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The mess that is elite college admissions, explained by a former dean

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Replies to: The mess that is elite college admissions, explained by a former dean

  • KnowsstuffKnowsstuff 6894 replies30 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    @MWolf. Thanks for clearing that up. All very good points. My son went to Northside College prep which before like last year was the number one public high school in Illinois for like 15 years. I never understood how we can send so many kids to Northwestern and UChicago and a few here and there to the Ivys. Everyone (like 88%) was accepted to UIUC. Our stats were better then most with an avg act of 31. What your saying makes a lot of sense . Kids at Northside didn't have the means of many even at Payton due to the location and family mix.
    edited May 2019
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  • epiphanyepiphany 8405 replies170 threads Senior Member
    @roycroftmom (and others)
    I also think the legacy admit rate will be changing...We'll see some drop-offs as the institutions come under scrutiny and as many have been targets of internal activism regarding this issue. Some colleges/unis have rarely/never regarded legacy in itself as a stand-alone benefit, but rather combined with donations and other kinds of participation.
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  • goodjobgoodjob 74 replies1 threads Junior Member
    Just curious....seems interesting that public schools can have tests to get accepted. Isn't that a little unfair based on income etc
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  • epiphanyepiphany 8405 replies170 threads Senior Member
    @goodjob Are you speaking of entrance tests or other qualifications/standards for being accepted to a pubic high school? If so, it happens in my region quite a bit, due to the smaller number of quality publics compared to the large percentage of underperforming and poorly funded schools. After families move to neighborhoods near those schools, they are told that they still have to compete for a space at the school. In those cases, one finds that some of the more desirable publics have already overreached their maximum contracted student body and class size. Some of the competitions for such schools are literally lotteries and nothing else.

    This is just one reason of many that we chose to avoid the entire public system.
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  • Sue22Sue22 6926 replies121 threads Super Moderator
    In any case, the history of my students admitted is that Wesleyan has been slightly more interested in legacies than some similar small universities and LAC's. (It is technically Wesleyan University, for those who might have called it an LAC.) I think we often think of it as an LAC.
    Just for the record, and to avoid confusion, Wesleyan is officially a liberal arts college, despite the fact that it has around 200 grad students. Williams and Trinity College also have a small number of graduate students.
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  • roycroftmomroycroftmom 4016 replies40 threads Senior Member
    It is certainly possible, epiphany. At some colleges, and I expect Williams is one, legacy kids have higher test scores and grades than the average for admitted students. Not really surprising, given family background, educational emphasis and resources. More of a hook for the already high performing, to distinguish from other high performing affluent kids.
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  • CU123CU123 3697 replies76 threads Senior Member
    So kids at private high schools want to attend private universities.....hmmmm…...quite an epiphany here.
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  • MWolfMWolf 2385 replies14 threads Senior Member
    @Knowsstuff Northside prep is an amazing magnet school, one of the best high schools in the USA.

    Yep, even though Chicagoland has an inordinate number of the best high schools in the country, like IMSA, Young, Payton, Northside. Adelai Stevenson (non magnet), to name a few, because they are not part of the Ivy Pipeline, acceptance rates from the to Ivies are very low, especially when you compare them to acceptance rates to places like Chicago, NU, etc.

    @CU123 Since almost every thing said about private colleges is challenged as being an exaggeration or inaccurate, I try to present factual support for my claims, even if those claims seem to some to be fairly obvious.
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  • epiphanyepiphany 8405 replies170 threads Senior Member
    Just for the record, and to avoid confusion, Wesleyan is officially a liberal arts college, despite the fact that it has around 200 grad students. Williams and Trinity College also have a small number of graduate students.
    Yet I think one of the attractions of Wesleyan over some institutions with "college" in their titles is that Wesleyan has some facilities that appeal to those seeking research. Not all LAC's are as attractive to STEM students, for example. (Not arguing, just explaining a distinction that is sometimes helpful. Thanks for the technical correction.)

    Wesleyan is as committed to the sciences as to the humanities, and has been from the start.

    Yes, I am indeed aware that LAC's enroll some grad students.
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  • MWolfMWolf 2385 replies14 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    @Trixy34 You're absolutely correct. Legacies are not going anywhere, and if anybody wants to attend any of those "elite" schools, they had better hope that they stay, since the regular, "unhooked", non-wealthy students are not going to be able to provide the donations that provide all the bells and whistles that make the elite colleges so attractive.

    The system isn't fair, it isn't entirely merit-based, but it's the way that these colleges are run so that they stay the way they are. The only reason that people want to attend these schools is because of how they are now. When these schools do not have rich alumni pumping money into them, they close. I guess that some people want them all to shut down, but I don't see the point in messing something up if I cannot get it.

