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Welcome Class of 2021

Welcome to those admitted to the class of 2021! If there are any aspiring writers in the class, please contact EphBlog. We would love to host your prose. (Could a reader post this offer to the class of 2021 Facebook group?)

From the news release:

Of the [1,253] admitted students, 95 are international students representing 47 different nationalities. Among American students, 50 percent identify as students of color: 220 students are Asian American, 214 are black, 175 Latino, and 17 Native American. Thirty-seven percent identify as white and five percent opted not to identify. A total of 274, or 22 percent, are first-generation college students, and seven percent (86) have a parent who attended Williams.

Note that all these numbers include the 257 students admitted via Early Decision in December.


Almost 20% Low Income?

This naive and uninteresting article on elite college admissions mentions:

What top colleges and universities really have to do is reach out to students who don’t apply to them in the first place, said Adam Falk, the president of Williams College, almost 20 percent of whose students are low income, and which flies high-achieving low-income prospective applicants to its campus and teams up with a nonprofit called QuestBridge to find them.

The idea of need-blind admission “fits nicely on a bumper sticker,” Falk said. But “simply taking your admission pool and turning off your information about the financial need of students isn’t good enough. You have to go out there and find students. That means going into communities with high financial need and actively recruiting there.”

It also means supporting students from those places when they show up, Falk said.

Anyone who believes that 20% of the students at Williams are low income is a fool. Readers interested in this topic should start with this ten part rant from 2014.


Welcome to the Class of 2021

Early decision results came out on Friday. Welcome to the class of 2021!

1) If there are any aspiring writers in the class, please contact EphBlog. We would love to host your prose.

2) The College tweeted on December 1: “Welcome to the first 16 members of Class of 2021, admitted through the QuestBridge Match program. #Williams2021″ The dramatic increase in the importance of Questbridge to Williams is one of the biggest admissions stories of the last 15 years. My understanding is that around 10% (200+) of current Williams students are Questbridge. True?

3) There are at least some alums who would be happy to consider pre-frosh for summer internships. One is here. Highly recommended! Don’t hesitate to start to make use of those Williams connections. Contact the Career Center for more info.


Incredibly Diverse IV

The last paragraph of the College’s news release about the class of 2020 is so filled with fascinating facts that we need four days to go through it. Today is Day 4.

Fifty percent of students will receive financial aid, with an average aid package of $53,194.

Remember last September when we mocked New York Times editor David Leonhardt (@DLeonhardt) for his naiveté in believing that “Williams has recently been making an effort to become more [economically diverse].” This was absurd because, for decades, Williams has been run by people who care a great deal about socio-economic diversity. For Williams to pretend otherwise — and for Leonhardt to allow them to pretend without doing any real reporting — was embarrassing.

Although we documented this absurdity then, the arrival of the class of 2020 allows us an opportunity to revisit it. Leonhardt reported, as fact, that Williams cared more about economic diversity now than it has in the passed. Perhaps the simplest measure of such caring is: How many students receive financial aid? At first glance, 50% of the class of 2020 receiving financial aid seems diverse! But, 8 years ago, fifty percent of the class of 2012 received financial aid. And, 11 years ago, 49% of the students in the class of 2009 received financial aid.

About half of each Williams class has been on financial aid for more than a decade. If “percentage on financial aid” is your preferred measure of economic diversity, then Williams is no more diverse now than it was in 2005.

Not so fast! Williams total cost has dramatically increases over the last decade, from $42,310 to $65,480 this year. (By the way, is there some official source of total costs over time at Williams?) Since US cash-incomes are largely flat over this time period, Williams has become much less economically diverse in the last decade.

In other words, in 2005, the wealth/income of the median family at Williams was large enough that they could afford $42,310. In 2016, the median family at Williams is much richer! It can afford $65,480. In all likelihood, the entire distribution of family income/wealth has significantly increased. Not that there is anything wrong with that! Williams has always been a school for the children of the rich, now more than ever.

And EphBlog does not mind! Williams should accept/recruit/enroll the most academically gifted and ambitious 18 year-old English-fluent students in the world. Some will be rich, some poor. Some US citizens, some not. The changes in the joint distribution of income/wealth/IQ in the population at large, changes forecast in The Bell Curve a generation ago, are not the College’s problem.

Studying the increase/decrease/stability of economic diversity at Williams over the last 50 years would make for a great senior thesis. Start with my ten day rant on related topics in 2014. Summary: The economic diversity at Williams has been largely constant for 50 years. There were poor kids at Williams in the 1960’s. There are poor students today.

What should the Record investigate? Easy! Start here and here for background. Then ask new provost Dukes Love the following question:

In 1998, the 426th poorest family at Williams had a family income of $63,791. What is the family income of the 426th poorest family at Williams today? How has that number changed over the last two decades?

Professor Love has easy access to this data because the College has the family incomes for every student who requests aid. He could answer this question. Is the Record smart enough to ask it?


Incredibly Diverse III

The last paragraph of the College’s news release about the class of 2020 is so filled with fascinating facts that we need four days to go through it. Today is Day 3.

The students come from 42 states, represent 52 foreign countries, and two of them are military veterans.

1) Given the way that the College likes to brag about the number of states represented, it may be an advantage in admissions to come from a state (Wyoming? Mississippi?) with few applicants.

2) Recall last year’s four part series on country of origin. Read the whole thing! Highlights:

a) Since there are only about 39 international students, it is tough for them to represent 52 countries, even with dual citizenship. Or am I missing something? Perhaps the 52 number includes US dual citizens? Or perhaps a student from Zimbabwe who went to high school in Sweden counts for two? Clarifications welcome.

b) Although the biggest problem with international admission is the quota — and kudos to Jim Kolesar for explaining that the bump the last couple of years was random and that the quota was still in place — the second biggest problem is College’s desire to maximize the number of countries represented rather than find the best international students, regardless of nationality. If we used Academic Rating more seriously, we would have more students from East Asia, especially China and the Chinese Diaspora.

3) Recall our four part series on veteran admissions two years ago. My views have not changed. First, if a veteran (US or otherwise) has Academic Rating 1 or 2, he should be admitted. If he is 3 or lower, he should not be. Second, very few veterans are AR 1/2. This means that William should have few if any veterans. And that is OK. There are other ways — like veterans on the faculty — to provide the veterans’ viewpoint. Third, it is not clear to me that Williams is doing academically ill-prepared veterans any favors by admitting them. Mismatch theory applies as much to veterans as it does to African-Americans. Fourth, it is not obvious that veterans — unlike other applicants who benefit from various flavors of affirmative action — will have much if any impact on the quality of their classmates’ experiences at Williams since many/most veterans will be older, with families, living outside the dorms and eating outside of the dining halls.


