On March 26, Vassar released Regular Decision applicant results for the incoming Class of 2018. Aiming for a class size of 660 students, the school is now waiting for students who have been offered admission to join the Vassar community this fall.
Dean of Admission and Financial Aid David Borus explained the application review process for Vassar and how much work is put into carefully selecting the new class of students.
Dean Borus commented on the nature of the review process, which tends to evaluate students’ credentials on a large scale. “Vassar uses a holistic review process, simply meaning we look at lots of different factors of the application and taking into consideration all the components of a student. The most important is academic credentials, which includes looking at the difficulty of courses taken, that they’ve taken four or five years of those academic courses, the grade trends, and the breadth of the program they’ve completed in high school.”
Borus continued, “As Vassar is not a test-optional school like some schools are, we take into account standardized testing but we also don’t have a minimum cut-off grade. We regularly deny students with perfect test scores because we are looking at the balance of the whole application.”
Beyond tests and GPA, many other elements of a student’s application are examined by Borus and his colleagues. “As for non-academic factors, recommendations from teachers and counselors are very important, as well as demonstration for leadership skills and participation with extracurricular activities. We also need to see several different types of writing samples from the student through the Common App.”
The Common Application, which has over 517 member colleges and serves over a million students annually, is used to apply for undergraduate schools. This year, the website for the Common App had many technical problems that added on to the stress of high school seniors who were applying to college. The nonprofit organization that runs the Common App created a new format online in August 2013 and it introduced various issues when applying, including “frozen screens, trouble uploading letters of recommendation, formatting of essays appearing wrong, and inability to go back and check work” (NBC News, “College admissions process plagued by Common App technical glitches,” 10.31.13). In response to the glitches, many schools extended early-action deadlines to allow students some more time to try and send in their applications.
This year, Vassar received 7,784 applications; “An overwhelming majority were at least in the academic ball park,” commented Borus. Because they are only looking to fill a limited number of spots, they offered admission to 1,774 students (799 male and 972 female), which resulted in a 22.8 percent acceptance rate (vassar.edu).
The top state from where the most students were accepted is New York, with 370 students. There are also 181 international students admitted from 47 different countries. Of the total number of applications, 1,300 came from the international student pool. Students of color and those holding citizenship from outside of the United States make up for 43.2 and 15.1 percent, respectively.
Borus explained that Vassar has no specific target or quotas to fulfill within the applicant pool each year. “We just admit the best kids that apply and we get more than our fair share,” he said.
The admitted pool of applicants for this year includes the 280 students admitted through early decision. Around 40 percent of the applications were accepted for ED I and II, a percentage that is higher than it has been in previous years. The choice to apply early decision demonstrates that Vassar is the first choice for the applicant, but because early decision is binding, the majority of the class still comes from regular decision, as fewer people are willing to make the commitment to one school.
The average admissions officer has around 800 to 900 applications to read, and that boils down to many hours of intensive work, especially after January. As someone who has done this for 40 years, Borus says the time it takes to complete the reading process for an application can vary anywhere between about 10 minutes to half an hour. Due to each school having somewhat of a different grading system, it also takes time to establish a level of uniformity when looking at a large pool of applications.
A recently admitted student from a high school in New York City, Reina Miyake, talked about her application process and why she wants to come to Vassar. “Vassar was one of my top choices, and I am planning to enroll in the near future,” she said. “The main reasons I want to go to Vassar are because it is a small liberal arts school in a quiet, but not isolated area that I can easily travel to from New York City, its diversity in the student body, the close relationships between students and professors, and its strength in the arts and humanities. I am particularly interested in the Art Department, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about Art History, so I look forward to that.”
Miyake appreciated the writing supplements of the Vassar application, which she feels allowed her to properly represent herself to the admissions team. “I think that the application supplements were pretty extensive. I was able to talk about what I liked about Vassar and expand on what I particularly enjoyed doing outside of school. One of the supplements asked for my reasons for wanting to attend Vassar, which is pretty standard of college supplements. The second supplement asked about an extracurricular activity or volunteer work or job that I enjoyed/felt was significant, and I feel that supplement allowed me to share more about myself.”
Now that the work of the admissions counselors has culminated in the acceptance of the Class of 2018, these applicants must inform Vassar of their decision to attend by May 1. In the meantime, there will be several events for admitted students, such as Focus Weekend and Admitted Students’ Day, to visit and learn more about Vassar.