Welcome aboard, class of 2024: Amid global pandemic, College greets 1,761 new students

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GRAPHIC BY CARMEN HONKER / THE FLAT HAT

As morning breaks Wednesday, Aug. 12, 1,761 new students will arrive on campus to constitute the College of William and Mary’s class of 2024. Joining the university community are 1,559 incoming freshmen and 202 transfer students. They will be beginning their careers in Williamsburg amid substantial uncertainties brought on by COVID-19, which has delayed returning students’ move in dates until Labor Day.

Sixty-seven percent of new students live in Virginia with another 33 percent coming from outside Virginia. Associate Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Tim Wolfe ’95 M.Ed ’01 said that this year’s admission cycle saw a slightly higher percentage of in-state students committing to the College, partially due to concerns over cost and distance from home that were exacerbated by COVID-19.

The middle 50th percentile of the class of 2024 performed within a 1300-1490 SAT range, as well as a 30-34 ACT, and 77 percent of incoming students graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class. The class’s academic performance mirrors statistics from previous admissions cycles, with the class of 2023 entering the College last year with a slightly higher SAT middle percentile range of 1320-1510 and an identical 30-34 ACT range.

Thirty-two percent of the class of 2024 students identify as people of color and five percent are international students. These populations closely match those from last year’s incoming class, with 33 percent of class of 2023 members identifying as people of color and seven percent originating from outside the United States. Additionally, 10 percent of incoming students are first generation university students.

The College’s acceptance rate ticked up slightly from previous years, with 42 percent of class of 2024 applicants being admitted compared to 38 percent last year. Wolfe said that the university anticipated a higher than average acceptance rate this year due to uncertainty fomented by COVID-19 and noted that more waitlisted students received admission offers than is typical for a regular decision admissions process.

“We knew COVID and the challenges that were just starting to come into view just as the final week or two before sending out admissions decisions,” Wolfe said. “We knew pretty clearly we were going to have to make some additional admission offers.”

Coupled with an increase in the College’s admission rate was a decrease in the university yield rate, which refers to the percentage of admitted students that ultimately matriculate as students in Williamsburg. The College’s yield rates have been declining for several admissions cycles, and this year saw a 26 percent total yield rate, a small shift downwards from an average of 28 percent over previous cycles.

Wolfe theorized that the class of 2024’s declining yield rate may be due to out-of-state students adjusting their expectations for college based on concerns elicited by COVID-19, as well as their exceptional academic performance that makes them competitive applicants at other universities.

“In some ways, that’s very much fueled by out of state, which is what we expected in the COVID environment,” Wolfe said. “Students that are applying out-of-state here aren’t just randomly doing it. They’ve done some research, and they’re usually very strong applicants. On the one hand that’s great, it means we have a strong group and the admitted students are fantastic. On the downside though is that they’re fantastic, and they have a lot of great offers.”

Seventy-five incoming students have opted to temporarily defer their matriculation at the College until a future semester, decisions which Wolfe said were also likely related to COVID-19. Usually about 15-20 students in each class opt to defer their admission for a year, marking a significant increase in the number of incoming students that will not be physically present on campus during the fall semester.

Some students deferring admission plan to matriculate at the College in spring 2021 instead of waiting a full year to delay their attendance. Wolfe said that the university is working with these students to ensure that they begin their time in Williamsburg in a way that works comfortably for their specific situation, whether it means starting a semester or year late.

“The bottom line is if a student wants to defer, we’re going to find a way to make it happen.”

“The bottom line is if a student wants to defer, we’re going to find a way to make it happen,” Wolfe said.

College spokesperson Erin Zagursky illustrated some unique extracurricular and academic characteristics of the incoming class of 2024, describing new students’ passions for diverse hobbies and skills that will come with them to Williamsburg.

“Some of the new students include a person who won an amateur disc golf world championship as a 10-year-old, a trick golf-shot video viral sensation, a U.S. junior national team short track speed skater, a competitive Scrabble player who placed in the top 10 at the National School Scrabble Championship, a person who has written five books, a nationally recognized food allergy advocate and a nationally ranked archer who participated on the USA Archery National Junior Dream Team,” Zagursky said in a press statement.

Despite a tumultuous admissions cycle and uncertain paths forward for new students as they arrive on a campus nearly devoid of returning students, Wolfe expressed confidence in the class of 2024’s ability to succeed and thrive at the College in the years ahead.

“We remain impressed and thankful across the board for what students have done, and how they and their families have navigated through this process. Likewise, we are very appreciative of our partners across campus who have tried to help with students as they arrive.”

“We remain impressed and thankful across the board for what students have done, and how they and their families have navigated through this process,” Wolfe said. “Likewise, we are very appreciative of our partners across campus who have tried to help with students as they arrive.”