Incredibly Diverse II

The last paragraph of the College’s news release about the class of 2020 is so filled with fascinating facts that we need four days to go through it. Today is Day 2.

Of the 552 incoming students, 267 identify as men, 251 as women. Two identify as trans or transgender, and one identifies as non-binary. Thirty-one students did not respond to an optional question about gender identity (but did answer a required binary question that appears on the Common Application).

That sure is confusing! Can someone provide the details for parsing this?

First, I think that the Common Ap has a question about “gender at birth” which is required. If so, it would be useful for the College to report that data in the news release. Mary Detloff kindly responded to my question with the answer: female (266) and male (286).

There has been an interesting trend in gender over the last few years. A few years ago, there were more females than males among first years. In 2012 it was it was 291/256! At the time, I attributed this to either a) more competitive female than male applicants and b) a desire for the resident population to be 50/50 requiring more female students since women were (are?) more likely to study abroad. But that trend changed last year, when the split was 270/281.

There are lots of possible causes for this. First, random variation. Second, perhaps women are more likely to take gap years than they used to be, leading to a greater “melt” among female first years than was historically the case. Third, the college making an affirmative choice, perhaps because men are more likely to drop-out/transfer, so you need to start with more men in order to have a graduating class with a 50/50 split. Other possibilities?

Second, can someone provide the details of the College’s questions, and how have they changed in the last few years? Future historians will thank you! According to Inside Higher Ed:

The last year has seen many more colleges let applicants indicate that they are transgender, and — in what may be a first — Williams College included the data in its press release on the incoming class. … A spokeswoman for the college said that officials there did not know of other colleges that have included this information in press releases, but that the goal was to be inclusive.

Inclusiveness is fine, but what is Williams going to do when it files the Common Data Set in two months? It has (I think) no option other than to abide by the requirement that data be provided for men and for women. There are no other gender options. So, either Williams classifies as “female” students who told Williams they were transgender — presumably because that was the gender at birth they gave to the Common Ap — or Williams doesn’t include them at all in the Common Data Set (which would probably cause the submission to fail because of data quality checks). Tough question! Perhaps the statistically sophisticated approach would involve treating gender as missing data and using multiple imputation . . .

Third, spare a thought for our friends in Institutional Research: Courtney Wade and James Cart. What a hassle it will to deal with this complexity in future research! For example, suppose Adam Falk wants to update his claim:

And while women students and faculty are well represented throughout most of our curriculum, there remain fields such as physics and computer science where the numbers of women, both nationally and at Williams, do not reflect our nation’s distribution of talent or potential interest.

What definition of “women” should be used? Not an easy question!


Incredibly Diverse I

The last paragraph of the College’s news release about the class of 2020 is so filled with fascinating facts that we need four days to go through it. Today is Day 1.

The class is also incredibly diverse. Thirty-seven percent of students in the incoming class are U.S. students of color, and another 7 percent are international students

Has the percentage of US students of color leveled off? Or even dropped? From Adam Falk, the class of 2016 has 38%. According to the current version of Fast Facts, it was 40% for the class of 2019. According to the 2011-2012 Common Data Set (pdf and only available on EphBlog!), it was 37% ((64 + 44 + 57 + 37)/546) for the class of 2015. Comments:

1) Definitions matter. Are we talking about the percentage of the entire class that is US students of color (I think this is correct) or percentage of US students that are students of color. Does the College (does everyone) use the same definition? For reference, here (pdf) are the definitions used in the Common Data Set for the class of 2019.


Note how this lines up, almost, with the 40% claim in Fast Facts: (67 + 51 + 1 + 76 + 27)/546 = 41% — with rounding. So, perhaps the big story here is that “US Students of color at Williams drop by almost 10% (222 to 204(?)) in class of 2020!”

2) Behavior matters. How honest are applicants in checking these boxes? How have their choices — honest or not — changed over time? Intelligent applicants know that there is a bias against Asian-American applicants, if not at Williams than at places like Harvard and Stanford. So, they have every incentive to check the “white” box if they can. In particular, mixed race (white/Asian) applicants are foolish if they don’t check the “white” box. There is also evidence that more applicants who used to check the “white” box are now making other choices. Background reading here. Note my prediction from a decade (!) ago:

The point is that there are significant preferences given to those who check certain boxes and that cheap genetic testing will provide many people with a plausible excuse to check boxes that, a few years ago, they did not have. How much will the admissions process change as a result? Time will tell. It will be very interesting to look at the time series of application by ethnic group over this decade. I predict that the raw number (and total pool percentage) of African-American and Hispanic applicants will increase sharply.

Has that happened?

The most depressing news about the class of 2020 is the decline in international students back down to the usual quota level of 7%. Sad! I was wrong about Adam Falk. He continues to discriminate against international students in exactly the same way that his predecessors at Harvard discriminated against Jewish students a 100 years ago.


SAT Score Changes

Interested in SAT score changes at Williams over the last 15 years? Me too! Alas, the College does not make it easy to study these things since they deleted the old Common Data Sets. Fortunately, I saved this link from 1998-1999 (although the link does not work):

C9. Percent
and number of first-time, first-year students enrolled in fall 1998 who
submitted national standardized (SAT/ACT) test scores. Does not include
partial test scores. SAt scores are recentered.

submitting SAT scores:

Number submitting
SAT scores:

submitting ACT scores:

Number submitting
ACT scores:

25th percentile
75th percentilee
SAT I Verbal


SAT I Math


ACT Composite


ACT English
ACT Math

of first-time, first-year students with scores in each range

SAT I Verbal
SAT I Math











Here is the Fall 2014 data from IPEDS:


By the way, does anyone know how to get time series data out of IPEDS?

And here is a relevant table from the 2015-2016 Common Data Set (pdf):sat

1) I apologize that this is such a mish-mash.

2) It is not clear how comparable these numbers are over time. First, the rise of score choice and/or super scoring has made it easier (and more common) for students to take a test multiple times and only report the best results. Second, students are now more likely to take both the SAT and the ACT and either only report one. (Or, they report both and the College only uses the better in its own reporting.) But ignore those complications for now.

3) Scores have increased meaningfully over the last 15 years. But, given 2), I can’t say whether or not this is because the students have gotten smarter. Opinions from readers?


Dropping SAT II Requirement

From The Boston Globe:

Several top New England colleges have joined a growing number of schools nationally that no longer require applicants to submit scores from SAT subject tests, saying the specialized exams lend little insight into students’ readiness and can work against low-income and minority students.

In the past year, Amherst College, Dartmouth College, and Williams College all have dropped the subject test requirement, taking a lead from Columbia University, which announced the new policy this spring. Duke University and Vassar College also no longer require the tests, often called SAT II.

Did the College announce this change? Was there campus discussion? Not that I saw. I am indifferent. What do readers think?

