A Closer Look at College Admissions

In spite of a highly competitive year for college admissions, Phillips Academy has, for the most part, only seen a slight decrease in admissions rates. Amid rumors of falling acceptance rates for PA students, 45 percent of Andover applications (1,232 out of 2,737 applications) were accepted this year, said John Anderson, Director of College Counseling. This percentage of acceptances is down by four percent from last year’s 49 percent, but it is on par with the averages of the past four years. The years 2005, 2006 and 2007 also saw admissions rates of 45 percent. “Statistically, this year is no worse than previous years,” said Anderson. Each Andover student was admitted to at least one school, according to Anderson. “Essentially 100 percent of the students will have a college which they can attend,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s their first choice, and it may in fact be their only choice.” This year, applications were numerous, with Seniors averaging 8.5 applications each. Anderson said that this number might have caused the speculation of an especially difficult admissions year. “It’s tough when students go against the advice of the College Counseling Office, and apply to one of the Ivy League schools, which is not a realistic choice. And then, on April 3, when all of the Ivies are sending out their notifications, that’s a lot of rejection,” said Anderson. Yale, Harvard, Brown, Princeton and Stanford received some of the highest levels of applications from PA students this year. Anderson said that members of the admissions board at Princeton informed him that Phillips Academy had the third largest number of admitted students from a single pool in the world. Ninety-one PA students applied to Princeton this year, and Princeton admitted 24 of them. Of 103 applications, Yale admitted 21 students from Andover, making a 20 percent acceptance rate that is higher than in previous years. The Stanford admission rate, however, has dropped this year. Of 84 applications, 20 Seniors were admitted—a 24 percent acceptance rate, in contrast to 32 percent in 2008, and 29 percent in 2007. One noticeable trend this year was an increase in applications to Ivy League universities. Whereas in the past four years approximately 60 students have applied to Princeton each year, 91 Seniors applied this year. Anderson attributed this rise in applications to “erroneous logic.” “Students seem to think that the more Ivy League [schools] they apply to, the better chance they have of getting into one. That is statistically untrue,” said Anderson. “We don’t really judge our success based on the college matriculation sheet. That’s not the ultimate test for us. We look for the best fit for the student,” he continued. The large size of the Class of 2009—322 Seniors—is another factor behind the large amount of college applications this year, said Anderson. Institutional priorities, or factors that a college admissions board places above others, often play a role in the rejections of seemingly qualified students. “Many small liberal arts schools try to maintain a 50/50 gender balance, which means that they often have to turn away extremely qualified girls,” said Anderson. This factor does not simply apply to gender balance. According to Anderson, other types of institutional priority include geographic diversity, sports, arts, music and economic diversity. Tiffany Li ’09 said that she believes each graduating class has difficulty accepting their acceptances and rejections. “I think this year was hard, but I think that every class of Seniors finds it tough,” said Li. “It’s hard to be faced with the reality between how colleges view your peers and how you view your peers.” Sarah Smith ’09, a post-graduate, said, “I have no idea where I’m going. I got wait listed at Bates, which is currently my first choice, but I have a very slim chance of getting off of the wait list.” “I can’t speak for everyone else, but from my own personal experience [as a PG] it seems as though this year is a lot harder year than last. Last year I got into Bates, but decided not to defer in the hopes that a year at Andover would give me better opportunities. I don’t regret coming to Andover, it’s just really unfortunate,” Smith continued. “I’m pretty sure that I’m going to George Washington University in D.C. but I’m looking into a gap year because I really want to solidify my Spanish and get more experience before going to four more years of school,” said Declan Cummings ’09. Cummings added that he would prefer to take a gap year that is less structured and that he would “probably defer GW. It was more of a safety school. I was a little disappointed with how my admissions turned out.” “I am waiting to get off of four wait lists,” said Will Frank ’09. “My number one choice is Carleton College.” He continued, “Everyone saw that statistic about this year’s Senior class being the biggest [that brought on the panic.] I put in my deposit to Macalester College, but I do think it’s realistic that I could get off of the wait list.” Looking forward, Anderson said that he does not believe the class of 2010 should be especially worried. “I don’t think that next year is going to be much different,” he said. “We’re just learning what impact the economic downstream will have on college admissions,” he said. However, Anderson added, “Nothing makes me feel that next year is going to be any easier.”