‘Decisions — Ours and Theirs’: Dean of Admissions Scott Meiklejohn With An Update on ‘Theirs’

Scott Meiklejohn

Scott Meiklejohn

As a follow-up to last month’s column about acceptance letters and the process to get to that point, Scott Meiklejohn, Bowdoin’s Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, writes of what happens next.

Last month, I wrote about the admissions shoe being on the other foot — the month of April being the time when admitted students decide where to enroll. With the college and university deposit deadline of May 1 now in the rearview mirror, readers of the Daily Sun might be interested in how things turned out with the Bowdoin Class of 2019.

In a word: fantastic. We currently have 521 students in the class, and yield (the percentage of admitted students who said ”yes” to their Bowdoin offer) was at the highest level ever.

When the class arrives in August, we will welcome a very talented and interesting group of students from 46 states, 25 countries, and 402 high schools. More than 30 percent self-identify as multicultural. By our usual measures, the academic profile of the class is at record levels; as I often say, I’m glad to be reading the applications and not actually competing for a spot in the Bowdoin class.

Nearly 46 percent of our new students will receive need-based, no-loan financial aid. A powerful part of Bowdoin’s story is our investment in young people of talent, no matter their family circumstance, and I want to thank all alumni and friends of the College who have supported our financial aid program. This year, we will provide $9 million in grants to the entering class and more than $34 million overall, with an average grant of more than $40,000.

The Class of ’19 is one of the most international classes ever to come to Brunswick; about seven percent are not U.S. citizens. In additional marks of the College’s broad geographic reach: in the past two classes we have enrolled more students from California than from Connecticut, more from Illinois than from New Hampshire, as many from Utah as from Rhode Island, and more from China than all but a dozen U.S. states.

Admissions reports, including numbers like the above, can be a blizzard of one-year data points that don’t provide much perspective. See most media coverage of selective colleges — were applications up or down this year, what percent were admitted this year, how many legacies enrolled this year, etc. etc.?

To put Bowdoin’s results this year in perspective, consider that Bowdoin had 3,974 applicants for the Class of 2001. It would be another three years before the College had more than 4,000 applicants. This year we had 6,790 candidates for admission. The number of candidates who earned academic ratings at the two upper tiers of our scale this year was more than the entire applicant pool for the Class of 2001.

In that same year, 1997, the admit rate was 34.1 percent. That figure in 2015: 14.9 percent.

Perhaps most revealing of Bowdoin’s admissions profile, in 1997 the overall yield on offers of admission (a blend of Early Decision students enrolling at a rate of 100 percent and Regular admitted students enrolling at a lower rate) was 34.9 percent. The yield figure has been increasing each year and this year reached a record 53.1 percent, a clear indication of Bowdoin’s appeal to some of the most talented students in the world. One of our most exciting results last month was the 35.1 percent yield on Regular offers of admission — our Regular yield is now higher than the blended yield of about 25 years ago.

These great results are not great news, unfortunately, for students holding a place on the Bowdoin waitlist. Our past results tell us that the current enrollment of 521 will become a smaller number as May and June move along. Over the next six to eight weeks, some students will make plans for a gap year and others will accept waitlist offers of admission from another college or university. Will we get down to our original class target of about 500? My friends in the Student Affairs area counting on it. Will we be able to offer admission to anyone on the Bowdoin waitlist? Never say never, but our April success means that waitlist offers are doubtful.

The trustees held their May meeting this past weekend, and among other things it was a great celebration of Barry Mills and his 14 years at the College. Barry has been a retail dynamo and a yield machine — a tremendous support to our admission and financial aid efforts, not only in his leadership around issues of access and opportunity but also in countless individual contacts with students and parents. Thanks, Barry!

If all goes well in admissions and financial aid, the next few weeks can be good ones to catch a breath. Most high school juniors are finishing the year, taking AP exams, going to prom, and putting their focus where it needs to be.

It will soon be summer, and we will once again welcome students and parents to the coast of Maine. As an indication of what our summer might be like, and to report one more Bowdoin record: from February 1 to April 30, we hosted more admissions visitors than in any year in Bowdoin’s history. I’m sure that signals a busy summer ahead as we meet the young people who may become members of the Bowdoin Class of 2020.

With best wishes from Brunswick,


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