The Bates class of 2020 is one of the most diverse classes yet in the history of the college, which marks a milestone in the institution’s consistent efforts to grow and improve. Leigh Weisenburger, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, provided valuable insights into how this class was formed.

Whether it be because more people are applying to college in general or because more people are brave enough to experience the Maine winter, the class of 2020 had the largest applicant pool in the history of the college. There were 5,356 total first-year applicants. It was also the second most selective year in admission in the last ten years. 11.7 percent of the applicants applied through Early Decision and the overall admittance rate was 22.6 percent.

Moreover, the statistics also strongly demonstrate the class’s diversity. From a racial standpoint, 23.8 percent are U.S. citizens who identify as students of color and 5 percent are non-U.S. citizens who identify as students of color. Geographically, the class is more than just people from Boston and other parts of Maine. Only nine percent of the class is from Maine and 60 percent are non-native New Englanders.

Other statistics Weisenburger cited also showcase the college’s mission to create opportunities for those who have historically not been afforded them. 12.4 percent of the class are first in their family to attend a four-year higher education institution. 53 percent are female and 47 percent are male and the majority of students in the class did not attend private high schools.

When asked what accounts for the unprecedented level of diversity in this year’s class, Weisenburger responded that this year “we did not make significant shifts in our recruitment and enrollment practices in an effort to increase the diversity of the Bates Class of 2020,” but instead went on to explain the programs that have been working for years towards this effort.

One such initiative, the Prologue to Bates program, is “a diversity fly-in program” that caters to students living in the U.S. who are first-generation or low-income students, and/or who have been historically underrepresented in higher education. After being accepted, students receive a three day visit to Bates, free of charge. Students are immersed in the Bates experience by attending classes, staying with current students, touring the campus, eating in the dining hall, and participating in an admission interview, among other activities. This program has “continued to receive record numbers of applicants,” says Weisenburg.

Bates admissions representatives also travel globally to hold information sessions and to attend college fairs, work with Community Based Organizations, fly in students for other events, and help students with their financial aid and admissions applications through phone-a-thons.

However, some application trends have remained the same. 51 percent of applicants for the Class of 2020 submitted either the ACT and/or SAT, despite the college’s test-optional policy and holistic application process (similar to percentages in recent class years). 42 percent of the class of 2020 are receiving institutional need-based aid, which is similar to the overall number of currently enrolled students receiving the same kind of aid (44 percent).

The class of 2020 represents Bates’ increased efforts to provide an academically rigorous residential liberal arts education for as many people as they can. Making sure each class is diverse; racially, ethnically, socioeconomically, and geographically, creates a more enriched education for all students.