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New Research on How Elite Colleges Make Admissions Decisions

soozievtsoozievt Registered User, ! Posts: 31,304 Senior Member
edited April 2012 in Parents Forum
Worth reading.... a topic so often talked about on CC.....here is some new research....
How They Really Get In
April 9, 2012 - 3:00am
By
Scott Jaschik

Most elite colleges and universities describe their admissions policies as "holistic," suggesting that they look at the totality of an applicant -- grades, test scores, essays, recommendations, activities and so forth.

But a new survey of admissions officials at the 75 most competitive colleges and universities (defined as those with the lowest admit rates) finds that there are distinct patterns, typically not known by applicants, that differentiate some holistic colleges from others. Most colleges focus entirely on academic qualifications first, and then consider other factors. But a minority of institutions focuses first on issues of "fit" between a college's needs and an applicant's needs.

This approach -- most common among liberal arts colleges and some of the most competitive private universities -- results in a focus on non-academic qualities of applicants, and tends to favor those who are members of minority groups underrepresented on campus and those who can afford to pay all costs of attending.

The research is by Rachel B. Rubin, a doctoral student in education at Harvard University. Her findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, which starts later this week......


Read more: New research on how elite colleges make admissions decisions | Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed
Post edited by soozievt on
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Replies to: New Research on How Elite Colleges Make Admissions Decisions

  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 26,432 Senior Member
    Thanks for bring that up, Soozie. I always wonder how the %s attributed to a situation are calculated. In a number of colleges, recruited athletes have an acceptance rate that is far above that of other students even with academic qualifications that are far lower. That 7% figure jumped out at me immediately.

    We had a hulabaloo of negativity in this area when a school where things were pretty transparent had a situation where top applicants were turned down at a highly selective HPY university, and a student further down the academic scale with no exceptional talent was accepted. The accepted student was in the URM category, and many parents felt that things had gone way too far in terms of that being a factor for admissions. No one felt the same way about a number of athletic recruits whose academic profiles were not even as close as the URM student's to their accepted college's stats. We all "get it" that a recruited athlete has an exceptional talent.

    The discussion that ensued was superbly done, and explained how colleges often do their admissions. What many people feel are far better stats, when reduced to the grading system of a college admissions office, may end up the same. In the category of test scores, for example, a perfect SAT score is lumped with those in the "A" category with those down to a given threshold, and it is irrelevant and may not even be known to those making the decision. Such marks are often given to grades, level of difficulty in curriculum, ECs, recs, essays, so that a lot of candidates that may look so different because you know their stats, actually come up in the same stack in terms of what the college is looking for. So then a feature like URM, a special talent, an attribute a college is seeking, can then stand out from that stack, and that person may not be the top candidate, when actual test scores and grades are pulled out there, but admissions does not care. In that given stack, all the applications are considered equivalent, and the ones that have what the university has on its wish list, be it more arts majors, URMs, political activists, more econ majors in a given year when a university hires a big name econ profs who wants grad students who need UGs to teach for stipends (actual situation one year at a school).

    When that sort thing is done, it becomes clear that things that we can see in the rankings of kids, disappear and more holistic factors and things to which we are not privy to knowing become important.
  • Nrdsb4Nrdsb4 Registered User Posts: 14,809 Senior Member
    ^^^^That's essentially what we were told by a number of admissions officers at top colleges. They said that they have some kind of minimum standards for GPA and scores; those who don't meet those standards are put in the "No" pile. Those who pass the initial screening are put in the "yes" pile. At that point, scores and GPA's no longer factor at all as all "yes" candidates have been determined to be academically qualified, and it's all the other factors that then come into play.

