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11% International Students in the Class of 2023

EphBlog has been banging the drum for increased international admissions for almost 15 years. (Relevant posts here, here, and here.) Recall EphBlog’s demand/request/prediction a year ago.

Brown is at 11% international. Woo-Hoo! If Mandel moves Williams to 11% (from our current 7%, pdf), she will instantly be a better president than Falk.

Emphasis in the original. And EphBlog gets results! The Williams class of 2023 is 11% international. Comments:

1) Yeah, Maud! This change, along with her affirmation of academic freedom at Williams, make President Mandel a most excellent president, at least according to EphBlog.

2) New Director of Admissions Sulgi Lim ’06 reported this news at the Admissions Open House during alumni week-end. Sadly, Sulgi, unlike her boss, Provost Dukes Love, does not believe in sharing her public presentations with Ephs who are too poor or busy to attend events like this one. Boo!

3) Sulgi described the change as being caused by two factors. Her office was allowed to admit more international applicants than before. And the yield was higher than expected. I do not know the relative importance of the two changes.

4) There are 45 international students (pdf) in class of 2022. (Prior few years were 41, 41, 46, 49 and 37.) Eleven percent of approximately 535 — 550 would be about 58 — 60 students.

5) Key question: Has there been an official change in the Williams quota — oops! I mean “goal” — for international enrollment? I hope so! The best college in the world will be 50% non-US by 2050. The sooner that Williams moves in that direction, the more likely we are to retain our status.

6) Sulgi talked the usual nonsense about the diversity of international admissions, bragging about the 29 (?) countries represented. Nothing wrong with diversity (of course!) but, in general, the applicant from poor country X is not really representative of X. Instead, she is the daughter of country X’s ambassador to England, and has been educated in international schools all her life. (Not that there is anything wrong with country X or ambassadors or England or international schools!) As long as she is academically excellent EphBlog does not care.

7) Unstated by Sulgi, but known to her and to everyone with a clue about international applicants, the central issue is Asia, especially China and the Chinese diaspora. Williams could probably admit 100 English-fluent students with academic credentials — and likely academic performance at Williams — in the top 10% of the class. We should not admit all 100 tomorrow. But we do need a faculty committee to look closely at the issue of international admissions.

UPDATE: For weird technical reasons, I may not be able to post comments at EpHblog for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, I can still update this post. Here are further thoughts on this topic:

> Any reason 50% instead of 70%?

1) I am not overly committed to 50% as a prediction. I am completely committed to increasing the current 11% higher.

2) I still think 50% is a good prediction because a (major?) part of what Williams is selling is a US education. Can you really provide a US education with a 70% international student body? I am not sure. And I expect that Chinese parents would be even less sure . . .

3) I think that 30% is less likely than 50% because I think that a) the morality of having an international quota, like the morality of having a Jewish quota, becomes less tenable over time. It wasn’t just me that has caused the doubling of the international student body at Williams over the last decade or so. Was it? ;-)

4) I think that competitive pressures and a herd mentality come into play. Every time school X becomes more international, it becomes easier/necessary for school Y to become more international. But 50% is still a more reasonable stopping point than 70%, because of 2).

10 Comments (Open | Close)

10 Comments To "11% International Students in the Class of 2023"

#1 Comment By abl On August 12, 2019 @ 12:17 pm

The best college in the world will be 50% non-US by 2050.

This is an interesting claim. I’d love to hear you spin it out further. Why 50%? Why not more or less? Thinking about it like finances, anything less than an internationally representative percent (~95%) makes a value judgment about the relative strength of the U.S. population vis a vis the world population.

I’m not arguing that 95% international makes any sense in this context: much of the world population does not receive a K-12 education let alone a good K-12 education; and there are undoubtedly powerful selection effects (it’s not like all or most top students around the world apply). But I’m not sure why the answer, when you account for everything of this nature, is 50% as opposed to 75% or 5%.

#2 Comment By dcat On August 12, 2019 @ 5:38 pm

50%? That’s so absurd that I don’t even know where to start, and I will promise that I’ve spent 100x more time (at minuium) than Dave in international universities.

#3 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On August 12, 2019 @ 5:59 pm

> Why 50%?

Seems a reasonable number.

1) 95% is wrong because Williams should always require English fluency. I don’t care if you are the smartest kid in Japan. If you aren’t English fluent, you can’t come to Williams.

