August 31, 2009

Amherst was abuzz with excitement Aug. 30, as hundreds of new undergraduates began orientation and kicked off the 2009-10 academic year.

And what a group of students it is. This year, the Office of Admission received 7,679 applications for the Class of 2013 (the second largest applicant pool for an incoming class in the college’s 188-year history) and 390 applications for fall transfer admission. Of those prospective first-years, 1,216 were admitted and 468 chose Amherst, while 22 transfers were accepted and 17 opted to enroll. That means that fewer than 16 percent of applicants for the Class of 2013 were accepted, and just under six percent of transfer candidates were offered admission.

Here are more few fun facts about Amherst’s newest students:

  • They hail from 23 countries, 39 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico (the top three states represented are New York, Massachusetts and California, in that order).
  • Men outnumber women just slightly—by six.
  • 40 percent identified themselves as students of color.
  • 44—almost 10 percent—are non-U.S. citizens.
  • 18 percent are the first in their families to attend college.
  • 54 percent are receiving financial aid from Amherst.
  • Their ages range from 16 to 22.
  • Robert is the most popular name among the men. The most common name among the women? Sarah trumps Katherine for the first time in many years.
  • They graduated from 388 different schools (61 percent attended public institutions, 35 percent independent and 4 percent parochial).
  • They came from science and technological academies, virtual schools, the United World Colleges, health and fine arts schools, conservatories, economic institutes, law enforcement academies, community colleges, military academies and bilingual schools.
  • For 17 percent, English is not a first language (the students speak more than 20 languages at home and have lived in some 40-plus countries).
  • They describe themselves as Mormon, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, atheist and agnostic.
  • They served as student body and class presidents, head prefects and team captains; managed award-winning newspapers and political journals; led peers to state, national and even international championships in athletic endeavors, chess tournaments and robotics and Quiz Bowl competitions
  • They have founded women’s issues organizations, book clubs, sustainability groups and a capella groups.
  • They are step, hip-hop, ballet and salsa dancers; theatrical directors and winners of one-act play festivals; potters, ceramicists and printmakers; gospel singers, hand bell players, harpists, fiddlers and punk rockers. There are also an unusual number of award-winning playwrights and filmmakers—including one whose work was shown on the Sundance Channel.
  • The wordsmiths among them have been National Council of Teachers of English award-winners, been published in the Concord Review, written for local papers, won essay contests and debated around the world.
  • They are innovative and creative—one has a patent pending for a new type of hospital bed.
  • They have interned for members of Congress; served as outspoken anchors on school TV and radio stations and led young Democratic, Libertarian and Republican clubs.
  • They have worked on violence prevention and anti-racism campaigns, literacy projects, Native American reservations, school boards and missions in Central America and Africa; with Habitat for Humanity; and as mentors to gay youth.
  • They have established microfinance clubs and charities. One young man cut a deal with his parents who were eager for him to enroll in a SAT preparation course: He proposed that if, after round one of his testing without the class, he met agreed-upon target scores, his mother and father would make a donation to UNICEF equal to the amount of the prep course (the organization was indeed the beneficiary of his intelligence).
  • Fifteen opted to pursue some form of non-traditional learning by deferring college enrollment a year until this fall: The students traveled, rafted, hiked, biked and volunteered on five continents; worked in hospitals and villages in Asia and Cuba; earned money as a cast member at Disney; attended culinary school; played minor league hockey; helped restore a castle; served in the military and danced with the Boston Ballet.
  • They were raised by adoptive parents, immigrants, single moms and dads, grandparents, TV producers, nomads, homemakers, neurosurgeons, casino dealers, teachers, cab drivers, welfare recipients, cancer patients, addicts, terrorist prosecutors and a few who claim to be “professional hippies.” 
  • They have lived in apartments, mansions, homes with dirt and marble floors and trailers; on islands, farms and military bases; and with nannies and without.  Several have lived without televisions. 

And they all are now members of the Amherst community.