Admissions trends for 2015-16 show decrease in applicants, class size

Macalester sent out decision letters to its newest round of applicants, the incoming class of 2019, on Monday, March 16. This is the first year in which Macalester’s admissions decisions have been available online as well as by letter.

“We finally felt like we were in a good place to do that,” Director of Admissions Jeff Allen said. “A nerve-wracking experience, I think, for any admissions office.”

This year, 6,030 students applied to Macalester, and 39 percent of those were accepted. Approximately 130 of those students were accepted through Early Decision. The target size for the Class of 2019 is 505 students, an unusually low number. Last year, over 540 first year students enrolled.

“The student body is large at the present moment,” Allen pointed out as an explanation for this number. He added that the admissions office’s statistical models predict that Macalester will approach that target number in the fall.

The lower target number is due in part to the fact that the admission rate rose this year in response to fewer applicants. This year, Macalester received roughly 400 fewer applicants than last year. Allen said the admissions office had no explanation yet for this decrease, and was not particularly concerned about the decrease.

“I think we are still exploring that question,” Allen said. “To a certain extent, it is inevitable for a college to experience a decrease in applicants from one year to the next. So this may be an indicator that there is some recentering going on out in the marketplace. But this was not a decrease to cause any alarm bells in this office. We felt that we had extremely qualified applicants applying, and we still felt like we had to make difficult decisions.”

The number of domestic students of color rose slightly from last year, as did the number of countries represented by admitted students. There were also fewer applicants from Illinois, California and Minnesota in particular.

Ultimately, Allen and the rest of the admissions office are looking forward to the next few weeks as Macalester welcomes accepted students to campus for spring visits—a huge undertaking, Allen acknowledged.
Current field initiatives for the admissions office include faculty liaisons, the admissions phonathon, and spring travel in order to scout out applicants for next year’s class.

“We recognize they require student tour guides, student hosts [and] faculty that open up their classrooms. The cafeteria will be very overwhelmed at times by all of the visitors coming in on those Thursdays and Fridays,” Allen said. “The big initiative is to just do what we can to accommodate student visitors and help them understand what makes Macalester special and awesome.”

[Correction: Last week, we reported that 49 states were represented in the admitted students for the class of 2019. In fact, all 50 are represented. Additionally, only 30 percent of admitted students are domestic students of color, not 36 percent as reported.]