Dean of the College of Liberal Arts
The fall 2011 semester began with 454 new first year students, the third consecutive year with over 450 new first-year students. Add another 39 transfer students, and that’s nearly 500 new students on campus this fall. Total enrollment in the College is now approximately 1,725, and we expect to exceed 1,800 next year.
Of course, any school that is growing its student body faces some challenges in doing so. In particular, colleges have to be careful to maintain the quality of the student body as they grow. At the same time, growing the student body presents a unique opportunity to diversify the College, in every imaginable sense of the term.
I am happy to report that Drew continues to recruit many of the very highest achieving high school students. 17% of the Class of 2015 came to Drew with a high school GPA between 3.9 and 4.0, and the average high school GPA in this year’s class rose from 3.32 to 3.40. This year, we had particular success in recruiting students to Drew with Presidential Scholarships in the arts and RISE Scholarships in the sciences, as well as students joining the Baldwin Honors and Civic Scholars programs. These programs have very high retention rates, on par with those of the most highly selective colleges in the country, and our aim continues to be to use these programs to help raise the bar College-wide.
Admittedly, average SAT scores have dipped since going “SAT Optional” about five years ago. Of course, as a New York Times opinion piece noted on September 19, SAT scores have also been falling nationally. That said, Drew has become an especially attractive choice for accomplished and highly motivated students who have done well in high school, but do not perform as well on standardized tests. Most students still make their way into Drew by submitting SATs—about 65% of this year’s entering class submitted scores. For the other 35%, we are able to look more closely at specific achievements, whether in civic engagement, the arts, or–in part thanks to submission of a required graded essay–the classroom.
The SAT Optional policy has also contributed to the growing diversity of Drew’s students—this year, about 38% of the first-year class are students of color. The correlation between SAT performance and race and economic status is well established. But the SAT Optional policy serves any student with unique abilities who might otherwise be limited by weak performance on the SAT’s. This represents an extraordinary opportunity for the Drew community, the benefits of which we are only beginning to realize.
The SAT Optional policy will be formally reviewed this year, and we will look to determine especially if the graded paper represents the best and most appropriate way to supplement applications from prospective students who elect not submit SAT scores. We will continue to build on our recent success as we reaffirm our goals of increasing selectivity while maintaining the diversity of the class.