How Legacy Gives A Leg Up

The Wall Street Journal: “At the University of Notre Dame, the University of Virginia and Georgetown University, the admission rate for legacies is about double the rate for the overall applicant pool, according to data from the schools. At Princeton University, legacies are admitted at four times the general rate, or roughly 30% compared with about 7% overall over the past five years, the school says.”

“Legacy applicants at Harvard University were five times as likely to be admitted as non-legacies, according to an analysis of admissions data from 2010 through 2015. The numbers—33.6% for legacies and 5.9% for those without parental ties—were submitted in a June court filing for a case claiming Asian students are being discriminated against in the name of greater diversity at the school.”

“Advocates for considering legacy status argue that favoring the children—and, in some cases, grandchildren—of graduates helps maintain an engaged and generous alumni base and lets students serve as ambassadors to new campus arrivals … Critics say giving legacy applicants any preferential treatment undermines diversity initiatives, especially for schools that aren’t growing … A handful of elite schools, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology, don’t consider legacy status in admissions.”

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Unlocking The Mysteries of The Essay

The New York Times: “Documents showing that Harvard rated Asian-American applicants lower on personality traits than applicants of other races raise questions about how college admissions officers evaluate intangible criteria. What constitutes ‘likability’ or ‘courage?’ How do they know someone is ‘widely respected?’ … Most schools look at grade point averages and standardized test scores and may also review letters of recommendation, college essays and extracurricular activities. Colleges that do consider personal qualities are highly variable in the traits they look at and how they are ranked. Nor are they interested in disclosing their criteria.”

“In a study of 10 unidentified schools commissioned by the College Board, traits included ’emotional intelligence,’ ‘self-efficacy’ and ‘creativity’. Leadership, education experts said, is perhaps the most obvious and the most common trait colleges consider in applicants … Colleges don’t like to talk about this much, and officials don’t like to be pinned down. In general, they say they look for traits that reflect the college’s values or that make a student a ‘good fit’ for the institution.”

“Admissions officers say they look for a ‘hook’ in an applicant’s file that may lift the student into consideration, but just what that is hard to define … similar objections have been raised about the emphasis traditionally placed on standardized tests, which many experts believe fail to measure the potential of minority and low-income students. Earlier this week, the University of Chicago became the first elite research university in the country to drop the requirement that applicants submit ACT or SAT scores, instead announcing a program inviting students to submit a two-minute video introduction — where they can perhaps convey their likability.”

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Harvard Acceptance Rate Hits New Low

The Wall Street Journal: “Harvard hit a new low this year—in terms of its acceptance rate. The university admitted 4.6% of applicants, or 1,962 students for the class set to begin this fall. Last year, it admitted 5.2% of applicants … Many of the applicants looked perfect on paper. At Princeton, more than 14,200 of the 35,370 applicants had a 4.0 grade point average. Brown boasted that 96% of its admitted students are in the top 10% of their high school classes, while at Dartmouth that rate hit 97%.”

“The elite schools are also eager to note that they are becoming less elitist, with generous financial-aid packages to lure diverse candidates: Cornell accepted more than 700 first-generation college students, and more than 20% of Harvard’s admitted students and 23% of Princeton’s are eligible for federal Pell grants, which are aimed at low-income students.”

The acceptance rates released Wednesday combine figures from the early-admission rounds, in which applicants generally learn their fates in December, and the regular-decision round. Broken down, those rates are often quite lopsided. At Harvard, 14.5% of early-action applicants were accepted for the coming class, compared with about 2.8% of regular-round candidates … Despite the fervor around Ivy League admissions, the vast majority of college students actually go to a college where nearly everyone gets in, and many less prestigious institutions are struggling to fill their classes.”

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College Admissions Create Social-Media Moments

The Wall Street Journal: “Admissions officers are traveling hundreds of miles with a live animal to inform high-school seniors they have been accepted to a college—and to urge them to enroll. It’s not just the star athletes or scholarship winners who get the treatment. It is pretty much anyone, a tactic driven by competition to snag the declining number of college-bound high-school students. One of the hardest working college salesmen is Trip, a 6-year-old English bulldog with doleful, dark eyes. His predecessors are retired … When he travels to meet prospective students, his job is mostly to look fetching as he poses on porches, living-room rugs and in front of fireplaces. He gives paw-shakes, or ‘high-fives’ when the acceptance is announced. So far this year, the bulldog has visited about 50 accepted students.”

“There were 224,000 fewer undergraduates enrolled in colleges and universities in 2017 than in 2016. That decline is part of a larger drop which is forcing enrollment departments to get creative to keep up the flow of applications, acceptances and tuition checks. At many schools the numbers are heading in the wrong direction … Several schools surprise students with in-person announcements. The goal isn’t just to convince the few who get the special treatment, but to capture the student reaction and feature it on social media to induce their friends to apply.”

Kirk Brennan, the director of admission at the University of Southern California … said USC started the surprise visits about five years ago, but he is considering stopping them.” He explains: “It sort of feels like it’s more for us than the kids,” he said. “Some are embarrassed, they don’t know how to react. They feel awkward, maybe they’re more interested in another school.”

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The 8-Minute Application Review

The Wall Street Journal: “As application numbers surge, admissions officers at some elite colleges say they don’t have time to read an entire file. Instead, staffers from more schools—including the Georgia Institute of Technology, Rice University and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania—now divvy up individual applications. One person might review transcripts, test scores and counselor recommendations, while the other handles extracurricular activities and essays.”

