Every Sarah Lawrence student had to go through the admissions process at some point. It was lengthy, at times tedious, but a time-honored method to decide who would be a good fit for our school. The admission process, for the most part, has remained the same in the past several years.
Kevin McKenna, Dean of Enrollment, described how the admissions department looks at prospective students, “The Holistic process, in which we really try to look beyond the numbers to learn as much about the applicant as possible, has long been the basic and fundamental guiding premise to SLC’s admissions,” he said.
As with most colleges and universities, the high school transcript and essays the applicants provide are the most important components to the admission process here at SLC. Most recently, major change was instituted in this process in the fall of 2013. A new option for prospective students to submit their SAT and ACT test results appeared as part of the application process.
In the past, following with the college’s theme of looking beyond numbers to identify a student’s academic prowess, the college did not even look at test scores. “We did not look at standardized testing,” McKenna said, “In fact we went out very publicly and said ‘we don’t think that these are accurate predictors of success in college.’”
At one point, as McKenna describes it, several students came forward and said that while they tended to agree on this philosophy of looking beyond numbers, they felt that standardized tests could be an indicator for how well an applicant would fair at the college. The students felt that the school shouldn’t exclude prospective students who wanted to submit their high test scores in order to boost their chances of being accepted by the college.
Another aspect that constantly changes at the college is the amount of high schools that Admissions counselors visit. SLC has increased the number of schools it has visited to recruit students by several hundred in the past four years, according to the Admissions Department. While the administration has always focused on visiting schools in New York and California (the two states where that constitute the highest percentages of the student body), SLC has been making an effort to expand these visits to other states that they have been unable to visit in the past. Internationally, the school continues to visit countries including India, China, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, and Japan, among others.
Though SLC looking into finding more applicants to apply to the college, the body of students accepted to Sarah Lawrence is one thing that has remained fairly consistent over the years. The school has always been mainly composed of female students. This year there have been a total of 358 new undergraduate students (excluding transfer students) with 74% of them being female and a total of 25% of them being male. 12.6% of them are international students, and 27.6% are students who identify as students of color (excluding international students). According to Director of Admission and Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment Jennifer Gayles, the acceptance rate this year was around 50%, coming down from 62% last year.
Beyond changes in the admissions process, there has also been a change in how the admissions space in Westlands looks. When people enter the waiting room, a large ornate waiting area that is fully refurnished and well lit greets them.
“We have gone from a very little space in which to welcome prospective students to having one of the best admissions spaces in the country,” said McKenna. “So I hope it makes families feel more at home when they visit.”
Despite some changes to the office and what material Admissions uses to assess prospective students, they will continue to look for the same types of applicants it always has. McKenna says that Admissions will always look for students who are passionate about their interests, but are “willing to explore new ideas and take creative approaches to scholarship, art, and performance.” For the most part, the majority of incoming students reflect these standards.
It will be interesting to see how the school continues to evolve, and how the admissions process evolves with it to adapt to new changes. For now, Admissions will continue to sift through the wide pool of applicants that they receive each year, and choose students that represent Sarah Lawrence values.
by Hugh Thornhill '15