Whitman class of 2016 receives fewest acceptances since 2006

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In addition to handing out the lowest number of acceptances since 2006, Whitman College experienced a significant dip in applications. This year, 2,851 students applied for spots in the Whitman College Class of 2016, down 347 applicants from last year.

The eight percent decline in applications follows one percent and three percent declines in applications in 2010 and 2011, after a record year for applications in 2009. Director of Admissions Kevin Dyerly attributes the decline in applications to the economy, cost and location, as well as demographics.

According to Dyerly, many areas across the United States, particularly the Midwest and Northeast, are experiencing declines in the number of high school graduates.

“We’re right in the middle of a six- or seven-year stretch where the demographics [of graduating high school seniors] are on a downward slope and that’s really correlated pretty well with our applicant pool,” said Dyerly.

Dyerly noted that the three-year downward trend in applications is not unique to Whitman.

“We’ve gotten numbers from a lot of small liberal arts colleges across the country and it seems to be a pretty typical trend,” said Dyerly.

One notable difference in this application cycle is the number of applicants from specific geographic regions. In the past two years, the number of applicants from the West has been pretty flat, but that was not the case this year.

“This year we saw a little bit more than a modest decline [in applicants] from Washington, Oregon and even California,” said Dyerly. Dyerly noted that this decrease in the Northwest, a region that represents over 60 percent of applications, contributed greatly to the eight percent drop in applications.

While these declines are not sustainable, Dyerly says that the Office of Admissions is currently engaged in conversations regarding how to prevent further erosion in the applicant pool.

“We are really focused in on some strategies to make sure we switch around that trend, specifically here in the Northwest,” said Dyerly.

Although the downward trend in applications is of some concern, Dyerly says the school is still in a very good position.  Despite being down eight percent in applications, the acceptance rate this year was 47.8 percent, which was lower than last year’s admit rate of 53.7 percent.

Illustration: Emily Johnson

Dyerly cited many reasons for this lower admit rate, including a class enrollment goal of 400 new students, higher enrollment rates in early decision, and the need to accommodate up to 27 students who deferred admission in 2011.

The quality of the applicant pool this year was every bit as strong as prior incoming classes. The first-year admitted student class profile is strikingly similar to last year’s; both classes have a median high school G.P.A of 3.87, a median SAT score of 1370 and an ACT composition score of 31.

The lower number of applicants did not make admissions decisions any easier this cycle. The depth and quality of the applicant pool, in combination with a smaller number of available slots, made spots in the class of 2016 hard to come by.

“There are quite a few students on the waitlist that we would have loved to have taken and in another year might have been able to admit if we had more space, ” said Dyerly.