1,554 Accepted Into Class of 2012; Admit Rate is Lowest Ever

MIT released admissions decisions for the class of 2012 on Saturday; 1,554 students, or a record-low 11.6 percent of 13,396 applicants, were admitted. This year’s round of admissions saw an increase in applications from women, under-represented minorities, and international students, said Stuart Schmill ’86, Interim Director of Admissions. There was an overall 8 percent increase in the number of applications from 12,443 last year.

The low admit rate follows an early action stage that saw a two percent increase in early admittances. The net result was that MIT admitted a “higher proportion of early applicants to regular applicants than in previous years,” said Schmill. This was due to “changes in other schools’s early application programs,” added Schmill, noting “we still are looking to enroll no more than a third of the class from the students we admitted early.”

Vast “changes in the admissions landscape” such as Harvard and Princeton’s elimination of their early admissions programs and “broad changes in financial aid programs across the country may have an effect on yield,” said Schmill. Thus the yield, the number of admitted students who enroll, “will be unpredictable.” To account for this increased uncertainty, around 700 students, an increase of about a hundred from last year, were waitlisted. In past years, MIT’s yield has been fairly high, comparable with the yields of Yale, Stanford and Princeton, said Schmill.

A majority of admitted students, 1,245, are expected to apply for financial aid, said Daniel Barkowitz, Director of Financial Aid, on his MIT Admissions blog. With the recent change in MIT’s financial aid policy that eliminates tuition costs for students of families earning less than $75,000, “financial aid may well play a role this year [in admitted students’s decisions],” said Schmill. “We should be more attractive than ever,” added Schmill.

The applicant pool was more competitive this year; there was a 22 percent increase in “academic star applicants” and a 62 percent increase in “non-academic star applicants” according to an e-mail sent to Educational Counselors which was posted yesterday to a College Confidential forum. Schmill said that the “star” applicants mentioned in the e-mail “were identified with some level of achievement either academically or otherwise,” such as science fair winners, athletes, musicians, and artists.

There was a 30 percent increase of admitted “academic stars” and a 35 percent increase in admitted “non-academic stars,” according to the e-mail. But “the ratio of the two groups were about the same as in previous years,” said Schmill. Schmill credited those increases to “better identification and more recruitment” and said there could be a possible “magnet effect” whereby high-caliber students would be attracted by the opportunity to attend the same school as their peers. He also noted that “everyone we admitted was a superstar in some way” and those identified as “stars” in the e-mail simply “had an outlet to demonstrate their achievement.” Nonetheless, “more students stand out” these days, said Schmill, since “there are more opportunities” like science fairs.

Although the number of female applicants increased by 12 percent, the percentage of admitted students who were female remained at last year’s level of 48 percent (747 students). As in previous years, there was a higher female than male admission rate, which Schmill attributes to female applicants being “more self-selecting.” The higher rate “doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easier to get in if you’re a woman,” said Schmill. There were also increases of 13 percent and 12 percent respectively of under-represented minorities and international applicants.

Reflecting on this year’s admissions process, Schmill highlighted the “momentum” delivered by the Web site and student blogs which have had a substantial effect. The “broadness of the experience” of students at MIT is a “well-kept secret,” said Schmill, adding that he wants students to be able to see “what MIT is really like.” Schmill said “one of the questions that we ask ourselves in our committee is: ‘What will the student bring to the community?’”

Schmill said he can’t recall the selection process ever being as hard as it was this year. “Some of the students that we weren’t able to admit were off the charts,” said Schmill. This is a “really, really talented class,” he added.

The target size for the class of 2012 is 1,040, slightly below the 1,069 enrolled in the class of 2011, said Schmill. Until “W1 comes online” and dormitory space expands, “[we can’t] actually increase the class size,” he said. But Schmill looked forward to being able to admit more students, saying “if the world needs more scientists and engineers, then we should train more.”

Michael McGraw-Herdeg contributed to the reporting of this article.