“They read through their portions simultaneously, discuss their impressions about a candidate’s qualifications, flag some for admission or rejection, and move on. While their decision isn’t always final, in many cases theirs are the last eyes to look at the application itself. The entire process can take less than eight minutes.”

“Admissions directors say it is better for staffers than spending solitary months reading essays, transcripts and recommendation letters. They also say it helps train new readers and minimizes bias by forcing readers to defend why they think a candidate is qualified or not, and as a result they’re more confident in the decisions the new committees are making … Readers at Bucknell, which gets more than 10,000 applications, used to take 12 to 15 minutes to review each application. Now a team of two is done in six to eight minutes.” A Bucknell admissions officer says that still adds up to 16 “person minutes.”

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Early Ivy Admission Rates Decline

class-of-2022-early-admission-rates

Business Insider: “Another year of early acceptance notifications, another year where the acceptance rates declined. Almost all eight schools in the competitive Ivy League reported declines in acceptance rates, meaning it’s the hardest year on record to get into the colleges. Columbia and Cornell Universities did not publicly release early-admission figures.”

“Despite getting more difficult, the rates are actually higher than acceptance rates during regular admission in the spring. For comparison, Harvard’s acceptance rate released for regular decision last spring, the lowest in the Ivy League, was 5.2% for the class of 2021. Cornell, which has the highest in the Ivy League, was 12.5%.”

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Unlocking The Mysteries of Admissions

The New York Times: “It’s a widespread misconception that applicants have an automatic right to be admitted to the school of their choice if they have higher grades or test scores than other candidates. It’s not that grades and test scores don’t matter — they nearly always do — but colleges aren’t obligated to choose the students who are deemed most likely to earn high college grades or graduate … Instead, what counts in admissions depends on the mission of the institution — and that can vary a great deal from school to school.”

“Mission statements don’t necessarily make it easier for students to understand the nuts and bolts of admissions, but they are absolutely vital. A school’s admissions policy must flow from its mission. But by and large, colleges aren’t doing a good enough job explaining to applicants how admissions choices stem from their policy. While most colleges list some of the factors they consider in admission — such as leadership and involvement in extracurricular activities — they need to go further to explain how applicant characteristics are assessed and weighted.”

“How could admissions offices be more open about how they choose? They could start by publishing vignettes to illustrate how admissions decisions are made, spell out why certain kinds of applicant profiles do or don’t make the grade, and describe how they identify talented students who fall short in terms of grades or test scores. Descriptions of the kinds of complex deliberations conducted by real admissions committees would be enlightening to both applicants and their families.”

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When Harvard Rescinds Admissions

The Harvard Crimson: “Harvard College rescinded admissions offers to at least ten prospective members of the Class of 2021 after the students traded sexually explicit memes and messages that sometimes targeted minority groups in a private Facebook group chat … In the group, students sent each other memes and other images mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust, and the deaths of children, according to screenshots of the chat obtained by The Crimson.”

“After discovering the existence and contents of the chat, Harvard administrators revoked admissions offers to at least ten participants in mid-April, according to several members of the group. University officials have previously said that Harvard’s decision to rescind a student’s offer is final.”

“This incident marks the second time in two years that Harvard has dealt with a situation where incoming freshmen exchanged offensive messages online. Last spring, some admitted members of the Class of 2020 traded jokes about race and mocked feminists in an unofficial class GroupMe chat … But administrators chose not to discipline members of the Class of 2020 who authored the messages.”

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Some Schools Are Still Dangling Dollars

The New York Times: “In the minds of parents and teenagers going through the college application process, May 1 is a magic date. At that point, you’ve sent in a deposit, bought a sticker for your car window and posted your choice on social media. This year, however, scores of teenagers had something unexpected happen next: During the first week in May, they received text messages or emails from schools that had accepted them but had not heard back. The messages all hinted at a particular question: Might a larger discount prompt you to come here after all?”

“The upheaval that comes with reopening the college decision is rough on teenagers as well as their parents, who would have to revisit difficult financial choices and conversations all over again. Suddenly, a first-choice school may be almost within reach but still not quite affordable. The injection of money into a discussion thought to be over makes an emotional situation even more fraught … Now that applicants, even in wealthier families, know how much of a stretch college might be, it can weigh them down with guilt.”

“For a portion of the applicant pool, May 1 has not been the date for some time. Many colleges maintain wait lists … And for all the attention families devote to the most competitive institutions, plenty more have space available through summer and invite qualified students to apply. The National Association for College Admission Counseling, or Nacac, publishes a list each year, and this year’s lineup includes household names like Arizona State and Penn State.”

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How Algorithms Are Changing Admissions

The Atlantic: “While few colleges follow the same admissions playbook, they are all taking their cues from the invisible array of algorithms that recommend music on Spotify, movies on Netflix, and books on Amazon. While colleges say the data help to target their marketing efforts, the new methods also explain why students with similar similar academic backgrounds now get varying degrees of outreach from colleges.”

Jeff Goff of Saint Louis University comments: “We needed to focus on finding students who would be a good fit. So when we looked at the demographics of the previous class, we wanted to not only look at the students who chose to enroll at the institution, but those who ended up succeeding and were satisfied. We wanted to know if we could replicate those students.”

“Since the university began to rely heavily on Big Data to drive its recruitment strategy, it has … enrolled five of the six largest freshmen classes in the university’s history. What’s more, the campus has increased its four-year graduation rate to 71 percent—up from 62 percent in 2010.”

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