Keeping up with Smith College: Record-Breaking Year for Smith Admissions

Photo courtesy of | Smith received 5,251 applicants this year, a record number and a 5% increase from last year’s admission pool.  

Rachel Farber '16 Assistant News Editor

On March 1, Dean of Admission Debra Shaver posted a photo on Twitter of herself holding a plate of cupcakes with frosting reading, “5,251.”  Accompanying the photo was the caption: “Celebrating another record number of applications!  Cupcakes for everyone!”

Smith received 5,251 applications for the class of 2020.

“We were excited to announce that, for the ninth year in a row, we’ve received a record number of first-year applications,” Shaver said.  “Last year we had a 12 percent, increase and this year it was another five percent … It has been a trend.”

Shaver attributed the increase in applicants to several factors, including Smith’s expanded social media presence and the increase in prospective students’ visits to campus, which include tours, programs and information sessions.

“We had to add an additional fall preview program because we literally couldn’t handle any more people at the one we were already hosting. We know that once we get a student on campus, she’s more likely to apply and enroll,” Shaver said.

Shaver also cited additional funding from President Kathleen McCartney, which allows admissions to host two new programs,  “one for school counselors and another for directors of community-based organizations (who work with first-generation and low-income students),” Shaver said. “We’ve seen an increase in applicants from these schools and [community-based organizations] once these counselors get to know Smith better.”

Shaver also said that the evaluations of these programs are impressive.

The increase in applications might also be attributed to a general trend by which high school students are applying to more schools each year, due to rising in competition in college admissions. In 1990 nine percent of high school students applied to seven or more colleges, according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling. By 2011, that group rose to 29 percent.

Not all pools of applicants have risen, however.  “The number of applications to the Ada Comstock Scholars Program is about the same this year as last year,” Associate Director of Admission and Ada Comstock Advisor Sidonia Dalby said.  “We had a few more applications for January but a few less for September.”

According to Dalby, most Ada Comstock Scholars enter Smith from community college, and the enrollment at community colleges in New England is down five to six percent this year.  “The applicants are very strong this year, so we will have some tough decisions to make during upcoming admission committee meetings,” she said.

In October, Smith announced that they would be adopting the Coalition Application, a new evaluating system for college applications spearheaded by Smith, University of Maryland and Emory University. The applications proposes to give students a sort of “virtual locker” that is available to them at the beginning of high school, Vice President of Enrollment for Smith Audrey Smith said.  The “locker” allows for a more holistic approach to the admissions process.

The founders of the Coalition Application believe that “early engagement supports under-resourced students during the college preparation process,” according to their website.

“If planning tools were added to an application platform, more could be done to get low-income and first-generation students thinking about colleges like Smith and other Coalition schools that could serve them well,” said Smith.

The Coalition will launch in the summer of 2016, and Smith is planning to accept both the Coalition Application and the Common Application, which might show an even greater increase in applications for the next applicant pool.

“Frankly, the most important recruiting tool for admission is the strength of the college and its profile around the world,” said Shaver.  “Smith is in an exceptionally strong position, and that’s what benefits admission the most.”