Mount Holyoke has seen steady increases in its applicant pool for the past dozen years, setting new records in most of those same years. That's also the case this year, with close to 3,900 women applying for acceptance into the class of 2016.
This new record is even more impressive than the past increases, which have typically ranged from 2 to 5 percent. The number of applications received by the College's January 15 deadline is 15 percent greater than last year's then-record pool of 3,416–and this increase was consistent across categories, from domestic and international students, to early decision applicants. The jump in the last category means 25 percent of the incoming class has already been enrolled.
Comparing Mount Holyoke's numbers to those of other liberal arts colleges in the Northeast confirms that this surge is unusual. Other admission officers are informally sharing that their applications are "generally up or down a few percent," according to Diane Anci, dean of admission and interim vice president for enrollment.
So what accounts for Mount Holyoke's unusually large jump in applicants? College officials believe the increase is in part due to the favorable attention MHC gained last year when it was ranked first in the category of "Best Classroom Experience" in the Princeton Review's 2011 edition of its annual guidebook, The Best 373 Colleges. The rankings are based on reports from the students of each college, and–although this is the first time the College took the top spot–Mount Holyoke has consistently placed in the top ten in recent years.
Many also credit MHC President Lynn Pasquerella, now in her second year, with drawing new interest in the College. As a Mount Holyoke graduate, she speaks with the authority of first-hand experience, and she has been traveling extensively, spreading the word that Mount Holyoke offers women an excellent education that will prepare them well for purposeful engagement in the world.
In addition, Pasquerella hosts the syndicated radio feature The Academic Minute. The daily two-minute segment airs twice each weekday on more than 60 stations nationwide.
"It's obviously a plus when radio listeners across the country wake up each morning to hear President Pasquerella on the air as the voice of The Academic Minute," observed Anci.
Mount Holyoke has also attracted fresh interest with its merit-based scholarships, particularly the distinguished 21st Century Scholars Program. The latter offers 35 first-year students with an outstanding record of scholarship, achievement, and leadership a renewable scholarship, funding for an internship or research project, and admission to a first-year honor tutorial.
To clarify the scholarship and financial assistance questions they may have, this year's applicants have access to a financial planning tool earlier students did not-–namely, the Net Price Calculator, which allows families to estimate the actual cost of attending MHC. Staff in Student Financial Services and Admission carefully programmed the calculator to give families a fair sense of net cost.
Credit also belongs to the department that represents the College to potential future students. The staff of the Office of Admission has worked hard to bring more prospective applicants than ever before to South Hadley to visit MHC.
Explained Anci, "We know once we get someone here on campus, the chances are very good that she'll apply to Mount Holyoke."