As April rolls around, it’s time once again for high school seniors around the world to commit to a college, and Macalester’s Office of Admissions is waiting to finalize the college’s Class of 2020. Past classes, especially the Class of 2019, have been larger than expected. This year, the admissions team shot for a lower number of admitted students to counter this overflow.
According to Macalester’s Director of Admissions Jeffrey Allen, the large class sizes are due to a higher than expected rate of response to Macalester’s offers of acceptance.
“That’s one of the challenges of this work: trying to predict the behavior of those students that you’ll admit,” Allen said.
For this year’s group of applicants, Allen and the admissions staff have adjusted their numbers to correct for previous years’ large classes.
“We built an admission plan to try to meet a lower than normal first-year head count target,” Allen said. “In recent years, our first-year class target has been around 520-530, but in response to the large student body all four years, we had a target of 500.”
The admissions staff have struggled to accurately predict how many students will accept their offer of admission. The staff has been more selective in hopes of drawing a smaller first-year class.
Although the Class of 2020 won’t be set until May 1, the national response deadline for students, the number of admitted students has dropped sharply from 2,352 for the Class of 2019 to 2,081 for the Class of 2020.
This year’s admitted students resemble past classes with regards to median test scores and class rank.
“We do not observe a lot of variation between year,” Allen said.
This trend applies not only to academic markers but also to demographics.
“Once we’ve assembled the final class of admits, remarkably, year after year, they sort of resemble each other,” Allen said. “That’s true of the statistics on underrepresented students of color that have been admitted and the applicant pool in general.”
There is minimal variation, for example, in the class rank of admitted students or the number of countries represented.
The admissions staff spends December to March reviewing applications and narrowing down the final class. Each application is read by at least two staff members, and many are read by the entire committee.
“It never gets easier,” Allen said, who has been working in the admissions office for 11 years. “Students that are considering Macalester are spending a lot of time thinking about and applying to colleges, spending time writing their college application essays, and we just want to assure them that there’s a lot of effort on our end, too, to select the class and that each application is read and carefully reviewed by a team.”
With Spring Samplers coming up, Allen encourages students to be as welcoming as possible to the potential first years. “There’s a lot of energy, enthusiasm, optimism, excitement. So it’s quite fun to see them on campus.”\