make that happen. 2) There is no need for anyone (me, you, the trustees, the new president) to micro-manage admissions in achieving this goal. They have the tools and the knowledge to do so. 3) There are costs to achieving this goal. If you want more academic talent than you need to give up something on other dimensions. 4) That one way, not the only way, of achieving the goal would create a Williams which was quite similar to other high quality schools on dimensions that we all care about: same URM percentage as Middlebury, same percentage of Pell-grantees as Bates, same athletic success as Hamilton. I am not claiming that you need to agree with me that this trade-off is desirable, but if you view such outcomes as totally unacceptable, that a Williams that looked like Middlebury/Bates/Hamilton would be some hellhole of alt-right lunacy, then I think your views are extreme.

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