Currently browsing posts filed under "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.
David has often written posts about the boxes that college seniors check in the “race” category on their application to Williams College. The New York Times has a recent article on the subject:
“I just realized that my race is something I have to think about,” she wrote, describing herself as having an Asian mother and a black father. “It pains me to say this, but putting down black might help my admissions chances and putting down Asian might hurt it. My mother urges me to put down black to […] get in to the colleges I’m applying to,” added Ms. Scott … “I sort of want to do this but I’m wondering if this is morally right.”
Within minutes, a commenter had responded, “You’re black. You should own it.” Someone else agreed, “Put black!!!!!!!! Listen to your mom.” No one advised marking Asian alone. But one commenter weighed in with advice that could just as well have come from any college across the country: “You can put both. You can put one. You’re not dishonest either way. Just put how you feel.”
The article examines many parts of this complex issue. Here is an observation that hadn’t occurred to me:
Some scholars worry that the growth in multiracial applicants could further erode the original intent of affirmative action, which is to help disadvantaged minorities. For example, families with one black parent and one white parent are on average more affluent than families with two black parents. When choosing between two such applicants, some universities might lean toward the multiracial student because he will need less financial aid while still counting toward affirmative-action goals.
Welcome to the 200+ applicants who were just officially accepted into the Williams College class of 2015 via Early Decision. (Successful Questbridge applicants found out two weeks ago and some athletic tips were promised spots by Williams coaches months earlier.)
College Confidential provides a useful discussion thread. Clicking around the usernames and their past posts — especially ones entitled “Chance Me” — will illustrate just how insanely competitive Williams admissions has become.
Openbook is a simple tool for searching Facebook updates. Here are all the recent mentions of Williams College. As of this writing, there are only two acceptances. (Decisions only became available at 8:00 PM.) Given the central role that Facebook plays in teen-age life, I expect that number to increase dramatically in the next day or two.
Any questions for the EphBlog community?
Do we have any readers who are (or who know any) College Confidential regulars or admins. The Williams College page has had the Williams Regular Decision 2011!!! thread stuck at the top of the page for almost 4 years. Can someone fix this?
When a school gets into financial difficulty but wants to maintain appearances, it will fail to fully honor its commitment to meet the “full need” of admitted students. Make it hard enough for poor students to enroll, and you’ll have more space for rich students. Is that happening at Williams? I hope not.
bad financial aid – can’t attend Williams =(
After hearing such good things about financial aid for internationals at Williams, I was really disappointed by the aid package I received today.
My family has an annual income of ~35k, which is considered middle class here in Thailand. But regardless of social standing here, it’s just an impossible deal that Williams is asking for: a 17.5k family contribution in addition to 4k from me (student assets).
This strikes me as the worst news since April 1st; I won’t be able to attend my first choice college because of financial issues. =(
Has any of you received a similar deal? How should I go about appealing to their decision?
sorry if this may sound dumb, but is 120k really a lot (for an American family) in terms of combined assets for my whole family.
as far as i checked, they should meet full need for internationals, so i’m sending in a letter and also having my father write another one to explain why we cannot afford 22k…really. if we do that for four years, my parents’ life savings would be down to some 40k, which is certainly not great security considering that they plan on retiring soon.
1) Don’t people read EphBlog? The worse thing you can do is to have assets in your own name. Spend that $4,000 on a computer, clothes, really anything that you need to buy. Or “give” it to your uncle. Cash in your own name is cash that Williams (or any school) will take. (Morty mentioned some changes in this regard — making it less detrimental for a student to have money in his own name — but I am no expert on financial aid.)
2) This student should appeal. I would recommend claiming to have made a mistake by failing to mention that the $120k in family saving is for retirement in the Thailand equivalent of IRA and 401-k savings accounts. (I think that the College does not count retirement savings in its calculation of EFC — expected family contribution.)
3) I am unaware of any evidence that the College is being less generous with financial aid this year than last year, despite some chatter on College Confidential. But who knows? The Record ought to investigate.
4) What is the mechanism by which the College deals with financial aid requests from abroad? How much can it possibly understand about tax forms and financial statement in dozens of other countries, written in so many languages?
5) How is the whole system made honest? If this student had “forgotten” to note that $120k, would Williams ever have known? What about for a US student?
A question from a troll-started thread on College Confidential.
