Thursday, April 2, 2009

Boarding pass, please

Nearly two weeks ago I was in Washington, D.C. and heading to Dulles Airport to catch a flight back to Des Moines (the closest large airport to Grinnell). I arrived in plenty of time, made it through security, found the gate from which my flight would board, and sat down to relax. Easy.

An hour later and tantalizingly close to boarding my flight, I received an urgent email from the airline saying my flight would be delayed for two hours. As I waited in line to talk to an agent the digital board behind the counter changed. Now here was really good news - the flight had just been cancelled. Turns out it was mechanical issues.

Why should you care? Well, if you were admitted to Grinnell this year, congratulations, you have the opportunity to be part of an exceptionally talented class. If you weren't, there might be a parallel to my flight escapade. You did everything right - you researched Grinnell, you turned in your application on time, you had great people write letters of recommendation on your behalf, you wrote an essay that you want to frame. So what happened?

I'm pasting in below part of a letter I sent out to high schools two weeks ago so you know what your counselor knows. It explains our "mechanical failure" and our challenges this year.

“As decision letters begin arriving in the mailboxes of high school seniors I thought you would appreciate an update . . . and insight into what shaped our selection process this year. This information may be helpful as you counsel your students and their families.

Grinnell received just over 3800 applications for one of 385 spaces in this fall’s entering first-year class, our second largest applicant group ever behind last year’s pool of 3888 candidates.

Early Decision applications rose by 50% this year, challenging our ability to admit all students we deemed a good fit for Grinnell, and ultimately resulting in a handful more enrollees through Early Decision.

Last year Grinnell enrolled one of the largest classes in its history due to a significantly larger percentage of students responding positively to our offer of admission.

Last year’s large class and four prior years of over enrollment have pushed Grinnell’s on-campus enrollment above our optimal campus plan which is based on our number of faculty, facilities, and residence halls.

To guard against over enrollment, this year’s entering class target of 385 is slightly smaller than normal. This made our acceptance decisions this year particularly difficult as we were only able to admit 27% of this year’s applicants compared to 36% last year. We waitlisted a number of qualified and talented students who would likely have been admitted in prior years.

I hope this information is useful to you in understanding our decisions this year. While on balance this is good news for Grinnell, I know this makes it that much more challenging advising your students about Grinnell.”

To finish my story, I ultimately got home that night and everything turned out all right. I won't pretend college admission is anything like an airline flight but regardless of whether you were accepted, waitlisted, or denied admission, I believe you too will get to where you want to go.


  1. Nice post... who else at Grinnell blogs like this?

    Bill Baar '76

  2. You might be interested in Max Hawsey's blog on the football team.

    Seth Allen

  3. Really awesome effort by this blogger. First time read such type of blog post. Thanks for sharing it dear.

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