By Tony Cabasco, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid

Good morning.  It's my pleasure to add my welcome to the new students and their families.  We are delighted that you and your families are here to begin your Whitman experience.

Convocation is one my favorite events because it celebrates the beginning of the academic year and signals the arrival of a new group of bright students who will begin their academic career at Whitman.  

While today is an exciting time for us at the College, today is also a bittersweet time for us in the admission office.  For the past 6-18 months, we’ve been your primary contact.  The staff and I have gotten to know you, interviewed you, read your essays and applications, advocated for you, and have looked forward to welcoming you here.  Now, our formal contact ends as we officially welcome you to campus.

As I look out and see the new students, I reflect on the process that led you here today. You were selected from the largest applicant pool in the College’s history.  Over 3,400 students from nearly 50 states and more than 70 countries completed applications. 

While this group of students is in many ways like other groups of Whitties, you do hold one distinction for our office though perhaps it’s less evident to the new students.  You were the first group of applicants whose applications were reviewed electronically.  Instead of having stacks of folders on our desk last February and March or carrying home crates of applications, our admission staff members huddled up next to our laptops as we reads your essay and application materials.  You might say that you are the “greenest” group of entering student ever as our office was able to use less paper last year.

As my colleagues and I read your applications, we looked for students who love academic challenges and can handle the rigors of a Whitman education.  We also tried to find students who demonstrated a passion(s) for something, students who were highly engaged in their community and made a difference in some way, and students who would provide a different perspective in and out of the classroom.  I would like to think that we were successful in finding students who demonstrate these characteristics.

I’d like to share a few more details about this entering class:

  1. They are academically talented – it’s self-evident in the traditional measures of GPA and test scores.  Two-thirds ranked in the top 10% of their HS class.
  2. They are a diverse group – about ¼ are students of color or international students and 1 in 7 are first-generation students.

They bring perspectives from different parts of the world – from Egypt to China, Delaware to Denver; Miami to Montana, and Singapore to Seattle.  

About 11 languages are represented in this entering class.

Nearly 40% have traveled abroad already in their high school career or in a gap year.

This entering class is made up of students who are accomplished not only in the classroom, but beyond it as well.  

About 1/3 of the entering class held a leadership position as a class or ASB officer, editor or co-editor of a school publication, captain or co-captain of a varsity team, and/or founded a club or organization. (Two of my favorites are a Quidditch Club and the Student Anti-Genocide Coalition).

Finally, I’d like to share a trait that we may be able to ascribe to this entering class.  Last January before the application deadline, a few of us in the admission office were concerned about the trends we saw with the application numbers.  They trailed our previous year’s results by double digits.  We held out faith that the students who had started an online application would eventually submit.  However, it was touch and go.  

During a 48-hour period around January 15, our application deadline, about 1,500 students pressed submit on their online applications, which is nearly half of the total.  

Instead of interpreting that as a sign of procrastination, I’ll cast the most positive light I can and just say that this group of students will come through when you need them the most.

In closing, let me say to the new students, "welcome" and "best wishes." Study and learn like you never have before, engage in some of the most stimulating intellectual conversations you will ever have, have fun, and cherish your time here.

To members of the Whitman community – faculty, staff, current students, alumni, and friends – I proudly present the new transfer students and the class of 2013. 

Thank You.