As prospective students eagerly await their Early Decision letters, admissions officers around the 5Cs are breathing easier, having finally sent out the first round of acceptances. This year’s officers faced even harder decisions than usual, dealing with an increased applicant pool across the 5Cs. At Harvey Mudd, the number of applications increased by about 20 percent. Claremont McKenna saw a 32 percent increase in Early Decision One applications and a 20 percent jump in second round Early Decision applications. Pomona’s Early Decision application rate also increased, although not as dramatically as the others, with applications up 10 percent from last year. At Scripps, the numbers were consistent with the increase over the past few years.
Although it was difficult, the colleges all felt satisfied in their search to find those few students who best represent the direction they see their respective institutions taking.
Peter Osgood, Director of Admissions at Harvey Mudd, where only forty-two of the nearly 140 Early Decision applicants were accepted, explained that of the already very specific student who applies to the college, Harvey Mudd admissions officers look for the student who fits into the distinctly “Harvey Mudd” culture. That student has typically done “more thinking about themselves and about the college,” Osgood said.
“We look at how well the student would fit with the culture of our school,” Osgood said. “Not just fit curricularly, but with a culture, sort of the ways that we interact, the things that we think are funny, the things that we think are cool… it has to do with the intensity of it, the playfulness of this place.”
However, Osgood added that as the numbers of applicants increase, admissions officers are faced with more difficult decisions on what qualifies a student for a coveted letter of acceptance from the college.
“There are going to be a good number of students who are going to have perfect scores on their SATs and we’re just going to have to say ‘well…’ and it gets harder and harder,” Osgood said. “It gets to the point where, it’s ridiculous that we’re judging this.”
As difficult as it may be, the bottom line for Osgood and the rest of the Harvey Mudd admissions team is that they are looking to build a strong, happy community.
“Anyone at the Claremont Colleges knows there’s stuff that happens here that doesn’t happen anywhere else,” Osgood said. “Some of that stuff’s ridiculously cool. And we like that. It’s not because it’s eccentric, it’s because it’s imaginative and it gets other people involved.”
Down the road at Claremont McKenna, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Richard Vos said that of the submitted applications for Early Decision One and Two, 137 new students were admitted for the class of 2015. Given the typical class size at CMC, this means nearly 40 percent of next year’s freshman class have already been admitted.
Vos said a strong CMC applicant is someone who can utilize the resources of the school.
“We’re looking for students who are a good fit for Claremont McKenna, who belong at Claremont McKenna, who would benefit from Claremont McKenna, who would make a contribution to the community, who are energetic, outgoing, friendly and enthusiastic and who kind of fit what we consider to be the Claremont McKenna personality,” he said.
The Claremont McKenna personality, however, can be a variety of things, and when faced with certain applicants, Vos said he sometimes appeals to what he calls the “roommate test,” and poses the question of whether or not an applicant would be “a good roommate for another new student, living in a double room for eight and a half months next year.”
Though the kind of people who apply Early Decision are not often distinctly different than those who apply regular decision, Vos noted that they are typically incredibly enthusiastic, forming what he described as the “nucleus” of the incoming freshman class.
Past the vine covered trellises and blooming carnations, Scripps College Director of Admissions Laura Stratton said that although the admissions pool for Scripps Early Decision is small, the admissions team at the college is not worried. She sees the Early Decision process at Scripps as being for the students who “have come and they’ve visited or they’ve had a sibling at one of the 5Cs.”
“This process of admission has gotten very frenzied and it’s very stressful,” Stratton said. “[Early Decision] is just a nice way for those students to have the peace of mind of having turned something in early [and] also hearing back earlier. That’s always our hope. The credentials [of the applicants] are really the same.”
According to Stratton, for the class of 2015, the Early Decision applicants had largely the same average GPA and SAT scores. The differences, Stratton noted, were more in the qualitative assessments than in the numbers.
“In terms of interests, we are just really impressed about how well these students do their research,” Stratton said. “That was one thing we really noticed this year: that if students were applying to Scripps, they weren’t applying to be in Claremont; they were applying to be at Scripps. And they talked thoughtfully about the core curriculum, mentioned Challah for Hunger and going to afternoon tea—there was really a sense that they were really buying into the Scripps experience, more so than ‘I want to be in Claremont, so I’m applying to Scripps.’”
With so much potential in the applicant pool, Stratton and the Scripps admissions team break the profiles down and ask the same questions of each prospective student.
“We think, ‘will this student be successful at Scripps?’ Not just survive, but really succeed,” Stratton said. “And also, ‘will she be happy here?’ And those questions cut across all different types of application options.”
Across Marston Quad, the Pomona Office of Admissions was abuzz as admissions officers and student admissions fellows were hard at work reviewing new stacks of Regular Decision applications.
“We saw more ED applicants than we’ve ever had,” said Pomona Associate Dean of Admissions David Brunk. “I know for ED1 we had 232 [applicants], which is about as many as we had last year, but we saw a big jump in ED2 [with] 274 this year. From those 506 applicants, we admitted 104.”
The roughly 30 percent acceptance rate for Early Decision applicants has been consistent of Pomona. The students generally have similar aspirations and goals as their peers who apply Regular Decision, and according to Brunk, as the number of applicants increases, his job and the job of the admissions team at Pomona gets more difficult.
“There are only so many spots to go around,” Brunk said. “And we don’t want to get to the point where everyone that applies has to fit some sort of niche. We want there to be room for really good, smart kids, who maybe don’t do something that can be evaluated by somebody on campus. It’s really just keeping track of everything. We want a balanced, broad, and diverse [admitted class] in any way that you can measure it.”
As the week ends, admissions council members around the Claremont Colleges are settling in to read the piles of Regular Decision applications. In March, large envelopes will be distributed to high school seniors across the country: the early members of the 5Cs class of 2015.