“We want to make the application process as fair to all students as possible,” said Mary Dettloff, a spokeswoman for Williams College. “We felt like we weren’t getting any valuable data from the SAT II scores to help us.”

Current Williams requirements here. The easiest way to make the application “fair” would, obviously, to not require any information — no SAT subject tests, no AP scores, no high school grades, no nothing. Just choose applicants randomly! As the mirror on the wall reports, that would be the “fairest application process of them all!”

A handful of elite schools, including Harvard and MIT, still require SAT subject tests. …

Meanwhile, dropping standardized test requirements can help colleges in several other ways. Schools tend to receive more applications, which can drive down their percentage of accepted students, making them seem more selective. Colleges also profit from the additional application fees.

Although many experts believe the tests will eventually disappear, schools like MIT find them useful and have no plans to drop the requirement.

MIT officials see the exams as an equalizer, a way to consistently measure students from different high schools. Harvard officials said the same thing.

The tests are undoubtedly useful, especially in looking at students from out-of-the-way high schools. At Williams, they were probably most used to distinguish among Academic Rating 1s and 2s. (Background here and here.) Key definitions:

      verbal   math   composite SAT II   ACT    AP
AR 1: 770-800 750-800 1520-1600 750-800 35-36 mostly 5s
AR 2: 730-770 720-750 1450-1520 720-770 33-34 4s and 5s
AR 3: 700-730 690-720 1390-1450 690-730 32-33 4s

Recall that most American AR 1s are accepted (and, allegedly, all legacy AR 1s) and many (half?) AR 2s. AR 3s are rejected unless they have a hook. So, this change hurts the student with high SAT II scores relative to her SAT I and AP scores and helps students with the opposite profile. How big is the magnitude of the change? I would be surprised if it changed the students in the class of 2021 by fewer than five students or more than 50.


How to Write a Chance Request at College Confidential

A regular part of the conversation at the Williams board on College Confidential is a “chance” request. A high school student wants the community to provide feedback on her chances of being admitted to Williams. Unfortunately, many of these students are uninformed about the reality of elite college admissions so they don’t provide us with the necessary information to “chance” them correctly. (They also generally provide a mass of irrelevant data as well.) To make the world a better place, here is EphBlog’s Guide to How to Write a Chance Request for Williams. (The same advice applies to most elite colleges.)

First, estimate your Academic Rating and provide the key evidence behind that estimate. (Back information here and here.) Tell us your Math/Reading SAT scores (and/or ACT), your subject test scores and AP scores. Just tell us what you will be submitting to Williams. We don’t care how many times you took these exams or about the details of your Super Scoring efforts.

We also don’t need to know about the details of your academic program. Just provide an honest estimate of your Academic Rating and some background on your high school. (Telling us the name of your high school can be useful, but is not necessary.) We don’t care about your exact GPA. (If you did not take the hardest classes that your high school offers, admit that to us.) The best clue about the quality of your high school record can be found in the quality of schools that similarly ranked students have attended in past years, so tell us that. The Academic Rating is the most important part of the process, so focus your words on that topic.

Second, cut out all the other cruft. We don’t care (because Williams doesn’t care) about all your clubs, activities, volunteer work, et cetera. Despite what your high school and/or parents may have told you, such trivia plays a de minimus role in elite college admissions. For example, your sports resume is irrelevant unless you are being recruited by a Williams coach and, if you are, they will tell you if you what your chances are.

Third, tell us your nationality. Williams has a quota against international applicants.

Fourth, tell us your race, or at least the relevant boxes that you will check on the Common Application. (See here and here for related discussion.) Checking the African-American box gives you a significant advantage in admissions, as does checking Hispanic, but less so. Checking the Asian box hurts your chances at Ivy League schools. There is a debate over whether Williams also discriminates against Asian-American applicants.

Fifth, tell us about your family income and parents background. Williams, like all elite schools, discriminates in favor of the very poor (family income below $50,000) and very wealthy (able to donate a million dollars). There is some debate over the exact dollar figures at both ends. Might Williams favor applicants whose families make us much as $75,000? Sure! Might Williams be swayed by a donation in the six figures? Maybe! Tell us whatever other details might be relevant. For example, Williams cares about socio-economic status more broadly than just income, so having parents that did not graduate from a 4 year college can be helpful. Among rich families, Williams prefers those who have already donated to Williams and/or have a history of supporting higher education.

Summary: Almost all of elite college admissions is driven by Academic Rating, albeit subject to three broad exceptions: athletics, race and income. In order to provide you with an accurate chance, we need the details concerning these areas. Don’t bother us with all the other stuff.


Advice on Applying to Windows on Williams

Did you read Eph ’20’s excellent four part series on Windows on Williams (WoW)? You should! Part I, II, III and IV. Here (pdf) is the application, which is due August 1. My advice for those who want to get in (and who recognize the morally suspect nature of the college admissions process):

1) Make your family as poor as possible. (Nothing here is meant to encourage you to “lie,” per se, but you should understand what Williams is looking for and adjust your application accordingly.) income
Whatever you think your family income is, chop that estimate in half. After all, you don’t really know, do you? Also, if there is any reason to think that income is variable, tell Williams the story. Also, keep in mind that Williams cares a lot about whether or not you will be eligible for a Pell Grant.

The maximum award for the 2015-2016 academic year is $5,775. Your eligibility is decided by the FAFSA. Students whose total family income is $50,000 a year or less qualify, but most Pell grant money goes to students with a total family income below $20,000

Williams doesn’t care about that $5,775, and it doesn’t really care about exactly how poor you are. But it loves to brag about how many students qualify for Pell Grants. And Williams is also rated by other elites (here and here) on this criteria. So, I bet that applicants who report family incomes below $50,000 are much more likely to be accepted at WoW.

2) Make yourself as diverse as possible.race URM admissions at Williams is a fascinating topic. The two most relevant posts are probably here and here. Slightly modifying what I wrote 10 (!) years ago:

Note that the WoW application form gives you almost complete latitude in what boxes you check. It asks you to “indicate how you identify yourself.” In other words, there is no requirement that you “look” African-American or that other people identify you as African-America, you just have to “identify yourself” as African-American, just as, when she applied for a faculty position at Harvard, Elizabeth Warren identified herself as Native American.

Now, one hopes, that there isn’t too much truth-stretching going on currently. The Admissions Department only wants to give preferences to students who really are African-American, who add to the diversity of Williams because their experiences provide them with a very different outlook than their non-African-American peers. But those experiences can only come from some identification — by society toward you and/or by you to yourself — over the course of, at least, your high school years. How can you bring any meaningful diversity if you never thought of yourself as African-American (or were so thought of by others) until the fall of senior year?

