Freshman class sta­tistics are the highest ever. Katherine Scheu | Col­legian

Hillsdale College’s class of 2021 is the smartest on record, according to pre­lim­inary data from the admis­sions office.

The freshmen set new highs for average ACT scores and high-school GPAs, sur­passing the class of 2020’s averages. The 199 women and 195 men make up the most selective class in the college’s history, ben­e­fitting from the admis­sions office’s increasing emphasis on meeting with prospective stu­dents.

“Admis­sions coun­selors are meeting with more stu­dents looking at the college and at more times,” said Zack Miller, senior director of admis­sions. “It helps us get to know everyone and make sure Hillsdale is the right fit.”

First-year stu­dents had an average 30.26 of 36 on the ACT, up from 30.13, and 3.87 on a 4.0‑GPA scale, up from 3.84. The college accepted 41 percent of more than 2,400 appli­cants, an increase of nearly 300 sub­mis­sions.

“It’s the lowest accep­tance rate we’ve ever had,” Miller said. “It’s our goal to not grow the size of the freshman class, which can make for harder and tougher deci­sions. Com­pe­tition for slots of entrance is very com­pet­itive.”

For that reason, coun­selors engaging with prospective stu­dents, even more than once, is becoming more important in deter­mining accep­tance. As a result, admis­sions is increasing the number of admis­sions coun­selors based in the regions where they are recruiting from three to four this year.

“As our selec­tivity increases, we want to make sure we are accepting the right kind of student,” said Kelsey Drapkin ’15, an admis­sions coun­selor based in Dallas, Texas. “We know very little from what is written in appli­ca­tions on who people are. When we meet with them, we get a feel for their per­son­al­ities, what impact they could have on Hillsdale’s campus.”

Plus, with only 30 percent of freshmen coming from Michigan, a drop of two per­centage points from last year, it is logis­ti­cally more con­ve­nient to have more coun­selors out in the field to accom­modate stu­dents from other states, 40 of which are rep­re­sented in the class of 2021, said Lily Carville ’17, an admis­sions coun­selor based in Wash­ington, D.C.

Meeting with admis­sions coun­selors, all of whom are alumni, also gives prospective stu­dents a better under­standing of the college. Several freshmen told The Col­legian those meetings made a dif­ference.

“We spoke a lot about the Honor Code, which is the main reason I came here,” said Michaela Frohnen, who met with her admis­sions coun­selor, Matt Sauer ’16, six times before coming to Hillsdale. “We got to talk about dif­ferent topics that I couldn’t at my high school. That’s some­thing that really inter­ested me.”

Carville said Hillsdale wants the best stu­dents and going to their schools and college fairs is how to keep the college on their minds.

“We want to have a per­sonal rela­tionship with them,” Carville said. “We want them to be able to trust us. Coun­selor is part of our job title — coun­seling people is part of our job.”

It worked for freshman Grace Schoenle, who met with admis­sions coun­selors a total of seven times. She said insights from them made Hillsdale’s aca­demic rigor less daunting.

“The way they express per­sonal interest in you and want to know things about you, that made me com­fortable coming here,” she said.

Even faced with the prospect of studying among the smartest incoming class Hillsdale has seen, Schoenle said she is not fazed: “Awareness of how smart the class is helps me, because it’s OK if I’m average because everyone is super smart.”

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Breana Noble
Breana Noble is The Collegian's Editor-in-Chief. She is a born and raised Michigander and studies politics and journalism. This summer, Breana interned in New York City at TheStreet, a business and finance news website. She has previously worked for The Detroit News, The American Spectator, and Newsmax Media. She eventually hopes to pursue a career in investigative journalism. email: | twitter: @RightandNoble