Admitting the Class of 2013

By Stuart Schmill, Dean of Admissions

This year in Admissions was an interesting one, with the downturn in the economy causing a lot of uncertainty as to how things would turn out. In the end, things turned out quite well for us.

The year started with a robust recruiting season. We sent mail to 65,000 rising seniors, gave presentations on MIT and admissions to 13,000 students and parents in 75 cities around the nation and world, and visited 4,000 students in 400 high schools. More than 14,000 visitors attended an on campus information session and tour, and our mitadmissions.org website received more than 7,100,000 web hits from 3,100,000 unique computer IDs.

This season also marked our first year as a Questbridge Partner school. Questbridge is a non-profit organization that recruits high achieving students from low-income backgrounds and connects them with partner schools.

The partner schools are among the most highly selective in the country; Questbridge changes the lives of the students in the program, and offers the schools access to some highly talented students, many of whom would not have had the guidance to steer them toward schools of this caliber. We are thrilled to be welcoming 54 Questbridge Scholars to our campus as part of the class of 2013.

Applications to MIT increased by 17% this year, the largest percent increase in the last 30 years. Our partnership with Questbridge accounted for about a third of the increase, and the other two-thirds was likely caused by a combination of our recruitment efforts, the economy — both in the recognition that the type of education that MIT provides will be the perfect hedge against financial uncertainty and the fact that we offer generous financial aid — and the growing awareness of the importance of science and technology in our society.

We admitted a record low 10.7%, or 1,675, of the 15,661 applicants, and will enroll 1,075 first-year students in the fall. The incoming class is 45% women, 24% under-represented minorities, 19% first-generation in their families to attend college and 8% international citizens. Students will be coming from 48 states (can you guess which states are missing? ***) and 52 countries. Almost half the class (48%) speaks a language other than English at home, and 78 foreign languages are represented, from Albanian to Yoruba. Three-quarters of the class of 2013 were the leader (president, captain, etc.) of an organization, and one in six founded an organization or business. 40% are valedictorians and 89% are in the top 5% of their high school class.

Things clearly turned out well for us, and we will enroll a superbly talented and diverse class. But there was a great deal of uncertainty as to what students would choose to do, given the effect of the economy on many of our families. More students than ever were scrutinizing their financial aid awards. 450 parents had private meetings with a financial aid counselor during CPW — a 33% increase from last year. More students than ever still hadn’t told us their plans as of April 30 (the day before the deadline to reply with their decision to enroll). And our admissions staff were having more conversations with students and parents about finances, hearing that as much as they would like to attend MIT, they just couldn’t afford it and were not comfortable taking out loans. In the end, though, students made decisions the way they have in the past, our yield being quite similar to last year.

The downturn in the economy will have one lasting effect, however. Like offices across DUE and MIT, we are cutting our budget significantly for next year. The two biggest areas for change for our office will be (1) becoming more efficient with our processes to process applications and handle inquiries with a reduced staff, and (2) changing how we recruit students, significantly reducing our direct mail program and staff travel, in favor of adding resources to our website.

Despite the challenges of the last year, I am confident that as conditions evolve across the nation and world, and at MIT, we will continue to attract the best students to our campus, and keep our community as dynamic as ever.

[***missing states: North Dakota and West Virginia]