After another year with a record number of applicants?just over 5,400?the admissions office has mailed acceptance letters, according to Dean of Admissions Dick Steele.
Due to the upcoming housing crunch, the acceptance rate of 22 percent was slightly lower than usual, though that number will rise as students are admitted off the waiting list, Steele said. Last year's acceptance rate was 24.3 percent.
"We purposely planned to come in under our target because the housing situation is going to be so tight in the fall," Steele said.
"We don't want to go over by one or two. We're going to be doing a lot of activity with the wait list, I think," he said.
Steele said at the faculty meeting on April 3 that the target size for the Class of 2010 is 480. If that target is reached, the trend of first-year class sizes growing each year since 2000 will continue. This May, the College will lose 441 students to graduation from the Class of 2006.
However, Steele said that the fact that more students may be admitted from the waiting list in no way reduces the caliber of the incoming class.
"We were more competitive than ever before in history, and I'd be thrilled if we could get to some of these students we had to wait list," Steele said.
"Some of the people we let in off of the wait list will do spectacular work. We won't be diminishing the quality of the class in my expectation. It's the best quality I've seen in 30 years of doing this," he said.
Twenty-nine foreign countries are represented in the class.
The widely publicized scoring problems with the October SAT, in which the College Board miscalculated the scores of 4,000 students, had a minimal impact on Bowdoin's admissions process, according to Steele. Although 19 applicants did have revised scores sent to the College, the revised scores arrived with enough time for the admissions committee to reconsider all the students who had been affected by the problem. However, the College was notified of three of the changes just four days before the letters were mailed.
"We went through every case and looked at it again," said Steele. "Most of the score changes we looked at, with one exception, were pretty small and it was pretty clear the decisions did not have to be reversed."
Another issue that has been causing difficulty for some admissions offices is the growing gender imbalance in applications. According to Steele, this was not a problem for the College, but it could affect Bowdoin in the future. This year, 56 percent of applicants and 52 percent of admits are women. In all, 609 more women than men applied.
"I think this is going to be one of the biggest issues in the next decade," said Steele. "There are fewer males in high school, period. They aren't doing as well in coursework as women, they have different rates of aspiration in terms of going to college. Also, trends in the data indicate that in general, young men gravitate to universities and less to liberal arts colleges than women. Add all those things together, and you have a potential problem."
"We've been pretty fortunate," Steele continued. "There's some evidence of imbalance in the high school market, but I don't think it's a huge problem for us at the moment. Other colleges in the last four or five years have had a more lopsided situation."
According to Director of Student Aid Stephen Joyce, two factors may result in a decreased yield, or number of accepted students who enroll at the College.
First, wealthier colleges, such as Penn, Harvard, and Princeton are trying to entice lower-income students to enroll by offering no-loan financial aid packages. Also, increased merit scholarships are persuading students to make their college decisions for financial as well as academic reasons.
"Right now, we're in an interesting position where we don't provide merit money, with the exception of the National Merit Scholarship program, and we're not in a position to have enough financial aid support to be as generous as we'd like to be with loans at this point," Joyce said. "So it will be an interesting year to see what our yield is like and how students make their decisions by May 1."
Additionally, Joyce said that though there were not any other serious changes in incomes or demographics of the incoming class, he was making sure to pay close attention to the burden on middle-class families.
"I think college costs and debt burden and the general national economy push pretty hard on the middle-income family, so we're very interested to see whether those families come to Bowdoin in the same numbers that they have in the past. Certainly if they don't, we'll be making some changes to make sure access is preserved for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds," he said.
In addition to economic factors, Steele said that students applying to record numbers of colleges would also impact the yield.
"We know students are applying to many more places this year than in the previous number of years. Students who did not apply early decision were so insecure about getting in anywhere that they applied to large numbers of colleges. Some students applied to 20," Steele said.
"I think it's going to be a year where a lot of colleges and universities will use their waiting list. I hate the uncertainty of it all, and the students do too, but it will work," he said.
Evan S. Kohn contributed to this report.