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.”