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Recruiting in China for the Heart of the Midwest …

(Illustration: The New York Times)
Recent EphBlog discussions have involved admissions of International students and the issue of pricing. The New York Time runs this interesting feature on Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa and their very active recruiting program. Williams is also mentioned as a participant in a joint effort in country.

Location, location, location:
Maybe not.


Enrollment Limits in Psychology

From WSO:

The Psyc department seems to be making a habit of dropping over 50% of applicants for their classes (around 50-60 students for a typical 200 level course). I hope Williams is doing something about this…it’s a really serious problem. Last semester, I know of at least 3 courses which dropped at least 50 students, and I’m assuming there were other overenrolled courses which I didn’t happen to know friends in. All told, that single department is probably dropping at least 200 students every semester. That’s ~10% of the student population! I guess I’m wondering why the class size caps are so stringent. Is there really that little space? Could we schedule Bronfman, Wege, and the TPL/TBL lecture halls more effectively so that we could offer more courses to a larger group? Last semester, I had a chem course with only 7 people in Wege, with no class before it, while the Psyc department was dropping tons of students due to ‘size caps’ which I can only assume are due to space constraints in the small Bronfman rooms. After all, wouldn’t a larger course be more valuable than a course that no one gets to take?

1) Williams should be more transparent. The Registrar should publish information about the number of students who seek to enroll in each class and the number that were dropped. We don’t need to know the names of the specific students, obviously, although information about class and major might be useful.

2) Are the 200-level Psychology courses known/thought to be guts? If not, then why is there so much interest in them? There are dozens of fascinating 200-level courses in smaller departments like Religion, Sociology/Anthropology, Philosophy, Art History, and so on. Why don’t more students choose them first?

3) I think that some/most of the dropping has nothing to do with class room availability per se. There are plenty of big lecture halls on campus! And nothing prevents the department from offering multiple sections. Keep two other factors in mind. First, the College (driven by both good pedagogy and concern over US News rankings) wants to minimize the number of large lectures, especially those with 50 or more students. Second, professors (for mostly good reasons) prefer smaller classes to larger ones. They are somewhat sad to drop dozens of students but also think that doing so allows them to provide a better education to those who remain.

4) Given that Psychology has a (deserved?) reputation as a too-easy major, the Department ought to use this popularity as an occasion to get more pedagogically serious, just as Economics did a few years ago. Requiring some more serious statistics (like, say, STAT 200) would do the trick nicely.

5) Williams course offerings should be driven by long term student interests. If lots of students want to take, say, PSYC 222: Minds, Brains, and Intelligent Behavior: An Introduction to Cognitive Science, then more sections should be offered, more professors in this area hired. Conversely, courses with lower enrollments should be dropped.


Female-to-male ratio now 55:45

Most interesting snippet in this month’s EphNotes?

Williams admitted 1,200 students out of 6,633 applicants–an 18 percent acceptance rate. Of accepted students, 659 are women and 543 are men, bringing the female to male admit ratio to 55:45.

I think I have heard that Williams, like most other schools, has a policy to accept female and male students in the same proportion as those who applied. So from this we deduce that 55% of applicants were female. However, this could (will?) create a significant gender imbalance at Williams.

I seem to recall arriving on campus in fall 2003 and learning that our class (’07) was the first class to have a 50-50 gender balance; all previous classes had more males than females. I found this interesting because I had also been a member of the first 50-50 class at Phillips Exeter, four years earlier. I am somewhat surprised that it only took seven years to go from 50-50 to 55-45.

This is a reflection of a larger trend, of more females pursuing higher education than males. Here is (fluffier but more recent) background from the NYT and (less fluffy, less recent) more background from the NYT on the trend of more females than males in college.



Psychology Course Enrollments

Consider current enrollments (highlighted by hwc) in some psychology classes.

PSYC 101   Introductory Psychology                                  155
PSYC 201   Experimentation and Statistics                            19
PSYC 221   Cognitive Psychology                                      55
PSYC 242   Social Psychology                                         55
PSYC 252   Psychological Disorders                                   55
PSYC 272   The Psychology of Education                               51

Now, as always, this data is difficult to work with. I think that there may be many more students enrolled in PSYC 201 than 19, but that there are multiple sections. In any event, there is no excuse for a Williams major to consist of so many large lecture courses. Why not just go to Penn State? If you do not have a dozen or more substantive interactions with each of your professors over the course of a semester, you aren’t really getting a Williams education.

Why are these classes so large? How rigorously are they taught?


Full Courses

Is there an easy way for a student to grab information from PeopleSoft about all the courses that are currently full and all that are currently empty? If not, could our readers pick their favorite departments (I would like to see MATH/STAT, HIST, PSCI, PSYC and ENGL next) and post the results in the comments? Thanks! Below the break are the results for ECON and PHIL.

Why are we doing this? First, the more data we have about Williams, the better we are able to evaluate what is going well and what is not. The College does not make this data available to alumni, so, without student help, we can’t tell if Williams is doing a good job of matching the supply of courses/professors with student demand. Second, we would like to create a time series of data. Perhaps the issue isn’t a big one on campus this year, but it might matter in 2 or 3 year. If so, those future students are going to appreciate having this information. Third, this data highlight, I think, continuing mistakes by the college in how it allocates resources and structures courses. Previous discussion here. But we can’t have a fully informed conversation about that without more/better data.

ECON and PHIL data below.
Read more


Closed Classes

Here is a discussion on College Confidential about how to get in to closed classes, i.e., classes which are already full. Question: How many classes are currently full and which ones are they? It would be great to see that information and discuss it. I hope that there aren’t too many full classes, that the faculty does a good job of adjusting their offerings to student demand. Do they?

Comments are open.


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