I’ve heard that the difference between the Ivy League and the LACs can be crystallized by two commencement traditions, at the two oldest schools in Massachusetts.
At Harvard commencement (so the story goes), the graduating students form lines, and applaud as the faculty marches between them.
At Williams commencement (so the story goes), the faculty form lines, and applaud as the graduating students march between them.
True. Even better, less than 10% of the Harvard faculty even shows up for graduation. At Williams, faculty are expected to attend.
Is Williams financial aid stingy or generous? Consider some recent claims on College Confidential:
I am disappointed with the financial aid offer I received from Williams. How have others found their financial aid offers? I thought that Williams might practice similar policies as Amherst, but comparing the two offers, my family would have to pay $8,500~$9,000 more next year for me to go to Williams over Amherst. I was a bit surprised at the difference…is this common?
Yeah, mine sucked too =(
$15k more per year than MIT…ah well.
I’m disappointed with the Williams package. I have yet to receive my Amherst package but I hope it’s better because I don’t think I can afford Williams
i got into comparable schools (swarthmore, amherst, etc) and williams definitely has the lowest finaid offer.
1) Those are just the complaints from this thread. Others are happy with their offers, noting that the deal from Williams is the best that they received. And College Confidential is hardly an unbiased sample.
2) Still, there is no doubt that Williams financial aid is substantially less generous compared to places like Harvard, Stanford and Princeton. We lose many students to these schools, not just because they really prefer those places to Williams but because they think it is stupid to pay $5,000 or $10,000 per year more to be an Eph. And who could blame them? Even though I think that most of the students who choose Harvard over Williams would have been better off choosing Williams all else equal, I have a had time insisting that someone should pay extra to go to Williams. Consider Daniel Olson’s plight:
Yale’s financial-aid offer made a difference for Daniel Olson, a high school senior at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island, who was accepted regular decision.
Olson, who said he is leaning toward Yale, said the financial-aid packages at Dartmouth College and Williams College “do not come close” to what Yale has offered him.
Besides, Olson said, he fell in love with the residential-college system when he came to visit.
“I was taken by the beauty of the campus, I was taken by the students, I was taken by the number of ways to get involved,” Olson said.
Instead of spending money on things like Mount Greylock Regional High School, Williams ought to ensure that its financial aid packages are comparable to those offered by its competitors. We want the Daniel Olson’s of the world to choose Williams over Yale just as Julia Sendor ’08 chose Williams over Harvard 4 years ago.
3) I think that this leads to a situation in which virtually no “middle class” students (family incomes between $60,000 and $200,000) choose Williams over those schools, precisely because our financial aid is less generous. And, given that many/most poor families would be more likely (?) to favor a “name” school over Williams even in a case where the cost is the same (zero), this would suggest that the vast majority of students who choose Williams over one of these schools are very wealthy. True?
4) There is an amazing three-part Record series to be written about financial aid at Williams, the history, the debates and the exact workings of the current policy. Who will write it? Consider:
Every school calculates aid differently, in same cases, you will do better at Williams than its peers, in some cases (including yours, alas) worse. Considering both schools now require no loans at all, I am pretty surprised at the difference. But if you really want to attend Williams, don’t let the aid offer stop you — if you have a better offer at Amherst or MIT or anyplace else, definitely show that to the financial aid office and see if they will match — they may well do so, and it’s worth a shot. Don’t view this as a final, unmaleable offer, again, especially if you have better offers from peer institutions.
What happens when an admitted student does this? Does Williams just say, “Sorry. Our offer is fixed.” Or does it consider how much it wants the student and make decisions accordingly? Reasonable people can differ about what the policy should be, but thousands of us are curious about what the policy actually is. The Record should tell us. Start by contacting Daniel Olson.
There are many “chances” posts on College Confidential, requests from potential applicants for comments on their chances of getting into Williams and advice on how to do so. See here, here and here for recent examples. I am often tempted to reply: “Take a genetic genealogy test and, if it comes back black, join the appropriate clubs in your high school and check the right box on the Common Application.”
1) A recent New York Times article discussed the power and problems of these tests.
The authors said that limited information in the databases used to compare DNA results might lead people to draw the wrong conclusions or to misinterpret results. The tests trace only a few of a customer’s ancestors and cannot tell exactly where ancestors might have lived, or the specific ethnic group to which they might have belonged. And the databases of many companies are not only small — they’re also proprietary, making it hard to verify results.