The point here is not that the current admissions policy for WoW is bad or good. It is what it is. The point is that there are significant preferences given to those who check certain boxes and that cheap genetic testing will provide many people with a plausible excuse to check boxes that, a few years ago, they did not have.

Checking one of those boxes (other than white or Asian, of course!) will dramatically increase your odds of acceptance to WoW. Similar reasoning applies to the other diversity-lite questions, like first language spoken and language spoken at home.

3) Make your parents as uneducated as possible. (Relevant discussion here and here.) Back in the day, Williams measured socio-economic diversity on the basis of whether or not either parent had a four year college degree. I suspect that this matters much less now, but there is certainly no reason to exaggerate their educational credentials or, for that matter, socioeconomic status.

Good luck to all the applicants!


Windows on Williams IV

As someone who attended Windows on Williams and loved every moment of it, I’m still more than a little skeptical of its efficacy. A lot of the people I met at the program, point blank, told me they weren’t that interested in the school; for others, it was a better-than-average safety now that they pretty much knew they’d get admitted.

Ephblog has covered this question before, but, as a new author with a bit of personal experience, I’d like to take a crack at the topic myself. I shamelessly quote from the same Williams Magazine feature that lead our WOW post back in April:

The program is competitive; we get about 1,200 applicants. The students we select are very strong candidates for admission, and getting them here on campus dramatically increases the chances that they apply and will choose to enroll here if we admit them.

I agree with the first bit, I can nod along to the second, the third leaves me in want of proof. Sadly, there’s almost nothing public about WOW beyond what little the college deigns to publish, so, I leave you with my thoughts and more than a little anecdote:

1) The yield rate for WOW students might not be higher than our general yield. Again, we proceed w/o especially good data, but, the numbers I were quoted went thus: 70% of two hundred WOW students apply to the college, 85% of that number are admitted, and roughly 40% of those students matriculate at the college. That’s not a “dramatic” increase in the chances that a student will enroll; 40% is maintenance on our general yield rate.

Now, perhaps, a 40% yield is good considering that WOW students are alleged to be more talented, diverse, or otherwise just more valuable to admissions than your garden variety Eph. Perhaps that sort of student is more likely go elsewhere, and thus we have to work extra, extra hard to make sure they matriculate.

But none of that seems clear from the quoted block of text! The reasonable inference to make is that a “dramatic” increase in yield rate would mean one that at least exceeds our general yield. You can wax poetic about how a relative increase in the yield rate technically satisfies the quoted statement, but, that answer leaves me a little discomfited; it seems a deceptive way to represent the data. Of course, this wouldn’t be a point of contention if the college were to release its actual figures on WOW and not speak in generalities. I eagerly await the day.

2) Is WOW even competitive with similar programs? All of our immediate peers — Amherst, Swarthmore, Pomona — run their own fly-in programs. Further, because the total pool of students who attend fly-ins is pretty small, we can assume that out of the 200 students that attend WOW, at least a few will go to a program at one of our peer schools.

We could easily enough, and due credit here to regular commentator simplicio, send a survey out to students who attended WOW and ask them to check off what fly-in programs they’ve attended, as well as what school they plan to matriculate at in the fall.

If, out of students that attend both WOW and Amherst’s fly-in, we only get 20%-30% of them to matriculate here, then we know that WOW isn’t keeping pace. Of course, we’d be working with a fairly small sample size (likely no more than about ten students) but rough indicators would beat flying blind.


Windows on Williams III

Half of this year’s entering class is comprised of students who applied Early Decision. How many of those students, might you ask, went to WOW too? 13:

Thirteen students admitted through Early Decision participated in Windows on Williams, a Williams-sponsored program that provides talented, high-achieving high schools seniors from low-income backgrounds the opportunity to visit campus during the fall of their senior year.

We bring nearly two hundred students to campus for WOW and of those students that apply, we admit 85-90% of them. So how do we only have 13 students, about a 20th of the students we fly out here, applying ED? My best guesses:

1) They have no good incentive to apply ED.  That 85-90% number, while not promulgated, isn’t secret either; everyone who goes to WOW, by the end of it, has heard that number and knows that they stand a very very good chance at getting admitted to the college. Nothing stops these students from treating Williams as a safety. Those that hold the purple-and-gold dear would blanch at the thought, but, like it or not, there’s more than a few students on campus today who might have preferred an acceptance letter from Yale or Stanford to one from Williams.

2) They don’t think that they can afford to apply ED. If this is the case, then that’s something we ought to change. Perhaps WOW students, if interested in applying early, could have a “tentative” aid offer prepared by someone in the financial aid office?

Considering that we’re admitting 90% of them already, and we’ve already brought them to campus at some expense, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to close that last inch of distance and get them to apply ED. I’m sure many poorer WOW students, although not all, would jump at the chance to apply ED if they could be reasonably confident that Williams would give them enough aid.

3) They just don’t like the school that much. Decently common! You would presume that students who go out of their way to apply to WOW would be above-average in their love for the school, but, you wouldn’t be all that correct. I met more than a few people at WOW that didn’t plan to apply to the college at all; some liked other schools more, some were just in it for the free trip.

Perhaps, there’s some way we could get a slightly more enthused student body to WOW? The prompt for WOW, as it stands, is very general; perhaps we would be better off with something that’s more specific to Williams? Or, maybe, it’s just a matter of doing a better job at knocking some school spirit into our guests while they’re here.

My suggestion: teach visiting students to sing The Mountains. It’s never too early, or late, to learn.


Windows on Williams II

Welcome! We’re spending the week covering Windows on Williams. Today, I’ll be bringing you through the parts of WOW that stuck out to me as memorable:

Welcome Dinner and Introductions

Quite interesting! At the other fly-ins I went to, for the first night, you were handed a meal ticket and pretty much left to shift for yourself at one of the cafeterias. Williams, however, has a whole separate banquet type thing, with catered food and huge tanks of iced apple cider, where student interns in the admissions office mull around and answer any questions that visiting students might have.

I like this quite a bit. It gives the student hosts a break, it gives our visiting students more time in front of admissions office staff, and, it makes for a good venue to conduct introductions from.

Jamboree: Student Performance Showcase

Wretched. Awful. Needs to die, both at Williams and as a convention of the fly-in generally. For one, they almost always schedule the student performances on the first night — when everyone is jet-lagged, and cranky, and really not in the mood to watch a step routine. (And, might I add that attendance is usually mandatory.)

Any charms of the format wear thin by one’s second fly-in, usually. Mostly because there’s no variety between colleges. I visited three schools, hundreds of miles apart, in different athletic conferences and with radically different alleged styles of education; all of them subjected me to three acapela groups, two dance troupes, and some really maudlin, weirdly metered poetry.

