By Emanuel Costache '09

Don’t let the jeans and flip-flops fool you: the Class of ’11 is a worldly bunch. Its members have lived in some 50 countries and speak 29 different languages in their homes—including Elvish. In the late summer, all 474 of them—along with 11 transfer students—assembled in Johnson Chapel to hear Director of Admission Katie Fretwell ’81 lay out some facts she’d gleaned from their college applications and essays.

The first-years come from the largest applicant pool in Amherst’s history, Fretwell announced, and they constitute the largest class. Women are in the majority, making up 54 percent of the class. The youngest first-year is 16; the oldest is 21. (The oldest new transfer student is 29.) Thirty-eight percent of the first-years identify as students of color. There are first-years from military bases, African villages, citrus farms and prairies. A total of 16 percent are first-generation college students. More than half are on financial aid. “And a surprising number of you,” Fretwell told the class, “for reasons known only to you, provided the admission office with details of your 13-year perfect attendance records.”

The Class of ’11 boasts a male model, a clown and a published poet, Fretwell added. One member has been dubbed “the horse whisperer,” another anointed Mr. Congeniality. A self-described “immersion journalist” in the group has worked as a homeless person, a Jewish Muslim and a resident in a hippie commune. There is also a football player who appeared on NBC’s Today to talk about his hobby, knitting. The class includes surfers, AIDS educators and firefighters, as well as four sets of twins and four other students who each have a twin.

And, Fretwell declared, for the first time ever, the Benjamins in the class outnumber the Michaels and the Andrews. (The dean of students is Ben Lieber. Coincidence?) Among the women, Katherine is the most popular name—no real surprise, at least not to the Cate, Kathy and Katie on the admission staff.