In the latest admissions cycle, Carleton received the largest applicant pool in the college’s history, and the acceptance rate dropped to 19.4 percent, according to Vice President and Dean of Admissions Paul Thiboutot.
While the future Class of 2022 has yet to be determined, admissions staff stated that the current group of admitted students maintains the demographic and socioeconomic diversity of earlier classes. “We had a record number of applications, just under 7100. It is an increase of nine percent from last year,” said Thiboutot. “That represents an increase across all kinds of measures, across diversity, across international students. There is no single pocket, it’s just an increase across everything,” he added.
Assistant Dean of Admissions Dana Mackey ’12 said that for the Class of 2022, “we’re looking to have a class of about 525, a little over 500.” “It was a really competitive year, we’ve had more applications than we’ve ever had. Our acceptance rate was lower than it’s ever been, 19.4 percent, which I think will end up being about 20 percent if we end up going to the waitlist. It’s unclear if we’ll go to the waitlist right now, but… we can anticipate likely going to the waitlist this year,” Mackey said.
When asked about the lower acceptance rate, Vice President Thiboutot said, “Are we more competitive? Yes.” According to Thiboutot, who has worked at Carleton for the past three decades, during his first decade, Carleton typically received about 3000 applications in an annual cycle, with an acceptance rate of about 45 to 50 percent. “In the second decade, it skirted to maybe 4000-5000 range, and the acceptance rate skirted between 45-50 percent. In this last decade, application numbers have soared above 5000, to the 6000 range, and now are in the 7000 range in this decade, and the acceptance rate has now hovered between 20-25 percent,” he said.
Thiboutot added that “in terms of standardized measurements, such as academic records that students are bringing from their schools or standardized tests, [in the last decade] that has all been steady or rising.” According to Thiboutot, this is “on par” with other “highly selective colleges.” He continued, “There has been a general increase of applicants to the highly selective colleges. Some of the highly selective places have seen the same kind of phenomenon we have seen, so it’s not unique” to Carleton.
Regarding the potential Class of 2022’s diversity, admissions staff stated that the admitted group of students match or exceed the percentages of traditionally underrepresented students in current class years. Speaking of the group of admitted students, Thiboutot said ,“Is there greater volume and depth within our efforts to have traditionally underrepresented students? Yes. So probably, they represent a solidly higher proportion in the admitted group. Are there more international students? Yes. Is there greater variety within that international group? Yes, which is exciting. Does that mean it’s going to translate into the class? I always want to be careful not to give the impression that is going to be the Class of 2022. I don’t know who we’re going to yield among the students.”
Compared to five years ago, Carleton’s “student of color numbers are a lot stronger now. We have a lot longer to go, as a predominantly white institution, we’re only 28 percent students of color. If you look at schools like Amherst, they are at about 40 percent or so. So we’re always looking to improve those numbers, but they’re better than when I was here,” said Mackey.
Thiboutot said that admissions staff are careful to avoid a repeat of the Class of 2020, which was a record class size. “Our yield went up in dramatic ways that we couldn’t have predicted. We’re seeking the same class size [as the Class of 2021]. Do I know how it is going to come out? No. That’s my great anxiety,” he said. “We took about 35 to 40 percent of the class in one of the early decision groups, and then the rest of the class will come from regular decision,” said Mackey. Thiboutot said “the early decision group was as strong as ever, if not stronger, it seemed more diverse than ever. I feel like we have a very good first impression of the class, along with lots of strong measures in the early decision process. Will that sustain itself in out regular admission pool? We hope, but I don’t know.”
The size of the Class of 2022 will be more predictable after Accepted Students Days, after which “on average about half of the students who come to visit us on Accepted Student Days decide to come” to Carleton, according to Thiboutot. Accepted Student Days begin April 13 and 14, and continue April 19 and 20. Mackey said that admissions staff are eager to welcome the accepted students to campus, saying, “I think people come to Carleton for different reasons, but the reasons I came to Carleton were based on the collaboration, and the kindness of the campus, and I think we still try to look for those things in students. I’m really excited to meet all of these students. I think that it’s a great group of kids.”