New applications record for third consecutive year

Mount Holyoke College received more than 5,000 applications for the first time and admitted its most diverse class in history.

For the third year in a row, Mount Holyoke College received a record number of applications. But this year’s record of 5,030 first-year applications, which represents a 2.7% increase from last year, also signals another milestone: attracting more than 5,000 applicants.

“It’s a goal we’ve had for many, many years that has finally been actualized,” Dean of Admission Leykia Nulan said. “It’s an indication of the high-quality education and incredible student experience that Mount Holyoke College offers students.”

The new application record also reflects new normals coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. As in the last few application cycles, more high school students are learning about Mount Holyoke College online and applying without visiting campus when compared with pre-2020. At the same time, the College’s targeted digital marketing efforts are paying off, Nulan said.

“Students are more willing to find the places they’re interested in via digital searches,” she said. “And we’ve become more savvy and strategic in how we use our digital marketing resources.”

A broader national trend that predates the pandemic is likely also increasing the volume of applicants, Nulan added. The number of schools students are applying to continues to rise with the growing prevalence of the Common Application and test-optional institutions. (Mount Holyoke College does not require SAT or ACT scores on its application.)

Campus visits likely convinced more students to apply this cycle as old travel patterns returned. In-person visits were way up compared to the 2021–2022 application cycle, exceeding 1,200 — just 200 shy of prepandemic levels.

Anjali Phadnis’ visit to South Hadley last year, the last stop on her Massachusetts college tour, crystallized her choice. She left campus knowing she would apply to Mount Holyoke College via early decision and enroll if admitted. “The campus is stunning, so calm and peaceful,” said Phadnis, whose hometown is San Marcos, California. The deciding factor was the sense of community she felt during a campus tour and the conversations she had with students on campus.

“It felt like a small, tight-knit community — exactly what I’ve been looking for,” she said. “Down-to-earth but academically engaged women who are striving for something more.”

Tangible campus features, such as pianos (which Phadnis plays) in residence hall common spaces and the Gettell Amphitheater also caught her eye.

Phadnis, who plans on studying biology and music and joining the track and field team when she arrives on campus this fall, grew up in a Hindu family that spent years living in Gabon, Oman, and then California. She’s one of 799 admitted domestic students of color, who comprise 41.5% of the 1,926 newly admitted students. The College expects to enroll 545 students in the class of 2027, roughly the same number as last year.

“This admitted class is the College’s most diverse in history,” Nulan said.

Another standout feature of the newly admitted class: a greater number of first-generation college students — 395, or 21% of all admitted students — than the last few years. This is particularly heartening given the pandemic’s negative impact on first-generation-student application and enrollment levels, Nulan said.

The next step is to ensure that an economically and racially diverse group of students end up on campus this September. Many admitted students are weighing other options, having applied to multiple schools. Nulan’s inclusion team is now focused on targeted outreach and recruitment efforts. A group of first-generation, low-income students was able to travel to campus, all expenses paid by College grants, for the April 16–17 “Experience MHC” open house event. A motivation for establishing that event was the knowledge that a campus visit can be a deciding factor that drives an admitted student to enroll.

For some students, though, a campus visit isn’t possible — but Mount Holyoke College’s pull is so strong they still enroll. That’s true for Ioanna Tsoni, one of 222 newly admitted students who live outside the United States. Tsoni, who lives in Athens, Greece, learned of the College from her high school’s college counselor. In November, Tsoni connected with the College’s director of international admissions, Amy Markham, at a college fair hosted by her high school. She applied via early decision and was accepted.

After learning more about the College through its website and social media content and speaking with current Mount Holyoke College students from Mauritius and Greece, she decided to enroll. “I love the school’s spirit, and all the activities the school offers students are amazing,” said Tsoni, who plans on studying psychology or neuroscience.

“High numbers of international students have long been one of our distinguishing qualities,” Nulan said, noting the College has a higher percentage of international students compared with peer institutions. The newly admitted class comes from 42 countries outside of the United States.

Another unique quality of Mount Holyoke College? A prominent reference in “Dirty Dancing.” The film’s central character plans to attend the school. In fact, Phadnis first heard of the College through the movie. Tsoni happened to watch it the day before she received her acceptance letter. The coincidental timing made her decision to enroll even easier.

“Every step I take toward the College is more exciting,” she said. “This is a dream come true for me.”

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Christian Feuerstein
  • Director of Public Affairs and Media Relations