“My concern is that the marketing is coming before the science,” said Troy Duster, a professor of sociology at New York University who was an adviser on the Human Genome Project and an author of the Science editorial.
“People are making life-changing decisions based on these tests and may not be aware of the limitations,” he added. “While I don’t think any of the companies are deliberately misleading customers, they may have a financial incentive to tell people what they want to hear.”
You think? If a particular company get a reputation for “finding” black ancestry in people who “look” non-black, I suspect that they might find an eager market for their services. (By the way, Troy Duster is an Eph, via honorary degree. Previous entries here.)
But even if the test companies don’t act on their financial interests, they still make mistakes. And, even when they don’t make mistakes, what happens when they start saying that you have “African” genes when it appears that some of your descendants came from north Africa? And, even when the companies a) Don’t act in their financial interest, b) Don’t make mistakes and c) Don’t count north African ancestry as “African”, there is still a big problem. A large percentage (can’t find a citation just now) of the “white” population in America has at least one ancestor from sub-Sahara Africa. Does Williams really want to provide them with affirmative action?
2) I covered much of this ground last year. Recall:
Note that the Common Application gives you almost complete latitude in what boxes you check. It states, “If you wish to be identified with a particular ethnic group, please check all that apply.” In other words, there is no requirement that you “look” African-American or that other people identify you as African-America or even that you identify yourself as African-American, you just have to “wish to be identified.”
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 at Williams 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. 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.
3) Note that this is already happening. Color and Money: How Rich White Kids Are Winning the War over College Affirmative Action tells the story (page 82) of white parents scamming their way into San Francisco’s elite Lowell High School “by scouring their family histories for the tiniest hint of black or Hispanic blood.” That sort of “scouring” gets easier and cheaper each year.
4) Besides studying the trends in the number of applicants from different groups, the Record could have a lot of fun just by looking at the pictures of Williams students. There are, allegedly, 49 or so African-Americans in the class of 2011. Want to bet? I have no doubt that the admissions office is being honest — 49 students did indeed check that box. But, could an outsider look at pictures of all the members of the class of 2011 and pick out those 49 individuals? I doubt it. The Record ought to give it a try. Background information here.
5) Don’t forget that there are some administrators at the College who would actually welcome this development. The College loves to be able to claim that 10% of Williams is African-American, whatever the underlying “truth” might be. In this dimension, the College certainly practices a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell philosophy. Even better would be having a 10% African-American class with average SAT scores above 1400. Not hard to do if a lot of applicants start checking that box.
So, what should those poor applicants at College Confidential do? Suggestions welcome.
A question from College Confidential.
I’m a freshman at Williams and really like my entry as a whole, but I can only see myself being good friends with one or two of them. I know people in other entries who are already really tight with their suitemates or entrymates, and my JAs said that their best friends now were all in their entry freshman year. Do most people stay really close to their entrymates all four years and not really make other friends? I’m afraid that I won’t have a close group of friends because everyone else will have just their entry friends after spending most of the year together.
Interesting discussion with lots of good advice follows. Regular readers will know what occurred to me: Great topic for a senior thesis! What is the friendship network among Williams students? How does it form and change over time?
Laura Stebbins writes:
I’m a producer at WHDH the NBC affiliate in Boston. I’m currently working on a story involving Williams College Admissions and noticed several blogs about admissions at Williams on your site.
I’ve reached a dead end and I’m hoping because Williams College is your niche you might be able to lead me in the right direction.
The story is about the use of myspace, facebook and other social networking sites by college admissions officers. According to the Williams Admissions office, a few years ago Williams college rejected a student after viewing their myspace profile.
I heard of the story because it was told at a National Association of College Admissions Conference in Pittsburgh. A student was initially accepted into Williams, until a third party contacted the school and suggested the school look at the student’s myspace page. The admissions office looked at the student’s myspace page and subsequently rejected the student (after they had already accepted him!). A member of Public Affairs at Williams College confirmed this did happen but is unwilling to comment.
My question for you, the bloggers on ephblog, and anyone who may know is…Have you ever heard of this student? Do you know anything more about the incident?
Any help at all would be SO GREATLY appreciated!! Our story really depends on finding more information about this student.
Thank you in advance, and please let me know regardless!
