Members of the Class of 2017 arrive on campus Aug. 27, and the statistical profile promises an accomplished and diverse group. With a record number of applicants, Colby posted its most selective admit rate ever (26 percent) this year. Median test scores are up, and with 34 states and 41 countries represented, the class showcases diversity in its geographic origins, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and academic and avocational interests.

But it's the individual students and their stories that will bring new energy to campus.

Wilder Davies '17, from Denver, Colo., for example. He's a member of the North American Vexillological Association. Being a vexillologist means he has an abiding interest in flags—and more than a little expertise. But with 21 percent international students in the class (including nonresident foreign students, dual citizens, and permanent residents from other countries), even Davies may get stumped. State flags shouldn't cause him problems, he said, but when told he'll have a classmate from Mauritius he said, “Mauritius. I can't think of that one off the top of my head.”

The flags of all members of the class are used as part of the procession and the new students' assembly during orientation, and Mauritius and Malawi are the two countries for which Colby didn't already have a flag, according to Susan McDougal, associate dean of students.

Davies's classmates also will include a First Lego League world champion, an ice hockey player from New Brunswick who will play against one brother at Bowdoin and another at Amherst, and three students who overlapped at the American School in Japan before going their separate ways and now reuniting on Mayflower Hill.

In all there are 487 first-year students plus eight transfer students expected on campus. Thirty-four additional students will spend the fall semester in France and Spain in Colby programs abroad before arriving on Mayflower Hill for Jan Plan.

Admissions officers said they have noticed a lot more international students expressing interest in environmental studies, challenging the conventional wisdom that most focus on medicine or economics. In fact interest in environmental studies among both admitted and enrolled students, domestic and international, has increased three-fold since 2006, and the percentage of international students who major in ES increased commensurately, institutional records show.

“It's not a niche discipline anymore,” said Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Philip Nyhus. With increasing severe environmental challenges in the United States and abroad, “There's a recognition that environmental studies is a vibrant field to get into. … It's a field with a lot of opportunities,” he said.

Nyhus, who studies efforts in China to reintroduce tigers to the wild, said the trend that the United States saw in the late 20th century is mirrored in a number of other countries around the world. “The emphasis has been on economic growth, but then there's a recognition that there's a cost” in terms of the quality of the environment. Given the number and seriousness of our challenges, “Unfortunately none of us in environmental studies are going to be out of a job soon,” he said.

At the 196th new students' assembly, Sept. 3, President William D. Adams will welcome the class with a formal address and students will sign the matriculation book. There vexillologist Davies will meet the two flag bearers for his class, Hannah Hearn ’17 from Auburn, Maine, and Yuzhe “Harry” Geng ’17 from Beijing, China. Hearn graduated from Hebron Academy, where she was a dorm proctor, tour guide, and an all-conference athlete in both field hockey and lacrosse. Geng, who's expressed interest in math and environmental studies, has attended 13 Model United Nations conferences.

A statistical profile of the Class of 2017 is online.