Jamboree: Bad, Bad Trivia

What gave me the most hope for student showcase at Williams — the promise of trivia — ended up being the most disappointing. Here are the three of the questions they asked at my WOW: “What war did Col. Ephraim Williams fight in?” ; “Who is the director of admissions at Williams?” and “Williams is the second oldest college in the state of Massachusetts, what school is the oldest?”

Seriously? We, purport to, and in fact have, a very rich trivial tradition at Williams. And this is the best we can do?  I don’t want to put too fine a point on this (because WOW as a whole is great and my specific critiques should be read as footnotes to mountains of praise) but how fun is it to ask students to recall the name of an admissions director they’ve just met? And why the last question? Why are we bothering, even indirectly like this, to compare Williams to Harvard? It seems a slimy way to rub some of the Harvard prestige off on Williams. Why not ask a question about Pres. Garfield, or Leehom Wang? It might teach the youth something.

 Mountain Day

My WOW, the October session, ended up falling on Mountain Day. I couldn’t imagine a better time to be on campus; the idyllic, sexed-up Williams that we ought to be showing prefrosh comes out on Mountain Day. Can we bring future WOW classes to campus during Mountain Day without spoiling the surprise? It’s my hope we can.

Sample Classes

Very good! Surprisingly good, actually. I was worried that, at fifty students apiece, the sample classes would be overcrowded, but, evidently there exist members of the Williams faculty that can teach fifty student seminars. Prof. Leyla Rouhi, in particular, had a sort of rockstar quality; there was a line of people waiting to speak to her after she finished teaching.

Divisions Dinner

I won’t say much about it, because unqualified praise doesn’t need the space. Interestingly, two Ephblog favorites, Prof. Joe Cruz ’91 and Prof. Steven Miller, were both in attendance at the October WOW. Prof. Miller even gave the whole room a neat little demonstration of Benford’s Law.

That concludes our post today! Tomorrow, we return to the usual Ephblog listicle format as well as to reasonable standards of length.


Windows on Williams I

We’re spending a few days covering Windows on Williams, the college’s biggest little program that no one seems to know a thing about. If you, dear reader, are one of those people, best to consult our two other articles on it first before proceeding below. Today is day one, and we begin with the college’s own scanty description of the program:

WOW [Windows on Williams] gives high school seniors the opportunity to spend three all-expenses-paid days at Williams. WOW is a selective program open to high school students in the U.S. and Puerto Rico; preference is given to high-achieving students who couldn’t otherwise afford to visit Williams.

WOW participants stay in dorms with current students, attend classes, meet with professors, and learn about our admission process and our extraordinary financial aid program.

Where to start? General context first:

1) Williams is not unique, or particularly virtuous, in offering to fly students to campus. All of our peer schools — Amherst, Swarthmore, Pomona (even Bowdoin) — have similar programs. Why? Easy: because it’s one of the few ways elite liberal arts schools can counter punch when they, inevitably, scrap with larger universities for students. We can’t out-spend, out-market, or out-brand a financially massive institution like, say, Harvard. What we can do is target a few excellent students, bring them to campus, and make the case that a choice between Williams and Harvard is an easy decision.

1.1) Further, we can expect most of our fly-in students will know that. Personally, I went to three fly-ins. Talking to people, I got the sense that was pretty average. About half of the people I talked to attended less than that (usually two, rarely just one) and the other half attended more. (One girl I met planned to go to twelve fly-ins; she had applied to more.)

2) Williams is, however, not not virtuous. Williams, as it should, makes its application public and welcomes all sorts of folk to apply. Some schools either put their application on a part of their website that isn’t public facing, or, even better, require that you be “invited” to apply. The amount of sleaze required, to limit access to a program designed to provide access to the poor and disadvantaged, is staggering, yet, unsurprisingly, not uncommon among the admissions staff of fancy-pants schools.

3) But, Williams does run a good fly-inThere’s a few things that spell a good, or at least prestigious, fly-in: funded travel for all admits, relatively small size, selectivity and two-night length. Windows on Williams hits pretty much all of those benchmarks: everyone gets their travel paid for, each session of WOW is around 100 students, only 16% of WOW applicants get in, and, most importantly, the program is a luxuriant three days — two whole overnights.

Tufts, on the other hand, crams 250 students into one fly-in, that accepts roughly 50% of applicants, and only lasts two days (one overnight). That sort of program, at least to students who’ve attended better ones, are treated as minimally desirable (e.g, if you had a better fly-in to go to, you’d bump the Tufts one off your schedule.) Or, if you didn’t have anything to do that weekend, you might attend as a sort of blow-off trip because it was easy to get in and the application was short.

It’s important that our fly-in students have a good time here, but, because recruiting students is a zero-sum game, it is arguably more important that they have a better time here than they have anywhere else. Is that something the administration keeps in mind? I would expect so, but I’m really just guessing. Perhaps admissions officers are less savage than I imagine them to be.

Guesses, educated or otherwise, on that topic are more than welcome in the comments.


Catholic Quota?

Fay Vincent ’60 writes:

In my college and law school classes, there were very few people of color. Indeed there was no black student in my class at Williams College, and only about 10 blacks in my class at Yale Law School. Women were admitted to Williams some 10 years after I graduated. The law schools had long admitted women, but few attended until the large-scale social revolution in the 1970s. Today people of color and women students constitute a major segment of most educational institutions. To me, single sex education always seemed artificial, and I am certain my social adjustment and education would have benefited from the more diverse current environment. Oddly, as a Catholic I was the diversity because the elite schools in my time had quotas for my religion.

1) Did Williams really have a Catholic quote 50 years ago? I have never read about it. Any pointers?

2) Was the quota a minimum or a maximum? The quotas — or, more euphemistically, admission “goals” — for black/Hispanic applicants today are minimums. Williams does not want to have too few. The quotas that elite schools — certainly Harvard but maybe not Williams — have for Asian-American applicants are maximums, just like the Jewish quotas of 100 years ago.

3) There is a great senior thesis to be written about this question, or about Williams admissions over time more broadly. Who will write it?




Sam is certainly right that the meritocracy is not perfect in the Chinese education system. But he fails to note the delicious irony that the beautiful building across for him, Hollander Hall, is not named from some great scholar or previous president. Instead, it was named after a couple of recent graduates who got in to Williams (according to a source) because their daddy wrote an 8-figure check. And then named the building after his kids!

Perhaps Sam should note the mote in the eye of Williams before being too mocking of our friends in China . . .


Choose Williams Over Harvard

In celebration of previews, reasons why you should choose Williams.

There are several hundreds high school seniors¹ who have been admitted to both Williams and Harvard (and Yale and Princeton and Stanford and . . .). Fewer than 10% of them will choose Williams over these more famous schools. Some of them are making the right choice. They will be better off at Harvard, for various reasons. But at least half of them are making the wrong choice. They (you?) would be better off at Williams. Why?