1) The way that I recall this story is that there was a student (at St. Paul?) who was admitted early decision to Williams and then posted at College Confidential an obnoxious question about the best place to find drugs on campus. This caused much mockery on CC and some discussion here. (I can’t find the link right now, but I think that HWC had the details.) This got back to the Admissions Office (because they read CC) and led to the student’s admission being revoked, or at least to a conversation in which he was encouraged/forced to apply/go elsewhere. I think that the student was male and that he was a “tipped” football player. This story is not necessarily inconsistent with the Stebbins’s version since the CC post might have led Admissions to look at the students MySpace page. (I think that this was a couple of years ago, before Facebook was open to high schoolers.)
2) But that could all be wrong! Surely there is an EphBlog reader who knows the details. Help out our friends at WHDH.
3) The main lesson here is that smart Ephs should know that every word you type into a computer may become public some (inconvenient) day. It is fairly obvious that anything you post on the Internet might come back to haunt you, but, really, it is anything electronic. If you wouldn’t be comfortable see the words you are typing on the front page of the New York Times, delete them. (Related EphBlog discussion here and here. See also this.)
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.
EphBlog’s favorite Lord Jeff writes:
I’m hearing that, due to a higher than expected yield, Amherst’s
incoming class is between 480 and 490 students, easily a record
Do you know if Williams is experiencing the same? Given the massive
number of college apps nationwide this year, I’m interested to see if
other schools in our group are dealing with a similar situation.
Yield management is a black art, so it is tough for any outsider to know what is going on. Comments:
1) The key issue is which students are choosing Amherst more this year than they have in the past. If Amherst is winning more head-to-head battles against Williams (and H/Y/P/S), then that is bad for Williams. If, instead, Amherst is just getting more acceptances than it expected from the “poor” students, then that is good news for Williams. Let them have the students we don’t want! Extensive discussion here.
2) Williams made extensive use of its waitlist this year (see discussion at College Confidential), which would imply that yield was not higher than expected. From the Admissions Office:
To answer your questions, we have gone to the waiting list for a small group and, based on how many in that group decide to enroll and how many regular decision admits who we’ve given extensions also choose to enroll, we could make offers to another small group of students this week.
We don’t know at this point how many students we will be able to admit off of our waiting list, however, I can tell you that over 500 students who were offered waitlist spots remain interested. We do not rank our waitlist, and we have made, and could still make, offers to both American and non-U.S. citizens. We hope to make all waitlist decisions by the end of May; however, in past years, the process has, on occasion, stretched into early June, at which point, we will notify all non-admitted candidates.
We will notify students directly by email or phone if we are able to make them an offer. Our committee tries to look at as many files as possible in making decisions among a highly qualified group of candidates. If you haven’t already, please send us any updates on your academic and extracurricular achievements since you applied in January.
I read College Confidential so you don’t have to! The Record reported:
With deposits for the Class of 2011 still trickling in this week, 492 admitted students have confirmed their spots with the admission office as of yesterday, for a yield of 43.9 percent. The office had nearly the same number of deposits at this time last year when the yield was 45.7 percent, though that yield later rose to 47 percent. With a 49 percent yield two years ago, yield appears to have fallen for the second year in a row, though more deposits will arrive this month.
Over the last few days, 25 of the 516 students on the waitlist have been offered spots with a target class size of 538. These students have a week to decide whether or not to join the 277 students matriculating via regular decision and the 215 admitted via early decision.
3) So, this would seem to be an Amherst-specific event. My guess is that Amherst admitted a bunch of students that were unlike students it has admitted in the past. It estimated that the yield for these students would be 80% (or whatever) but it ended up being much higher.
Female applicants hoping to date young men of similar intelligence are wise to consider the gender ratio in the 5 college area. With Smith and Mt, Holyoke, there are probably 3+ smart young women for every smart young men. Those odds lead to the sort of behavior you might expect from young men.
Male applicants (instead of being confused by the above) should consider the difference in common sense demonstrated by female Ephs and female Jeffs in deciding where to go to school. Smart women with common sense make better wives than smart women without it.
Obnoxious, I know, but still. Isn’t there something to this observation? Sounds like a great topic for a senior thesis! I would wager that the typical female Eph is more satisfied with the dating scene at Williams than the typical female Lord Jeff is with the scene at Amherst. But that’s an empirical question. On occasion, I make this same point when interviewing (female) applicants, but only when asked a relevant question.
