The Class of 2020 Arrives on Campus
Issue   |   Thu, 09/01/2016 - 21:20

On Aug. 30, the 472 students in Amherst’s class of 2020 moved into their new homes in the dorms on the first-year quad and commenced a week of orientation activities.

Students in the incoming class withstood a competitive application cycle last year, as Amherst admitted 1,161 out of 8,406 applicants, making for an acceptance rate of 13.8 percent. Approximately 41 percent of the accepted students accepted their offer from Amherst.

Sixteen transfer students will also join the college. Out of the 403 transfer applicants, only 25 were accepted, making for a six percent transfer acceptance rate.

“I am excited to welcome this new cohort of accomplished, interesting and engaged students to the Amherst family,” said Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Katie Fretwell ’81.

According to Fretwell, a record 47 percent of the incoming class have self-identified as American students of color. First-generation students comprise 14 percent of the class.

Fifty-two percent of first-year students will receive financial aid, down from 56 percent last year, and 22 percent are Pell Grant recipients.

Fretwell also said that 26 different countries are represented in the class of 2020 and that eight percent of students are non-U.S. citizens. “They speak more than 35 five different languages [and] have lived in more than 50 different countries,” she said. Within the U.S., the incoming students come from 40 states, with New York, California and Massachusetts boasting the most students.

Students in this class hail from 379 different secondary schools, 59 percent of which are public, 35 percent independent and seven percent parochial.

They had exceptional academic backgrounds with a record SAT composite of 2177 and an ACT composite of 32. Eighty-four percent finished in the top decile of their class in schools that calculated rank.

After moving, the class of 2020 began their first-year orientation, a week filled with activities designed to introduce them to the college and the community.

Amherst’s orientation program has seen major changes over the course of the last two years. According to Dean of New Students Rick López, these changes were made to meet new goals such as allowing for more “intimate conversations,” bridging “potential divides between athletes and non-athletes,” facilitating better “student-to-student” connection and incorporating “robust sexual respect training.”

This year’s orientation program resembles that of last year, and as with previous years, the highlight continues to be the multi-day “Learn, Explore, Activate, Participate,” or LEAP, programs.

However, the program has also undergone additional improvements and refinement.

“We have given student Orientation Leaders and Resident Counselors an even more prominent role,” said López. “We are also launching a new diversity program in collaboration with our new chief diversity officer.”

López also said that orientation does not simply function to help new students adjust more easily to the Amherst community, but also aims to “empower them to help redefine that community.”

“Given the intense diversity of our small student body, it is always a challenge for students to be open and vulnerable enough, as well as understanding and forgiving enough,” López said, but added that he feels “confident stating that we have [moved] from aspiration to reality in terms of making orientation consistent with our aspirations.”

Students will return from their LEAP programs on Saturday, Sept. 3, and classes will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 6.