Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Universities’ admissions more selective than ever
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
As they say at the Academy Awards, “The envelope, please.”
Will it be accepted, rejected or wait-listed? After April 1, most college-bound students will have read something like this: “The Admissions Committee of (Insert the name of a highly respected school) has completed its review of applications for the Class of 2015. We are grateful for the time you invested in researching the University and completing the application process. However, after evaluating your credentials in the context of a talented group of candidates, we regret to inform you that we are unable to offer you admission.”
Gaining admittance to a top college this year has been described as more difficult than at any other time in history. A typical rejection letter (actually an e-mail) will go to a student even with this set of stats: a 36 ACT, a 2250 SAT, six AP classes, a GPA of 4.5, and the Number One rank in their class.
The numbers are mind-numbing. The acceptance rate at Harvard is 6.2 percent, University of Pennsylvania 12.2 percent, the University of Chicago 15.8 percent and Notre Dame 24.15 percent.
Put in broader context, top colleges admitted the most brilliant students in history, while at the same time rejecting the most brilliant students in history.
When pressed, most college officials say that they could replace all of the students who have been admitted to their schools with candidates from their wait lists and not lose a great deal in the way of quality.
A small anomaly: More young women were wait-listed this year than young men, and more young men were admitted with slightly lower qualifications than young women. Some in the media are speculating that this reflects an effort to maintain parity between the sexes because women comprise more than 60 percent of the college student population nationally.
Focusing on Harvard, the 6.2 percent admission rate was the lowest in school history for the sixth consecutive year, and from the largest number of applicants ever. The Harvard Crimson reports that 2,158 letters of acceptance were mailed to students selected from a pool of 34,950.
William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, said the university hopes to accept 50 to 125 students from its wait list.
Demographics play a large role in acceptances, as reported recently by the Harvard Crimson. The evidence is in the diverse spectrum of students admitted from around the world: 17.8 percent of the accepted class is Asian-American, 11.8 percent is African-American, 12.1 percent is Latino, 1.9 percent is Native American, and 0.2 percent is Native Hawaiian. The number of Latino and African-American students in Harvard’s Class of 2015 will most likely be those groups’ highest representation in any class yet.
Harvard is reaching out to minority students in record numbers. “This is part of Harvard’s mission to produce future leaders,” Fitzsimmons told the Crimson. “The world’s very best students now feel that it’s possible to be admitted to a school like Harvard.”
The Crimson reported that 20 percent of the class of 2015 are either foreign-born, U.S. dual citizens or U.S. permanent residents, representing 85 countries.
More numbers reveal that at Harvard, 60 percent of the class of 2015 will qualify for a needs-based scholarship of $40,000. Students from families with household incomes of less than $60,000 will be able to attend Harvard at no cost.
How did the lucky Harvard admits stack up again the losers?
For starters, they had perfect or near-perfect test scores, and nearly all were ranked first in their class. Next in importance was the faculty response to the supplemental academic materials submitted by the applicants. The best supplemental data evidenced outstanding leadership qualities in the applicants, and this separated the winners from the losers.
Well-written essays and a student’s performance in personal interviews were also cited as more important to the admissions process than ever before.