    BTW, I am not bothered by the entire legacy issue. I am only bothered when people claim that legacy preference is because of academic or intellectual advantage that legacies have. Nope, you provide the money, non-hooked applicants provide the brains. Win-win, but remember what your part of the deal is. How would you feel if a top-stats kid, who has need-based aid of full tuition, would claim that the enormous endowment that the school has was because of students like them?

    Yeah, some kids are legacy, rich, and smart, which is great, but depending on those to keep the college running is not a good business plan.
    edited May 2019
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  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 1059 replies7 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    ^^^Agree with this, and I’d add: although the mission of these universities is research and teaching, they’re big organizations like any other and they inherently seek to grow and sustain themselves. One thing that helps in that regard is having wealthy and/or powerful friends in government, business and all kinds of communities; one way to strengthen those relationships is, if some of these people are alumni, to admit their children if reasonably possible to do so.
    edited May 2019
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13431 replies31 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    @epiphany, just because some LACs have "university" in their name doesn't make them so.

    Southwestern, Lawrence (in WI), and Denison are all "universities".
    BTW, in case anyone is wondering, Southwestern was a university that downsized (and proceeded to increase it's endowment a lot), Lawrence decided to call itself a university after absorbing a tiny all-female college, and the powers-that-be (were) in mid-19th century Denison were aspirational (Denison probably had less than a hundred students then).
    edited May 2019
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  • circuitridercircuitrider 3723 replies181 threads Senior Member
    edited May 2019
    @epiphany, just because some LACs have "university" in their name doesn't make them so.

    Neither does the obverse, Dartmouth being the only example I can think of a Carnegie category research university that persists in calling itself a college.
    edited May 2019
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  • RockySoilRockySoil 208 replies2 threads Junior Member
    @circuitrider "I don't think that's true. Wesleyan's legacy admissions are at the low end of the pack, if by "elite colleges and universities", you mean the Ivy League":

    Penn - 25%
    Cornell - 22%
    Princeton - 17%
    Dartmouth - 16%
    WESLEYAN - 11%

    These stats are not equivalent. The Ivy League stats quoted here are for ED admits only, not the full enrolled class like the Wesleyan stat quoted. At Penn, for instance, they accept about 50% of the class ED, but state publicly that Legacy advantage is only taken into account in the ED round. There are few if any Legacy admits in the RD round, so their true Legacy population should be about 13%, in line with Wesleyan. And all this doesn't account for each school's definition of Legacy - Harvard has 13% Legacy if you define that as parents only, but 29% Legacy if you include siblings, grandparents and I think uncles/aunts.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 13431 replies31 threads Senior Member
    @circuitrider:
    "Neither does the obverse, Dartmouth being the only example I can think of a Carnegie category research university that persists in calling itself a college."

    W&M
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  • PetraMCPetraMC 944 replies7 threads Member
    Harvard (extended) legacy was 29% last year but is 36% this year.
    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/07/harvards-freshman-class-is-more-than-one-third-legacy.html

    I haven't heard of another school disclosing the extended information like that. I'm sure there are others with similar stats but they only track their narrow definition.
    https://features.thecrimson.com/2018/freshman-survey/makeup/
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  • 3SailAway3SailAway 639 replies7 threads Member
    @MWolf
    I am only bothered when people claim that legacy preference is because of academic or intellectual advantage that legacies have. Nope, you provide the money, non-hooked applicants provide the brains.

    Could you clarify? In my experience, legacies definitely have to be qualified academically for selective schools. Why would they take students who don’t have “the brains”? They get plenty of legacy applicants who are brilliant, high-stats, hard-working.

    Would you say that full pay students in general are unqualified academically and intellectually? I think I probably misinterpreted your post . . .
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  • Sue22Sue22 6926 replies121 threads Super Moderator
    @PetraMC, As far as I can tell, this was a misreading of the Harvard incoming student survey. The 36% is for students with any familial relationship to Harvard, not just those normally considered for legacy status. IOW, if your third cousin or great great great grandfather attended Harvard you were included in the 36%. It's still not a small number, but the % of students with one or both parents who attended was 14.5%. 4.9% had one or more grandparents who attended, and 7.2% had a sibling.

    I also wonder if Harvard messed up in reporting this since many of the categories must have overlapped (e.g., a student with both a parent and a sibling who attended) and instead they all neatly add up to 100%.

    https://features.thecrimson.com/2018/freshman-survey/makeup/
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