1) Your professors would know your name. The average Harvard undergraduate is known by name to only a few faculty members. Many students graduate unknown to any faculty. The typical professor at Harvard is primarily concerned with making important contributions to her field. The typical professor at Williams is primarily concerned with educating the undergraduates in her classes. Consider this post by Harvard professor Greg Mankiw, who teaches EC 10, the equivalent of ECON 110/120, to over 750 students each year.

Being an ec 10 section leader is one of the best teaching jobs at Harvard. You can revisit the principles of economics, mentor some of the world’s best undergraduates, and hone your speaking skills. In your section, you might even have the next Andrei Shleifer or Ben Bernanke (two well-known ec 10 alums). And believe it or not, we even pay you for this!

If you are a graduate student at Harvard or another Boston-area university and have a strong background in economics, I hope you will consider becoming a section leader in ec 10 next year. Applications are encouraged from PhD students, law students, and master’s students in business and public policy.

Take a year of Economics at Harvard, and not a single professor will know your name. Instead, you will be taught and graded by (poorly paid) graduate students, many with no more than a BA, often not even in economics! But, don’t worry, you will be doing a good deed by providing these students with a chance to “hone” their “speaking skills.”

2) You will get feedback on your work from faculty at Williams, not from inexperienced graduate students. More than 90% of the written comments (as well as the grades) on undergraduate papers at Harvard are produced by people other than tenured (or tenure track) faculty. The same is true in science labs and math classes. EC 10 is a particularly egregious example, but the vast majority of classes taken by undergraduates are similar in structure. Harvard professors are too busy to read and comment on undergraduate prose.

3) You would have the chance to do many things at Williams. At Harvard it is extremely difficult to do more than one thing in a serious fashion. If you play a sport or write for the paper or sing in an a cappella group at Harvard, it is difficult to do much of anything else. At Williams, it is common — even expected — that students will have a variety of non-academic interests that they pursue passionately. At Harvard, the goal is a well-rounded class, with each student being top notch in something. At Williams, the ideal is a class full of well-rounded people.

4) You would have a single room for three years at Williams. The housing situation at Harvard is horrible, at least if you care about privacy. Most sophomores and the majority of juniors do not have a single room for the entire year. Only at Harvard will you learn the joys of a “walk-through single” — a room which is theoretically a single but which another student must walk through to get to her room.

5) You would have the opportunity to be a Junior Advisor at Williams and to serve on the JA Selection Committee and to serve on the Honor Committee. No undergraduate student serves in these roles at Harvard because Harvard does not allow undergraduates to run their own affairs. Harvard does not trust its students. Williams does.

6) The President of Williams, Adam Falk, cares about your education specifically, not just about the education of Williams undergraduates in general. The President of Harvard, Drew Faust, has bigger fish to fry. Don’t believe me? Just e-mail both of them. Tell them about your situation and concerns. See who responds and see what they say.

Of course, there are costs to turning down Harvard. Your friends and family won’t be nearly as impressed. Your Aunt Tillie will always think that you actually go to “Williams and Mary.” You’ll be far away from a city for four years. But, all in all, a majority of the students who choose Harvard over Williams would have been better off if they had chosen otherwise.

Choose wisely.

¹The first post in this series was 11 years ago, inspired by a newspaper story about 18 year-old Julia Sendor, who was admitted to both Harvard and Williams. Julia ended up choosing Williams (at least partly “because of the snowy mountains and maple syrup”), becoming a member of the class of 2008, winning a Udall Foundation Scholarship in Environmental Studies. Best part of that post is the congratulations from her proud JA.


WOW Details

As usual, the best material at EphBlog is often in the comments. Example from a member of the class of 2020:

I was a WOW attendee last year, and while I was on campus I had the opportunity to listen to a few presentations given by admissions staff that provided us w/ fairly specific statistics about the program.

Because the college itself isn’t all that forthcoming about providing this numbers, I think it might be of (some) use for me to catalog them here. First, total admittance and the sort of people admitted to WOW:

Out of 1200 applicants, Williams admits roughly 200 to WOW. That provides for an admit rate of around 1/6, which is, coincidentally, also the admit rate of the college as a whole.

Those 200 students pick between a WOW session in October and one in September, and they usually do attend. The number I was quoted by admissions staff is that only a few admitted students don’t attend the program at all. (I believe the number was 5-10, but, I can’t recall with any real certainty.)

Of the students that actually attend WOW, which is of course a touch less than the 200 admitted, 70% actually end up applying to the college. So if we’re being generous, we now have 140 WOW attendees who have actually applied to the school. Out of those applicants, 85-90% will be admitted. (I can recall this figure fairly precisely, because, as a WOW attendee desperate to get admitted to the college, it seemed important to remember)

The next piece of information is a touch discontinuous from the first several in form, but, it’s what I was told so it’s what I’ll repeat: out of all WOW attendees, 50 matriculate the succeeding fall.

So, how might we calculate a yield rate out of that number? If we do it out of total attendees 50/200, then we’re left with a yield of 25% — fairly dismal; however, if we grind through the numbers and calculate the actual yield of WOW attendees who apply to the program and then are admitted, we’re left with an imprecise yield rate of 40%

That’s not startlingly different from the college’s overall yield rate. And, while it may be so that attending WOW did increase those students’ chance of attending Williams (perhaps they would have otherwise gone to HYPS) there’s no doubt that at least some in the broader college community would be miffed to learn that the college spends a pretty penny on flying students out only to yield one in four of them.

I have some other anecdotes about the program and fly-ins I could probably share, but, as none of them are really material to what we’re discussing here, I think I’ll end this post before it gets much longer.

Thanks for the details! And, please, tell us more anecdotes. EphBlog readers are always eager to learn more about how Williams operates.


Dudley ’89 on Financial Aid III

Provost Will Dudley’s discussion (pdf) of financial aid at Williams is equal parts useful and misleading. Let’s spend five days discussing it. Today is Day 3.

We run a program in the fall called WOW—Windows On Williams. We’ve nearly doubled the size of this program in the last couple of years because it’s so effective. We fly in, at our expense, about 200 low-income and first-generation students to spend a couple days on campus, meet each other, meet other Williams students and attend classes. The program is competitive; we get about 1,200 applicants. The students we select are very strong candidates for admission, and getting them here on campus dramatically increases the chances that they apply and will choose to enroll here if we admit them.

We have a similar previews program in the spring for admitted students who haven’t already participated in WOW and can’t afford to come here on their own. We want to make sure they get a chance to experience this place in person before they decide where to go to college. Our admission office travels to high schools where low-income and first-generation students are likely to be found. … That’s what need-seeking is: doing everything we can in a very active way to admit as many talented, low-income students as we can.

