This academic year, Grinnell College’s Admissions office received 6,053 applications for enrollment in the class of 2018, a significant increase from last year’s pool of 4,571 applicants.
Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Joseph Bagnoli attributes the roughly 30 percent increase in applicants to changes in the recruitment process and increased publicity for the College.
Overall, the admission rate for the class of 2018 dropped to 26.4 percent, down from 30.5 percent last year. Grinnell saw a significant jump in the number of students from diverse racial backgrounds. However, the number of early admissions applications dipped to 277 applicants from 332 applicants for the class of 2017. The acceptance rate for early admissions students also decreased slightly.
According to Bagnoli, the increased total number of applicants is due to recent changes in outreach programs and revisions of the visiting student experience. In recent years, Grinnell admissions officers, in addition to President Kington, have hosted an increasing number of student recruitment events, such as sponsored luncheons for high school students from cities across the country.
In addition to releasing new publications advertising the highlights of Grinnell, the admissions office has invested more money in the diversity preview program. Bagnoli said that these efforts will increase the College’s yield rate—the number of students who accept Grinnell’s offer of admission.
Grinnell’s admission office has simplified the application process as well. In prior years, applicants were asked to submit a writing supplement in addition to the common application. The writing supplement
was made optional for this year’s applicants.
In light of the recently-presented findings of the Crane institutional identity project, such as Grinnell being more commonly considered a ‘bargain’ school rather than an ‘elite’ school, the admissions office has worked closely with the College to improve the campus experience for visitors with a range of recently implemented changes.
While campus tours previously took visitors from the John Chrystal Center (JCC) to Bucksbaum for convenience, the admission office’s revamped tours follow the academic buildings along Park Street.
According to Bagnoli, this year’s admissions cycle saw many new changes after the work of the Campus Visits and Events team in 2012, which is responsible for improving the experience that visiting prospective students have.
In addition, the Campus Visits and Events team implemented a feedback system for parents and students to respond to the admissions office based on their experiences visiting the campus, both through tours and overnight visits. After examining this feedback, Bagnoli hopes to change aspects of the JCC to make it more welcoming for visitors. “It’s not clearly marked, making it hard for people to find us,” Bagnoli said. “It’s also a very sterile space.”
Bagnoli intends to make the JCC seem more comfortable and to adjust the acoustics to be more conducive to casual conversations. He also wants to use the wall décor to feature current Grinnell students.
With regards to prospective student visits, Bagnoli acknowledged that changes to the overnight program for prospective students would not change the number of applicants, but admissions officers now match prospective students on overnight visits based on academic and extracurricular interests.
Another factor attributed to the significant increase in the number of applications to Grinnell this year is the College’s recent publicity through the news of basketball player Jack Taylor ’15. Taylor’s performances made Grinnell a more commonly-known school and therefore drew more students that may have never heard of the College initially.
Bagnoli also attributes the increased number of applicants to continued efforts of recruitment by purchasing the names of students who have taken the SAT or ACT to focus their attention.
In addition, Grinnell will begin sending recruitment information to underclassmen high school students as well. The admissions office is aiming for a 2018 class size of 435, but they anticipate having to take students from the waitlist this year and other factors that may ultimately change the class size.
Bagnoli said that Grinnell’s class size decreases due to “summer melt” each year, which is a problem that affects every college and university. Students drop their spots at Grinnell before arriving on campus because they have put down two deposits for different schools, which is known as “double depositing.”
Bagnoli also stated that prospective students may have received a spot on a waitlist elsewhere or may have simply chosen not to attend Grinnell for other, personal reasons. After last year’s unusually high summer melt, Bagnoli and his team do not know what to expect this year and have been sure to take precautions with their calculations.