In college admissions, applicants often perceive exclusivity, translated as less than 5% admit rates, as a higher quality education, and (sometimes more importantly) a guarantee of lifetime prosperity, The Golden Ticket, as one is forever branded with elitism. However, in coming years, applicants may be guessing more often than not about the selectivity of a university.
Several highly selective universities, starting with Stanford in 2018, then Cornell in 2020, and recently Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania in 2022, will no longer report their respective admit rates.
In 2018, Provost Persis Drell of Stanford reasoned the lack of reporting admit statistics as:
When Stanford publicizes its admission numbers during the enrollment cycle, the main result we observe is stories that aim to identify which universities experience the most demand and have the lowest admit rates. That is not a race we are interested in being a part of, and it is not something that empowers students in finding a college that is the best match for their interests, which is what the focus of the entire process should be.Bold emphasis added by Creative Marbles
Provost Drell calls for a return to a student-centric college admissions process, where applicants discriminately choose a university which suits their individual aims.
She punctuates her advice with:
We want students to know that when we encourage them to apply to Stanford, it’s not because we wish to be known as a most competitive university with a low admit rate. It is because we want promising students of all backgrounds to seriously consider the educational opportunities and possibilities at Stanford.”
And, simply the act of completing Stanford’s application which includes eight separate, Stanford specific written responses plus the 650 word Common Application autobiography is a “serious consideration”. Each applicant can deliberate their reasons for requesting admissions from Stanford, building an argument to why they are a qualified applicant.
Provost Drell also offers insight about the ideal Stanford Cardinal:
Each year, we strive to put together a class that is academically excellent, intellectually nimble and enormously broad in backgrounds and perspectives. By focusing on the admit rate, talented students who would thrive at Stanford may opt not to apply because they think Stanford seems out of reach. And that would be a shame.
She and her team, as gatekeepers of the university, seek students who are assertively seeking knowledge, synthesizing information quickly, and representing a diversity of viewpoints and experiences.
While Provost Drell ostensibly argues for more reason and common sense in the admissions process, a worthy position, students and families aren’t naive, nor has Stanford’s 4.3% Fall 2018 admit rate faded from memory. Thus, her efforts may need more years to bear fruit, coupled with a sea cultural shift in the view that a college degree is essential for financial security.
Perhaps Princeton’s Dean of Admissions Karen Richardson heard Provost Drell’s call, as in Spring 2022, Dean Richardson echoed her words:
Neither prospective students nor the University benefit from the admissions process being boiled down in headlines to a single statistic like the admission rate. We do not want to discourage prospective students from applying to Princeton because of its selectivity.Bold emphasis added by Creative Marbles Consultancy
Like Provost Drell, Dean Richardson seeks a diversified pool of applicants, and seeks to preserve access to admissions, as is the guarantee of the modern Academic Meritocracy.
However, students who may be intimidated to apply can reflect, “Why am I intimidated? What am I seeking from Princeton? And, why is Princeton worthy of me?” As a byproduct, a student can gain confidence in their ability, further defining their purpose in life, thus understanding why a college education is worthwhile, regardless if they apply to Princeton or not.
In another recent article, University of Pennsylvania vice provost and dean of admissions, Whitney Soule reasoned the decision to cease publishing admissions rates as:
It is not that those things aren’t important—the admit rate, for example, holds a source of pride for students who’ve been admitted and it feels really special to have gotten a spot—but we also know that the admit rate decline among schools like ours is also part of this anxiety churn. It was an opportunity for us not to contribute to that at the time that we were admitting students.
Instead, we took the opportunity to talk about who—really who the students are—we admitted. We referenced their commitments to research, service, jobs, and so forth rather than what they represented or how few of them were admitted.Bold emphasis added by Creative Marbles Consultancy
Vice Provost and Dean Soule empathizes with the anxieties of a teenager, who’s on the cusp of adulthood, seeking to divine their life’s purpose. She and her UPenn admissions team seek to understand a student’s past beyond the statistics, like GPA, understanding experiences, including: their contributions to community, knowledge generation through research, and their families.
Yet, in the same article and announcing the incoming Class of 2026, Vice Provost and Dean Soule states that demographic information and Fall 2022 admit rates will be published in other public data sources, so potential applicants can assess if UPenn’s student body matches with their own community needs. She reasons:
It is also important that when students are looking at Penn, that they understand that it is a diverse place, so we know the demographic information is important. When we have our class settled, which represents who’s actually enrolling, we will be able to put that up on our website and people will be able to see what our class looks like.
As every Ivy League college and Stanford will extend test optional admissions policies through the Fall 2023 application cycle, only likely continuing the annually increasing numbers of applications, admit rates, whether reported or not, will likely continue decreasing, thus likely adding anxieties for potential applicants.
Thus, potential applicants would be prudent to consider not only why they seek such an exclusive admissions offer, but if in such an exclusive college environment, they’ll discover more about their talents through connecting with collaborative peers and mentors to not only gain economic prosperity but also peace of mind.
Then, perhaps, they’ll be heeding Stanford Provost Drell’s, Princeton’s Dean Richardson’s and UPenn’s Vice Provost and Dean Soule’s encouragement to choose any of their institutions because they match, not because of the seeming elitism.
Interactive Graphic from The Harvard Crimson, May 4, 2022
For more information about how the educational experts at Creative Marbles help students and parents navigate the modern college admissions process while seeking to unleash the potential of a young person, contact us