Interesting stuff. Comments:

1) There is a great senior thesis to be written about how “effective” (or not) WOW is. Recall Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 excellent thesis about predicting which accepted students will choose Williams. This is an important topic, of interest to Williams and to elite colleges more broadly.

2) Has anyone at Williams — including the dozens of capable folks who report to Dudley — actually studied this? I have my doubts. But tell us about it if you have! Note that obvious selection bias inherit in Will’s claim that “getting them here on campus dramatically increases the chances” such students apply and enroll. The problem is that comparing students who do WOW with students who don’t do WOW is, potentially, useless because, almost by definition, students who do WOW are much more interested in Williams than students who don’t do WOW. They would be much more likely to apply/enroll than other students even if WOW did not exist. In fact, for all Will knows, WOW might actually decrease the percentages of such students who apply/enroll. (My bet, of course, is that Will is right and that WOW works.)

The right way to test WOW would be a standard A/B approach. Randomly select 10% (or whatever) of the students who met the criteria for WOW and then don’t invite them. If those students apply/enroll at the same rates as the WOW students, then WOW doesn’t do anything.

The College, like most modern bureaucracies, ought to do much more randomized testing to find out what works and what does not.

3) Even without a proper randomized controlled trial (RCT), you can still try to estimate the causal effect of WOW using various statistical approaches. A statistics major ought to jump on this opportunity.


Class Profiles

Before they disappear, let’s save permanent copies if the class profiles that the Admissions Office puts together each year: 2013,
2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Can anyone provide links to older or more recent profiles? Future historians will thank you!


Admissions News Release

The College’s official news release is filled with interesting details. Unfortunately, I can’t find a record of similar news releases for any class prior to 2016. Pointers? Key sections:

Class of 2016:

Of the admitted students, 609 are women and 573 are men. Ninety-four students, or eight percent of the group, are non-U.S. citizens, representing 48 different nationalities. Among American students, 163 are African American, 229 Asian American, 164 Latino, and 14 Native American. Sixteen percent (193) would be the first in their families to attend college.

Class of 2020:

Of the admitted students, 623 are women and 583 are men. One hundred are international students representing 45 different nationalities. Among American students, 49 percent are students of color: 221 students are Asian American, 186 are black, 169 Latino, and 13 Native American. Twenty-one percent (255) are first-generation college students, and 9 percent (105) have a parent who attended Williams.

1) Raw admissions numbers don’t tell the full story because yield varies. If I had more time, I might try to subtract out the data from early admissions to get a better sense of if/how regular admissions statistics have changed. Left as an exercise for the reader!

2) As you would expect, there is much stability here. Williams does not change much year-to-year.

3) Most interesting number for the class of 2020 is that “19 percent (223 students) are affiliated with QuestBridge, an organization with which Williams has partnered since 2006 to identify talented, high-achieving high school students from low-income backgrounds.” Questbridge has been the single biggest change in Williams admissions in the last decade or more. I wish that we knew more about it.

4) Thanks to Mary Dettloff, Director of Media Relations, for help with background information.


Admissions Decisions

Admissions decisions for the class of 2020 are out. An example:



1) Congratulations to all the admitted Ephs!

2) Could someone post the entire e-mail in the comments? Future historians will thank you!

3) Note that the 1,200 number includes the 250 or so admitted via early decision. So, we will be looking to get another 300 students out of the 950 newly admitted.


International Student Countries of Origin IV

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 4.

Recall our discussion of President Falk’s induction address five years ago. Falk said:

we must develop a deeper understanding of what it means for Williams to be an international institution. We must simultaneously be local and global, building a very specific, Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley, while reaching out far beyond to prepare our students to be effective citizens not only of this country but of the world. Many pieces of this process seem obvious – bring international students to Williams, send Williams students to study abroad – but our conception of a global strategy is still emerging. We are, after all, not a sprawling multiversity but a small college of two thousand students, each here for four years and some thirty courses. We cannot simply add every desirable experience to our curriculum or to student life. We must become global within our existing scale and scope, and without chasing fashions or being driven by our shifting anxieties about America’s geopolitical position. Grappling with this question will require the engagement of our entire community, as our strategies will encompass the curriculum and extend into so much of what we do. And we must think of the internationalization of Williams as something that happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.

It has been five years. Does Falk still believe this? I don’t know. This is exactly the vision that I have for Williams, the fundamental change that I have pushed and pushed and pushed for many years. I hope that future historians will mark this as the most important paragraph in the speech.

Recall our previous discussion about how Falk might make Williams “a college for all of the United States, and of the world.” Falk is, I think, explicitly rejecting the Middlebury Model of a global liberal arts college with facilities and programs all around the world. Reread these key phrases: “Berkshires-based Williams that could only be found in this valley” and “global within our existing scale and scope” and “happens here in Williamstown, capitalizing on what this campus and region can offer.” Falk has no plans to expand programs like Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford.

2) If you reject the Middlebury Model of offering facilities/programs everywhere and if you realize that there is no way — without tilting admissions toward dramatically more wealthy students — to enroll US applicants that are more “global,” then your only option “for Williams to be an international institution” is to dramatically increase foreign student enrollment. Reasonable people might disagree with that goal, might think that a Williams with 8% non-US citizens and quality study abroad options is international enough. But if you really believe Falk’s rhetoric, then your only choice is a major change in admissions.

Yet it has been five years. If Falk really wanted to make Williams more global, he would have done more than increase international enrollment from 37 (class of 2014) to 46 (class of 2018). Maybe he is about to start now? We can hope! What should he do?

1) Hire at least one member of the admissions office to work (and probably live) in Asia. The best person would probably be a recent Williams graduate, a citizen of one of the major feeder countries. That person would work on establishing relationships with the most elite English-immersion high schools in Asia. Recall our discussion about the Daewon Foreign Language High School. There are a score (50?) of schools of Daewon’s quality in China, South Korea, and the rest of Asian. We should know them and they should know us. We don’t need everyone in China to know about Williams. We just need the students and counselors of schools like Daewon to.

2) Increase admissions from China, Korea and other countries with high quality applicants. It is absurd that there are only 16 students from China and 11 from Korea among the 2,000 Ephs. Williams, could, in the class of 2020, have 25 from both countries (call it one per entry) without either decreasing the academic quality of the class or spending anymore on financial aid. (There are plenty of wealthy (or at least not poor), highly intelligent applicants currently attending elite high schools in Asia who would love to come to Williams, especially if a Williams admissions officer explained what it means to be the #1 liberal arts college in America.

Because of my naivete, I bet (link?) a fellow EphBlogger that Williams would be 20% international by the class of 2021. This looks like a bet that I am certain to lose. That makes me sad. But the battle continues.