Of course, the substantive differences between LACs are dwarfed by the commonalities among them. The more important choice that many/most applicants get wrong is between LACs as a group and large universities. Many/most of the applicants who choose Harvard over Williams would be better off the other way.
I continue to be amazed at how poorly informed many applicants to elite schools are, at least those coming from public high schools. I interviewed a freshmen from Harvard last week for an internship. He had been accepted by places like Stanford as well but had not applied to Williams or any school like it. He thought that “liberal arts” college meant a place to study “history.” He had, literally, no idea that the science education you get at Williams is, on the whole, as good as the one he will get at Harvard. (Teaching at Williams is better, but there are, it must be admitted, more research opportunities and advanced classes at Harvard.)
It seems a shame that the Williams Admissions Office does not make better use of committed Ephs across the country to get the message out about what sort of place Williams is. There are scores of alumni (like me) who would be more than willing to talk to top-notch high school juniors in our towns about Williams. Why not make use of us? A topic for another day.
Is there a topic more fun than co-ed bathrooms? Not at EphBlog. Consider this recent thread at College Confidential.
I visited a few week ago, and I noticed that there are co-ed bathrooms. Can you request not to have a co-ed bathroom??? Not to be a prude or anything, but they’re totally horrif! I mean, am I being totally unreasonable in expecting same-sex bathrooms? I was too embarassed to ask my hostess about it… so if you know anything about that, let me know! Thanks.
That said, coed bathrooms are no big deal and I don’t think there are any complaints about it on campus. It might be weird the first few days, but eventually it doesn’t really matter if it’s a guy or a girl brushing their teeth next to you, you know? There’s a door on the toilet stall and a curtain on the shower, obviously.
I agree with gardenstategirl that coed bathrooms are a concern. Sorry but don’t want to use a bathroom with a guy next to me.
Recall that Wendy Shalit ’97 became famous for an article in Commentary on this topic.
I first became interested in the subject of modesty for a rather mundane reason — because I didn’t like the bathrooms at Williams College. Like many enlightened colleges and universities these days, Williams houses boys next to girls in its dormitories and then has the students vote by floor on whether their common bathrooms should be coed. It’s all very democratic, but the votes always seem to go in the coed direction because no one wants to be thought a prude. When I objected, I was told by my fellow students that I “must not be comfortable with [my] body.” Frankly, I didn’t get that, because I was fine with my body; it was their bodies in such close proximity to mine that I wasn’t thrilled about.
0) Can we get the basic facts straight? What percentage of first year bathrooms are single sex? I had thought that the living arrangements in Mission made single sex bathrooms the default option. Is that wrong?
1) Since there are clearly plenty of first year female Ephs who would prefer a single sex bathroom, why does the College refuse to accommodate them? Why won’t it at least ask for people’s preferences on the housing form?
2) I think that it is because the ruling mindset at Williams allows people to have different preferences for food (I am a vegan!) but not for personal modesty. Don’t want a Charlotte Simmons experience in the bathroom? Tough! If this isn’t the explanation, what is?
3) By the way, is there still a housing form for first years which asks about your noise tolerance, neatness and the like? What questions are on this form?
4) Back in the day, the College asked first years if they would prefer to live in a single sex entry. Can you imagine? Turns out that many female first years wanted this. When was this option removed and who removed it?
As someone who has not gotten one an “early write,” I think it’s bad what they’re doing. I think the college admissions process – at least for those applying to schools like Williams – is too stressful as it is, and I think it is unfair they have anxious applicants running to the mailbox every day.
I also think that there is something wrong with the way that accepted applicants are essentially being ranked, especially at a school as small as Williams where if you choose to attend (after not receiving an early write) you might be one of only 100-200 in your class.
I don’t think there’s a problem with rolling admissions, but I think there is a problem with rolling acceptances. If they wanted to do this they should have been up front about it AND they should also have sent out each decision when they were ready, not just acceptances.
A regular reader noted this thread on College Confidential which references our discussion of the 13% statistic and suggests that there is a price for openness, that the College should not be excessively honest in reporting accurate data about itself.
I could not disagree more.
Resources like this can’t help but to affect the college admissions game.
Special points for anyone who can point out Dick Nesbitt’s postings . . .
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