The Bates Student sat down with the Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, Leigh Weisenburger on Friday, March 15 to discuss the incoming Bates class of 2023. The next morning, regular decision candidates were notified with their admission decisions. The 2023 applicant pool is another record-breaking pool, and Weisenburger was happy to share her thoughts with The Bates Student at the culmination of the applicant decision process.
BS: What excites you most about the class of 2023 applicant pool?
LW: It’s thrilling that it is a record-breaking pool and the fact that we have 8,222 applicants to the college is exceptional. That is about a 7 percent increase over last year. Last year, we had a meteoric rise of about 45 percent. So, just the continued growth on growth and strength on strength. But it’s not just about the numbers, and I mean that sincerely, it’s really about the diversity and talent we see in the pool. We saw that it wasn’t just sheer numbers, it was growth across almost every cohort with students who are really interested in and excited about Bates.
BS: Why do you suppose the number of applicants has risen?
LW: I think there are three or four main factors that contributed not just to last year’s rise of 45% but have had a continued impact in what was this year’s growth. I say this meaningfully, and don’t take this lightly, but we have an exceptional team in the office of admissions. Applicants see that, and feel as though they have someone in our office who they can connect [to]. So, staff first and foremost. Second, is with the staff we have increased our travel significantly, and also strategically changed up our travel. We are literally hitting almost every corner of the U.S. as well [as international travel]. Three, would be our close work with communications and strategic outreach and that we are really inventive and having fun when we think about communicating not just with high school students, but communicating to their parents and families and communicating to high school counselors, and using all channels and media to do so. Lastly, the fact that we removed our supplemental essay likely was a factor in the increase in the applicant pool last year and likely a factor this year, just wanting to remove barriers to the admission process.
BS: What qualities in prospective students were you looking for to fill this year’s class?
LW: I wouldn’t say this is unique to this year’s class, but with all classes and selecting applicants and admitting them to the college, first and foremost is obviously their academic strength and potential and their intellectual curiosity. So, our number one job always is to provide faculty talented and curious students. That doesn’t mean every student comes to Bates as a finished academic product: they are here to grow and learn. Beyond that, we are looking for students who are engaged and engaging community members. The ways in which they will contribute to the community is different, obviously, per student, but we are always seeking students who see themselves at Bates, and we get a sense that they can really be engaged in thoughtful meaningful ways.
BS: The class of 2022 was large, so will that size impact the class of 2023 in acceptance rate or otherwise?
LW: It has not impacted the size, at least as far as what our target goal is. We had some thoughtful conversations across the institution to think about [changing] the class size in response to the large class of 2022 and decided not to react to the moment, but rather stay the course. [For] the college, that steadiness of 500 students each year is important in a number of ways as we try to plan and prepare for students in the classroom, and dorms, and whatnot, hence the pulling back a little to 495, but not wanting to throttle back beyond that.
BS: You may not be able to answer this but, were there any applications that stood out to you as particularly special or unique?
LW: I really can’t speak about the particulars of particular candidates, just as a matter of practice and policy. I will say though broadly, it’s really a privilege to read student’s applications and get to know them individually. I think [for] those of us who work in admission, it’s what keeps us in it. And it’s wild… it’s wild that you think about these students on paper and you don’t really know them, and then they come alive. It’s very exciting. Some students, you read their applications and you don’t see them until their junior year, and you’re like, “I remember your essay.” Especially where it’s this incredible year for Bates, and we are very selective, and [with] the time we spend combing through applications you get to know the applicants incredibly well.
BS: What has been the most surprising aspect of this year’s admission process?
LW: I guess I would say, maybe not surprising but affirming, it’s just how well the students in our applicant pool self-select. I’ve been in admissions for almost 15 years at Bates and to see that as our applicant pool has grown, and diversified, and grown more global, it’s as if the applicants are almost more self-selecting than ever before. They know that they want to be at Bates and they know that they should be at Bates; that that has not waned as the applicant pool has grown. That is what makes our work fascinating yet challenging.