By Stephen Gruber-Miller
The last two years have shown a significant increase in applicants to Grinnell, due largely to a change in tactics by the Office of Admission.
During this time, acceptance rates have dropped from 44.8 percent to 30.2 percent. The class of 2017 will be roughly 15 percent international students and 30 percent domestic students of color.
According to Joe Bagnoli, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, applicants for the class of 2016 showed a 53 percent increase over the previous year.
The increases mean that Grinnell will admit fewer students from the wait list this year in order to reach the target class size of 430.
Changes in recruitment strategy, such as purchasing names of students who have taken the SAT and ACT, mailings targeted towards specific groups of students and more tightly focused international travel, account for much of the increase, according to Bagnoli.
“You can influence the people who enter your prospect pool in part by purchasing names,” he said. “You go to the College Board and you buy the names and directory information of people who’ve taken the SAT. You go to ACT and you buy similar names.”
For previous classes, the College purchased names just once; this year it purchased names four times throughout the year, so that they could more easily locate additional students.
In selecting the class of 2016, the College began a policy of persistent communication.
“When we find, for example, that a student appears to be well-matched to the institution, even if that student doesn’t reply to our initial appeal, we can communicate with them as though they have,” Bagnoli said.
Additionally, the College website is critical for introducing students to Grinnell, Bagnoli explained. He cited marginal improvements over the last few years and expressed his enthusiasm for the impending redesign, which will be implemented this summer.
Once the site is in place, Bagnoli noted, the number of applicants is expected to climb again. “We’re due for another increase once our website reflects the kind of quality that students can expect upon enrollment at Grinnell,” he said.
The number of international student applications has also grown this year.
“I didn’t think it could go higher than last year and it did,” said Coordinator of International Admission Jon Edwards.
Edwards spends around six weeks a year traveling around the world speaking to students and their parents about Grinnell and the liberal arts. He mentioned the importance of maintaining diversity within the international student body.
Bagnoli said the College has the capacity to adequately support 69 international students or about 16 percent of the incoming class. Currently 65 international students have paid deposits for next year.
Closer to home, Bagnoli reported an increase in applicants from Iowa. He cited the College’s new $10,000 Iowa Scholarship as a major reason, which the College advertised to prospective applicants.
“All successful applicants from Iowa this year for the first time are eligible for the $10,000 award,” he said.
Another domestic increase is due to Grinnell’s re-entry into the QuestBridge program two years ago, which identifies academically strong underrepresented students and matches them with appropriate colleges and universities. Over 300 applications have come through QuestBridge this year, Bagnoli said.
“I think QuestBridge has contributed to a significant increase in the applications and the admissions of domestic students of color,” Bagnoli said.
However, Bagnoli warned that an increase in applicants from a certain group should not be equated with an increase in incoming students from that group.
“Just because we increase the application pool doesn’t necessarily mean that they were students who were competitive in the application process,” he said.