Beginning and Ending on a Strong Note

As we approach Commencement next week for Seniors and the wrap up a few weeks later for all students, it is time to look at the next academic year. We are ending on a strong note, with Seniors excited about their impressive college choices (and we’re pleased that the “match” seems strong for them), as well as with year-end Academy traditions like our spring concert to savor (if you missed the two world premieres by BUA sophomore composers and the Stravinsky piece — all performed in Marsh Chapel to a full house — you missed savoring a lot!).

Looking to next year, one of the most exciting factoids from this year involves our amazing admission results. I’ll remind you that our past Strategic Plan set a goal for modest growth, so that our traditional model, which divided our freshman classes of 39-42 students into three sectionsof about 13-14 kids, might grow to 44-48 new freshmen spread across four sections of 11-12 students each over the course of the coming years. Two years ago on April 10 (the deadline for our first round of offers), we enrolled more students than we had projected! That class opened in September with 49 students, our largest class ever, affirming our belief that getting bigger does not have to mean lowering our standards; it was also a very strong cohort comprised mainly of our first choice offers.

While our number of applicants has remained strong, and our acceptance rate has remained steady, one reason for a larger enrollment in 2012 was our improved “yield” results (the number who accept our offer to enroll), which improved significantly in large part because we focused on new yield strategies (such as local gatherings in BUA homes and more outreach to accepted students). This year we experienced another strong yield on our first round offers (6 percentage pointsabove our five-year average): putting us currently at a freshmen class of 50 – again, made up of our most highly qualified applicants.

As we did for the fall of 2012, we plan to accommodate this larger freshmen class by shifting to a four-section model. While we will have done this two of the last three admission seasons, I have indicated to Provost Morrison that we won’t restructure permanently until we show a sustained growth… again, that means a modest increase from our traditional high of 42 to a new minimum of 44 freshmen.

It is rare to be able to point to such quantifiable success in strategic goals, but on our planned modest growth, we can do so…in student numbers as well as in their academic credentials. Now if only we could measure our fabulous spring concerts so concretely…no, scratch that! Art is meant to be savored, not measured…and as we wrap up this good year and anticipate a strong one next year as well, there’s a lot to savor.

Warm regards,
James S. Berkman