Is Swarthmore getting more or less selective?

What are peoples thoughts? The top line acceptance rate decreasing from 17% to 12% makes it seem like the selectivity of Swat is increasing. But I noticed that there are a little fewer Valedictorians/top 2%ers as a percentage of the accepted students then there were in 2013. So is Swarthmore getting less or more selective?

IMHO valedictorians are over-rated. In many schools the vals carefully protect their rank through strategic course choice, which is the opposite of what schools like Swarthmore want. There’s more to a transcript than being “number 1”.

I completely agree with @donnaleighg. Our high school had 15 students admitted to Ivy League colleges last fall, and but the Valedictorian was not admitted to any of them. The Valedictorian had spent high school cramming in as many classes as possible, but had no significant ECs, awards or accomplishments beyond that.

To me, Swarthmore taking fewer valedictorians shows me that the admission office is looking for the best candidates and does not feel the need to make a PR move, like taking more Vals, if they are not the best candidates available. Good for them.

I heard that Swarthmore saw a huge increase in applications this year, can’t remember the number but it was substantial. They did make a change reducing the number of supplemental essays required.

I would suggest that selectivity changes occur over extended periods or as the result of major events, thus I would put little or no stock in this years stated decrease in acceptances.

Many of the additional apps are (IMO) the result of changes in the application process…1 essay less, more focus on financial support. I would suggest as a sample of the total population attending college next year, those accepted to Swarthmore represent the same level of student as it has for decades. If students were limited to 3 college applications each, I believe you would end up with a very similar class, meaning all of the extra applications are those reaching or gathering options.

Numerically, I think yield says as much as acceptance rates. Students can only attend one school, so the number of acceptances “wasted” is having an impact on the acceptance rates at highly selective schools. Harvard and Stanford yield 70-80% of their accepted, while “lesser” Ivies are in the 50% range. Swat is estimating a 44% yield rate (418 or 950) this year, versus 43.5% (405 or 930) last year. The admissions department is targeting to add 13 more this year than last.

If you look at the published yield rates over the past 30 years (link below), you’ll see that since the mid 1990’s the yield has improved slightly. I would suggest that the prestige and competitiveness of the school has increased a bit over time.

In a very long way to answering your questions…I would say the competitiveness at Swarthmore has increased slightly over the past few decades, while admission rates (used by major publications to rank) have fallen.

@EyeVee your post #4 is highly insightful and on point. I really enjoy reading your informative posts.

How depressing - looks like I was admitted in the year the admission rate was at its all-time high!

I think it’s all relative. Although admissions rates have decreased everywhere, the newer rates remain similar relative to other institutions as the past rates were. Swarthmore’s admit rate is still comparable to other peer schools just like it was in the past and will most likely be in the future.

Overall admit rate this year was 12% and for the RD pool was 8%. Jettisoning that extra essay (among other things) seems to have helped a lot.

My kid (class of '18) really struggled with that second essay. It did seem a bit redundant with the normal “Why Swarthmore” essay.