The end of the last school year brought speculation that the incoming freshman class would be the largest in quite some time.
Levi Kline, assistant director for recruiting, explained, “This class is actually a little bit smaller than last year’s. If you’re looking at the total number of new students this fall compared to the total number of new students last fall, there’s actually two fewer.”
This year’s crop of new students consists of 155 new faces. Last year actually saw 157 new students arrive on campus. Of the 155 new students on campus, 121 are true freshmen; the other 34 are one-year enrichment students, transfers or students with a gap of a semester or more in their enrollment.
Perhaps the talk about the potential size of the incoming freshman class was due in part to the significant number of students attending visiting weekends last school year. “We did have more visitors last year than normal,” Kline said. “I haven’t broken down the numbers to see who were juniors or seniors, but there were a lot of applications in process last year.”
Initially, the class was expected to be slightly bigger, which would have pushed it past the class of 2017 in terms of numbers. But some of the students who applied last year either chose to attend different schools or take a gap year. “I think we expected a lot more students, and for some reason or other, things came up,” admissions counselor Ty Bennett said. “Students here and there joined the Marines or did other things last minute. I think we were expecting 160 to 165-ish.”
Some students plan to attend starting spring semester instead of the more traditional fall semester. In fact, the admissions department expects a comparatively large number of new students in the spring semester.
Although this year’s incoming class is slightly smaller than last year’s, the numbers are higher than in some previous years. The current junior class, graduating in 2016, had 115 true freshmen when they first arrived on campus. The admissions office attributes the new growth in part to better connections between admissions counselors and potential students.
Recently, the admissions office transitioned from being the recruiting center for Principia College alone to the recruiting center for both Principia Upper School and the College. This enables admissions counselors to be in contact with potential students before they even begin to think about college.
Although this new admissions strategy was only implemented about halfway through last year, the percentage of students matriculating to the College from the Upper School has risen. The historic trend is that around half of Upper School students attend the College. Last year’s Upper School graduating class saw about 70 percent of its graduates attending the College. This year’s freshman class is composed of about 60 percent Upper School graduates.
Still, the general trend is that more of the Upper School attends the College every year, thereby increasing class sizes. At its peak, according to Kline, Principia’s all-time high enrollment was 890 students in the fall of 1980.
Although the actual class size may not be larger, there is one unusual thing about this year’s freshman class. Bucking nationwide enrollment trends, there are more men in this year’s new class than women. According to Home Life Manager Reid Charlston, “Because of there being more men and the need to accommodate a growing number of PGIs and GAs [post-graduate interns and graduate assistants], we needed to switch sides in both Rackham and Anderson.” In Anderson Hall, for instance, men are traditionally in the east wing, and women in the west. They have switched wings this year, and the same is also true of Rackham Court.
Despite the numbers, it feels to some like the incoming class is larger than usual.“It feels like there are more freshmen,” senior McGuire Semnacher said. “Our soccer team, for instance – almost half of it is freshmen.” Bennett said, “I can think of a handful on the soccer team, several on the rugby team, and baseball recruits. Every sport is covered, but it seems like it’s a larger class that’s interested in athletics.”
When asked about her impressions of the size of the freshmen class, senior Lyssa Winslow said, “I’d say it feels like there’s more freshmen. They seem like they’re all really involved and engaged, so maybe that makes it seem like there’s more.”