    It's said over and over, but parents apparently refuse to believe this, as every year we hear the moaning and complaining that their SAT 2350 kid with 3.9 GPA was unfairly passed over in favor of a "less qualified" 2300 kid with 3.75 GPA.
  • vlinesvlines Registered User Posts: 3,579 Senior Member
    I always wonder how the %s attributed to a situation are calculated. In a number of colleges, recruited athletes have an acceptance rate that is far above that of other students even with academic qualifications that are far lower. That 7% figure jumped out at me immediately.

    In the article they also used a lacross player as a student with "outstanding talent" along with flutist that falls into the 28%. So I guess it depends on how good the recruited athlete is!
  • jym626jym626 Registered User Posts: 52,290 Senior Member
    Thanks for the article, sooz. Ths was interesting:
    This approach -- most common among liberal arts colleges and some of the most competitive private universities -- results in a focus on non-academic qualities of applicants, and tends to favor those who are members of minority groups underrepresented on campus and those who can afford to pay all costs of attending.
  • SteveMASteveMA Registered User Posts: 6,079 Senior Member
    Nrdsb4--I agree, you hear that here over and over and over, "that kid got is but isn't as good of a student as my kid". If you are an ORM, you pretty much have 0 chance of getting in, if you are an URM, I bet that % is very high, 70+% maybe (just guessing). We've been telling our DS all along that getting admitted to his 6% acceptance rate #1 choice school has more to do with that 6% vs anything personal. Sure, on paper, he's a shoe in, but so are 25,000 other kids applying. I still think they sit in the conference room and throw darts around the room at the apps hanging on the walls :D.

    We've heard at every visit at highly selective schools, you need to have something to set you apart. At one school, they came out and said, your essay is almost always what gets you admitted once you get past the initial screen. If your essay falls outside parameters (too long, too short) you are dropped because you can't follow directions. Of course they all say "it's the whole package".
  • Youdon'tsayYoudon'tsay Registered User Posts: 19,053 Senior Member
    Excellent article. Now if we only knew what that accepted level of academics is to make that first cut ... 2100? 2200? 2300? 3.6 UW? 3.8?
  • SteveMASteveMA Registered User Posts: 6,079 Senior Member
    Youdon'tsay-I am sure they have some sort of a metric they use and the combination of test scores, GPA, maybe even certain classes and the GPA in those classes come up with some kind of a "score" that becomes the "number" they use. We've come across a couple state schools that actually publish their metric--something like this: Freshmen Admission Requirements | UNI Office of Admissions
  • jym626jym626 Registered User Posts: 52,290 Senior Member
    Someone recently posted a video fr9m one of the LAC (IIRC) with an insiders view of their admissions process. But I can't seem to find the post. Does anyone recall seeing this and if so can you post the link? Thanks
  • Youdon'tsayYoudon'tsay Registered User Posts: 19,053 Senior Member
    There's the video from a few years ago from Grinnell. Is that it? It was on the Today show.
  • jym626jym626 Registered User Posts: 52,290 Senior Member
    I don't think so, yds, but thanks. I think it was a recent video from the school's website that someone posted , and someone else commented that it was worthy of its own thread. I am thinking it was an east coast LAC, but I cant recall.
  • emilybeeemilybee Registered User Posts: 12,126 Senior Member
    Several years ago (10ish) I read an article in the NYTimes about admission to Williams. They gave points for certain things in different categories. Then added them up.

    For instance, it you were a veteran you got x points, a URM you got y points, an athlete you got z points and so on and so on. After all the points were added if you "scored" enough points you were then put in the app read pile.
  • emilybeeemilybee Registered User Posts: 12,126 Senior Member
    Jym, was it Amherst? They had audio on NPR.
  • poetgrlpoetgrl Registered User Posts: 13,334 Senior Member
  • jym626jym626 Registered User Posts: 52,290 Senior Member
    Thanks, emily and poetgrl! The Swat one is the one I was thinking of, but I'd love to see (if there is a video) the Amherst one. Anyone know? I cant find it either. I am striking out today.
  • sybbie719sybbie719 Super Moderator Posts: 20,891 Super Moderator
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