CHESTERTOWN, MD—Washington College and its new president are welcoming the largest, most diverse freshman class in the school’s 228-year history. If test scores are any indication, it’s also one of the smartest: the class of 2014 has the highest high school GPA and the most impressive SAT/ACT profile in a decade. Forty percent were members of the National Honor Society, and 25 percent of the in-state students were recognized as Maryland Distinguished scholars. Many are benefiting from the College’s largest ever amount of scholarship and financial aid funding—more than $18 million.
The record-setting 420 freshmen will be moving onto campus Thursday morning, August 26, and starting several days of orientation activities. Statistics paint a portrait of a class that is 57 percent female and hails from 21 states and the territory of Guam, plus Argentina, China, Ethiopia, Korea, and New Zealand. Fifty-four percent are Marylanders, with 51 students representing the Eastern Shore.
Students of color make up 13 percent of the new class—the largest percentage of minorities to date. Washington College legacies account for 8 percent of the freshmen, and some 35 percent were recruited for athletic teams. The prestigious Presidential Fellows program, which offers a select group of high-achieving students additional opportunities for intellectual and cultural growth, will welcome 11 percent of the freshmen to its ranks.
President Mitchell Reiss, who took office July 1, is looking forward to the start of the academic year and to meeting both new and returning students. “The freshmen and I are starting out together on this new adventure,” he says. “I’m very excited about the diverse talents and experiences they are bringing to campus, and I look forward to getting to know them over the next few months at meals and events.”
College administrators and staff have been busy all summer preparing residence halls for the influx of new students. Mela Dutka, vice president and dean of student affairs, says Gibson Hall has been refurbished to house 21 men. For the past two years, dining services used the Gibson building as office space while Hodson Commons was under construction. In addition, says Dutka, “we have increased occupancy in some other dorms, making a double into a triple where space allows, and we’ve selectively converted some residence-hall lounges into student rooms.”
The orientation schedule includes a welcoming ceremony for new students and their families on the Campus Green, a tour of Chestertown, and a series of information sessions mixed with social events such as an outdoor movie and a dance. On Sunday evening, when all students have returned to campus, a traditional campus-wide picnic will end with a fireworks display. Classes start Monday morning, August 30.