2) What percentage of all English-fluent 18 year olds are US citizens? I don’t know! But I bet it is quite a bit!

3) The key is that, today, Williams turns down scores of International students who are much better than the US citizens we admit. The move from 8% to 11% is a good start. Next step is 15%. Then 20%. Then 25%. At that stage, will the quota still be binding.

4) After we enroll 135 international students, are there another 100 who are much better than the bottom of the US distribution? I don’t know. Informed commentary welcome! But note that the bottom of the US distribution will be much higher than it is today.

5) Big picture: China (and East Asia more broadly) is a big part of the future. The demand for US-based education is exploding. Better to be a leader than a follower, but only if you don’t have to compromise on student quality.

#4 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On August 12, 2019 @ 6:02 pm

> spent 100x more time (at minuium) than Dave in international universities.

Who cares? The questions are:

1) How strong is the non-US applicant pool and how fast is it growing? Answer: Strong and exploding.

2) How would being very international affect Williams status? Tougher question! Maybe smart international kids love a Williams with 10% international but would not apply if we were 50%. Tough to tell. My bet is the change is either neutral — they want the #1 school and don’t care about the percentage — or positive.

#5 Comment By Williams Alum On August 12, 2019 @ 6:14 pm

Okay so David pulled 50% out of his rear. Any reason 50% instead of 30% David? Any reason 50% instead of 70%?


#6 Comment By abl On August 12, 2019 @ 6:42 pm

David —

How do you define “strong?” I suspect that there are a bunch of international applications with good standardized tests and grades who are rejected, but (a) grades are not an apples to apples comparison between U.S. and non-U.S. schools; and (b) there are a lot of U.S. applicants with good standardized test scores and grades who are rejected — because admissions to a school like Williams is about more than numbers. When factoring in the full package (LORs, essays, extracurriculars, etc.), the comparison becomes much more complicated, and I’m not sure how you’d even guess as to how many international students should get admitted under a nationality-blind policy.

This is the big issue: you’re making an empirical claim about international admissions practices without empirical support. I’m not saying you’re wrong to think that <10% is artificially depressed (and Sulgi's comments imply as much*). I'm just not convinced that the optimal number of international students based on student quality alone is 50% as opposed to 10% or 80%.

It's worth noting that filling half of the class w/ international students would dramatically change the character of the College in a way that might weigh against a shift. I’m not arguing that such a class composition would be bad — but it’d inarguably be very different. I think that any argument in favor of making a change of this nature should justify why changing the College’s character in so dramatic of respect would be a good thing.

*To some extent, admissions practices like this are value judgments. It’s possible that Sulgi’s opinion regarding the value of international admits was previously different from the administration’s, and that the permission-related increase in admits represents those previously different values becoming aligned rather than a prior practice that applied higher admissions standards for int’l applicants.

#7 Comment By Tikhon On August 12, 2019 @ 8:14 pm

“> Why 50%?

Seems a reasonable number.”

Why or how is it reasonable? Oh wait–

“Okay so David pulled 50% out of his rear. Any reason 50% instead of 30% David? Any reason 50% instead of 70%?


The reason why? It’s because he, like many apologists for American white nationalism, is obsessed with the projection that the USA will around 50% white by the year 2050. No mystery there.

#8 Comment By dcat On August 13, 2019 @ 5:42 am

Knowing the landscape of international education turns out actually to kind of matter when talking about (checks notes) international students. I realize “knowing stuff” and “facts” are anathema to your axe grinding, but for some of us, those quaint things matter. The rest of the world does not, by and large, have liberal arts colleges, and in much of the world “college” is a term for an elite prep school, making recruiting rather difficult. Knowing things like this should make a difference in understanding that it is a pipe dream to think that Williams will ever have a student body that is 50% international students.

#9 Comment By Aidan On August 13, 2019 @ 9:16 am

This is slightly orthogonal (and let’s see what happens with Brexit), but estimates are a third of British public school lads are now “foreign” (China, HK, Russia, etc.) Not hard to believe that the appeal of name brand education will continue to enchant ROW wealth.


#10 Comment By fendertweed On August 13, 2019 @ 10:34 am

Using a statistically validated method a la DDF, I believe the correct number will be 33 1/3%.

I may shoot another number out of my but as DDF did, will let you know…