If, 100 years ago, you wanted Williams to be the best college in the world, you should have argued against discriminating against Jews. If, today, you want Williams to be the best college in the world, you should be against quotas for international applicants. What do you want?


International Student Countries of Origin III

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 3.

There seems to be some “country collecting” going on here, lots of countries with just one or two students. That is, I bet that there are much stronger students in, say, China/Korea/Canada that Williams rejects in favor students from more obscure countries.

This probably leads us to underestimate of the amount of discrimination against academically excellent international applicants. Recall previous discussions here and here. Summary: It sometimes (but not every year) seems like international students do much better in academics than US students, suggesting the possibility of bias against them in the admissions process. (Of course, there are other hypotheses.)

The relevance about this new information, however, is that we can probably divide the international population into two groups: competitive countries (China, Korea, Canada, . . . ) and non-competitive countries. Applicants from competitive countries, with academic credentials significantly above the Williams average, probably do much better at Williams (and are more discriminated against by admissions) than applicants from non-competitive countries.

Consider the 46 seniors elected to Phi Beta Kappa last spring. Only 5 appear to be international:

Benjamin C. Hoyle, mathematics, Paris, France
Raea E. Rasmussen, psychology, Tokyo, Japan
Miho Sakuma, history, Tokyo, Japan
Phonkrit Tanavisarut, economics and mathematics, Bangkok, Thailand
Jeewon Yoo, English and mathematics, Seoul, Republic of Korea

This is not too much above the class’s proportion of international students. But these students sure don’t seem to come from the countries that, a priori, I would describe as “competitive.”


International Student Countries of Origin II

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 2.

Williams students come from more than 50 different countries. Wow! That is real diversity. A student who grew up in, say, Tunisia, brings much more diversity to the Williams campus than a student (whether African-American, Hispanic or whatever) who spent the last 12 years at Milton. (The sons/daughters of the local kleptocracy who also attended Milton, not so much.) If you want Williams to be the best College in the world (and you should), then you want Williams to admit and attract the smartest English-fluent 18-year-olds regardless of their place of birth. This listing is a good start.

Any updates on the official plans for international admissions? Recall our discuss last summer. Summary: For most of the last 15 years, Williams had an explicit quota for international students, at about 35 in each class. Then, last year we had 49 and this year 46. Has there been a change in the policy? If not, then why us the number 1/3 higher than it used to be?


International Student Countries of Origin I

Here (doc) is a listing of the countries of origin of the 155 international students in the classes of 2015 — 2018. Let’s spend four days discussing it. This is Day 1.

Here is a screen shot of the beginnings of the list.


1) More transparency please! It is annoying that we have to rely on secret sources to get this information. The Admissions Department, presumably, prepares an annual report on international admissions that is shared with the Trustees and/or the Faculty. Any such report should be share with the broader community as well (with any information that identifies a specific individual removed, of course). A transparent college is a better governed college, one less likely to be hit by scandal and more likely to have the support of the community.

2) This listing my oversell the true “diversity” of international students. You can certain that the students from, say, Afghanistan and Botswana are not from poverty stricken rural villages. (Nor should Williams admit such students, except in exceptional circumstances.) Instead, these are the sons/daughters of the elite, often raised abroad and provided with world-class educations in places like London and New York. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Do we have any international students among our readers? Tell us about your experience at Williams.


The Best College in the World

The mission of Williams is to be the best college in the world. Once you accept this assumption, many things follow. For example, current sophomore James asks:

Why do you think the college should so drastically increase its % of international students?

If you want to be the best college in the world, you need to have the best students. And, until Google develops built in universal translators, this means the best English-fluent students. Some of those students will be born in Massachusetts, some in Shanghai and some in Sydney. Wherever they come from, Williams ought to find them, admit them and recruit them.

Twenty years ago, this was much less of an issue because there were not that many very smart non-US applicants. Increasing the percentage of international students would have resulted in a decrease in average student quality. So, it was right and proper than Williams was 95% American.

But the world has changed dramatically since then. There are now thousands of high quality international applicants, especially from places like China and South Korea. The reason that Williams is only 9% international today is because the College actively discriminates against non-American applicants. If the College were country-of-citizenship blind — in the same was that it is astrological-sign-blind — we would be at least 20% international today.

More concretely, Williams should, in the class of 2020, get rid of the bottom 100 American students in terms academic rating (generally ARs of 2 and 3) and replace them with 100 International students, all of whom will have ARs of 1.

Ask yourself: Why is Williams better than Connecticut College? It isn’t because our English professors are better than their English professor or our dining hall food is better than their dining hall food. It is because our students are, on average, smarter than their students. If you really want Williams to be the best College in the world, then your number one focus should be on improving the quality of the students, and then easiest way to do that is to end the quota against international admissions.


Veterans at Williams

Nice Record article about veterans at Williams.

I was fortunate enough to speak with three veteran students – Jake Bingaman ’19, Calum Ferguson ’19 and Nils Horn ’19 – to learn about their experiences in the armed forces and at the College so far.

The reporter, Emilia Maluf, should provide some more details, in addition to the human interest vignettes that she nicely describes.

First, are these the only three veterans in the class of 2019? (And, by the way, how did she get this information. Did the College feed it to her? Not that there is anything wrong with that!)

Second, what has been the trend in veterans admissions in the last 10 years or so? My sense is that there have often been international veterans, like Ferguson and Horn, on campus, but I don’t know the data. I also think that there has not been a US veteran on campus for years (Decades?) But it would be nice to get the facts straight.


History of International Enrollment

UPDATE: Thanks to JAS for providing this graphic! Post edited.


Thanks to Courtney Wade, our wonderful Director of Institutional Research, for providing this data (via IPEDs) on the history on international enrollment at Williams.

Fall 2014 49
Fall 2013 37
Fall 2012 31
Fall 2011 38
Fall 2010 37
Fall 2009 31
Fall 2008 46
Fall 2007 47
Fall 2006 38
Fall 2005 32
Fall 2004 31
Fall 2003 33
Fall 2002 34
Fall 2001 23
Fall 2000 31
Fall 1999 35
Fall 1998 28
Fall 1997 30
Fall 1996 28
Fall 1995 12
Fall 1994 17

See here for previous discussion. Comments:

1) I should turn this into a pretty R graphic. Apologies for my laziness. Thanks JAS!

2) Approximately 50 international students are in the class of 2019. Why the big jump up in the last two years?

3) The last big jump was the doubling between 1995 and 1996. Who made that decision? Kudos to them!

4) The big drop between 2008/2009 and 2010 was probably (?) caused by the ending of need-blind admissions for international students. Of course, that policy change is still in place, but the dramatic increase in the quality (and wealth) of international applicants has made it much less of an issue.


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