College admits more diverse early decision class than last year

by Parker Richards | 12/18/15 1:58pm

Dartmouth admitted 494 students into the Class of 2020 out of 1,927 early decision applicants, an acceptance rate of 25.6 percent, according to interim dean of admissions and financial aid Paul Sunde.

The early decision acceptance rate fell from last year, when 26 percent of early decision applicants to the Class of 2019 were offered a spot in the class.

“This is truly an extraordinary group that we have coming from this early cohort,” Sunde said. “I think it would be safe to say I could not be more enthusiastic about this early group than I am.”

The group accepted this year is more diverse than that accepted early last year. Thirty percent of admitted students are people of color, up from 26 percent last year, and 11.5 percent are first-generation college students, consistent with a general upward trend over recent years, Sunde said.

“That speaks to the larger-term trends in our field and our interest in developing a robust and diverse applicant pool from which we can draw the most compelling candidacies from all backgrounds,” he said.

Despite the College’s decision to switch to a need-aware — rather than need-blind — application process for international students, the number of admitted international students actually rose for the Class of 2020, Sunde said. Fully 9 percent of applicants were international students, up from 8 percent the previous year. The 43 admitted international students hail from 20 different countries and are “geographically and socioeconomically diverse,” Sunde said.

A need-aware policy takes an applicant’s financial need into account in admissions decisions as one of many factors, Sunde said. A student would not be rejected simply for needing financial aid, although that consideration would be included in a holistic evaluation, he said.

“A need-sensitive process is one in which that is one of many factors,” Sunde said. “So would a student’s need status be part of that decision-making process? Yes, it certainly would be.”

The admitted students have a mean SAT score of 2156, which Sunde called “a very strong number” relative to recent years. Last year the mean SAT score was 2145. The mean for the ACT test score was consistent with last year at 32.

“This is a tremendous early group. I can’t overstate that,” Sunde said.

Roughly 19 percent of admitted students had parents who attended Dartmouth, a figure consistent with recent years.

Jordyn Fitch ’20 — whose parents both attended the College — said her legacy status helped her to decide to apply, as did the summer Dartmouth Bound program. Fitch hopes to study film and said the willingness of faculty and staff to speak with her during a visit to campus was part of her decision to apply early to Dartmouth.

“The fact that they were so willing to talk to me and show me around the place really made it feel like a place where I could excel and be accepted,” she said.

The early decision cohort typically includes a higher percentage of recruited athletes than the overall class, Sunde said, although he could not provide a precise figure for the percentage of recruited athletes among the accepted students.

Bethany Burns ’20, who was recruited by the golf team, said the College’s academic and athletic programs both influenced her decision to apply.

“Ever since I visited Dartmouth for the first time in 10th grade, I knew it was the place for me,” she said.

Burns said she has already spoken with her coach and hopes to find a community within the golf team as well as in Dartmouth as a whole.

Recruited volleyball player Carly Tower ’20 said Dartmouth’s familial atmosphere was a major part of her decision to apply to the school, as was her status as a recruited athlete.

“The whole campus environment — the family and community of the school — really appealed to me, so that would be one huge factor,” she said.

This year is Sunde’s first as interim dean. Former dean of admissions and financial aid Maria Laskaris left her post to work in the College’s arts an innovation district earlier this year. The change did not notably impact the decision process, however, Sunde said.

“I think the values that inform our process and the commitment that drives our process, that’s unchanged,” he said.

Dartmouth’s social life and culture has been under media scrutiny for the past few years following several incidents, including the protest during Dimensions of Dartmouth in 2013, the Freedom Budget sit-in in College President Phil Hanlon’s office in 2014, Andrew Lohse’s ’12 allegations of hazing at Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and the derecognition of Alpha Delta fraternity last spring. The negative press did not notably impact applications, however, Sunde said.

“I wouldn’t say this year was demonstrably different from prior years,” he said.

Accepted members of the Class of 2020 interviewed said they were not significantly swayed by negative press coverage of the College. Dartmouth handled its press coverage better than other schools, Libby Decker ’20 said.

Tower said press coverage can “come and go,” but Dartmouth’s academic reputation has stood the test of time.

“I took it with a grain of salt,” Fitch said. “These things happen on every campus.”

Burns praised Hanlon and the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” policy changes for showing Dartmouth’s commitment to addressing the publicized issues and said the press coverage did not impact her decision to apply.

Members of the Class of 2020 will be the first students assigned to residential housing clusters at the time of matriculation, although first-year students will continue to live in freshman-only housing.

The new housing system can provide new social outlets for students, Burns said.

“The new housing system I think will be fun because it will give just another avenue to make more friends and meet new people and build new relationships at Dartmouth,” she said.

Sunde said he was unable to project any figures for applications for regular decision, as most applications will be submitted in a 72-hour window around the application deadline on Jan. 1.

The College will also extend offers of admission to 10 veterans of the American military through the Posse Veterans Program, Sunde said. The program aims to increase the representation of service veterans throughout elite colleges, and Dartmouth Admissions Office representatives will travel to New York this month to accept students.

The early decision acceptances are expected to comprise roughly 44 percent of the total Class of 2020, a slight increase from previous years.