LEWISTON — After seeing a surge in applications last year, Bates College is preparing to welcome the second-largest class in its history.

The college expects 550 students to arrive on campus next week, nearly 10 percent more than its typical class. Only once, back in 2001, was there a larger class.

College officials said the larger size isn’t the result of a deliberate decision to expand the number of students. It’s because more students than usual accepted Bates’ admission offer, which may be a sign the school’s already high reputation has notched upward.

Despite the number of students in the Class of 2022, it represents “the most selective class” Bates has had, Leigh Weisenburger, dean of admission and financial aid, said in a prepared statement Friday.

Applications to Bates rose by 45 percent over a year ago, the college said, with 7,685 students seeking admission. The previous high was 5,636 applications four years ago.

While it’s hard to say why there were so many more students applying to Bates, one of the reasons is almost certainly the college’s decision to stop asking applicants to write a supplemental essay.

Dropping it made meant students could use the common application accepted by many schools and not have to do anything extra for Bates.

Also playing into it, officials said, was a recruiting push and an expansion of the college’s “purposeful work” program, which is aimed at making students more successful at what they do once they leave the college. Weisenburger said that Bates also “increased the number of recruitment staff, enabling us to meet more students and families across the country and around the world.”

It also “evolved our digital communications, reaching an exponentially larger group of students, families and counselors,” she said. “We launched an immersive virtual tour giving students the ability to experience campus from afar.”

However, the sharp increase in applications isn’t why more students are heading to Lewiston for Monday’s move-in day.

Officials said that happened because almost 10 percent more of the students offered a spot in the freshman class accepted the offers than in a typical year. Many students get a green light from multiple colleges and have to pick from among them.

Officials said 24.4 percent of the students who were accepted this year ended up choosing Bates, up from 22 percent a year ago.

“The increase in the regular-decision yield is another indication of the college’s market strength,” Weisenburger said.

Admissions officials compare the process of picking a new class as something like a funnel. Applications pour in at the top and are winnowed down after a review of each one for signs that a particular student would be a good fit.

Given that the top of this year’s funnel was substantially larger than ever before, college officials had to be more selective than usual to wind up with a class that it anticipated would have a little more than 500 students, the usual figure in recent years.

At first, Weisenburger and the admissions officers who reviewed applications said they wondered if the larger number of applications would include many that weren’t up to snuff.

That didn’t turn out to be the case.

Over and over, Weisenburger said, they found that students had the academic background to deal with the rigor of Bates’ classrooms and showed a real interest in attending.

“The pool was historically strong academically. They had done their research: They knew Bates,” Weisenburger said.

“It was a very self-selecting applicant pool, just as it always has been. The only difference was that it was 45 percent larger,” she said.

In terms of geography, 41 percent of the new class hails from New England, 23 percent from mid-Atlantic states and 10 percent from other countries. It has more men than women.

Students of color represent 23 percent of the class, while 11 percent of the new class are the first in their family to attend college.

Slightly more than half of the incoming students attended public high schools and 49 percent went to private schools.

Forty percent of the class is receiving financial help from Bates, with an average grant of $43,555. Bates estimates a typical student will need $71,168 this year for tuition, room, board, books, travel and other expenses.

During the past five years, Bates has seen a 56 percent increase in applications from first-generation-to-college students, a 40 percent hike in interest from African-American students, a 68 percent increase in applications from Latino students and 27 percent more from Asian-American students.

International applications have risen by 105 percent during the past five years, the college said, pushed by triple-digit hikes in interest from students in China, Pakistan, India and Ghana.

It is also seeing more applications from students in the Midwest, the West and the South.

Steve Collins can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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