Category Archives: Selectivity


Breakaway Group Seeks ‘Retro Common App’

When a bandwagon becomes crowded, passengers get antsy. “The more the merrier” might sound good at first, but as popularity grows, the load has a way of weighing down the wheels. Sooner or later, a new bandwagon comes along.

Perhaps that’s a useful way of thinking about the latest news from the college-admissions realm. As The Chronicle first reported on Friday, a group of highly selective colleges is exploring the possibility of creating a shared application that students could use to apply to …


What Keeps Women Out of Elite Colleges? Their SAT Scores

We’ve all heard about the gender gap in higher education: Nationally, women enroll in college and complete degrees at higher rates than men do. But new research reveals that for decades women have been underrepresented at the nation’s most-selective institutions. And the apparent culprits are standardized tests.

Admissions offices’ reliance on SAT scores has created “de facto institutional preferences for men” at the nation’s most-competitive colleges, according to the results of a longitudinal …


Has Common App Turned Admissions Into a ‘Straitjacketed Ward of Uniformity’?

Anyone in the mood for colorful renderings of the big business built around the college-admissions process should read the lawsuit filed last week against the Common Application in a federal court in Oregon. The nonprofit group behind the ever-growing online application, a competitor asserts, “has orchestrated a sea change in the student-application process, turning a once vibrant, diverse, and highly competitive market into a straitjacketed ward of uniformity.”

The complaint was brought by Coll…


How ‘Undermatching’ Shapes Students’ College Experience

“Undermatching,” the phenomenon in which students enroll at less-selective colleges than their academic qualifications suggest they could have attended, is a hot topic in higher-education research. Among the topics studies have examined so far: how common undermatching is, its effect on graduation rates, and a low-cost way to change where high-achieving, low-income students apply to and enroll in college.

A paper scheduled to be presented on Friday at the American Educational Research Associatio…


Want to Define Merit? Good Luck

Los Angeles — All day long they wrestled with the meaning of merit.

On Thursday enrollment officials here discussed the term around which the admissions world revolves. How colleges assess and reward merit shapes the socioeconomic and racial diversity of students at selective colleges. But what, exactly, is merit? Should colleges redefine it? If so, how?

At a conference held by the University of Southern California’s Center for Enrollment Research, Policy, and Practice, many speakers agreed that…


‘Tear-Soaked’ Admissions Tales

Maybe you can’t blame Dave Scarangella for being disappointed.

After all, when his daughter, Amanda, applied to the University of Virginia last year, he had a certain expectation. As The Washington Post reported a few days ago, the Ashburn, Va., teenager had taken seven Advanced Placement courses, earned a 4.28 grade-point average, and, her father said, had “great board scores.”

The rejection from UVa, the Post reported, shocked the family, causing “a tear-soaked night.”

That anecdote made me wi…


Why Counting Applications Is an Iffy Exercise

Washington and Lee University’s president has called for a review of how the institution reports admissions data, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

Over the weekend, the Post published an article describing how the university, in Lexington, Va., had included more than 1,100 incomplete applications in its “official count” of 5,972 applicants for last fall’s freshman class. As a result, the reported admission rate was 19 percent. The actual admission rate, based on completed applications, w…


Do We Need New Metrics in College Admissions?

In a guest post today, James Jump examines conventional measures of merit and quality in college admissions. Mr. Jump is academic dean and director of guidance at St. Christopher’s School, in Richmond, Va.

The college-admission process is about identifying and attempting to measure human potential. But are we measuring the right things? Do we need new metrics? During a session at the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s annual conference, in Toronto, on Saturday, I will help w…


One of College Confidential’s Founders Says Site ‘Turned Sour’

In an article this week, I describe the culture of College Confidential, the Web site many people love and/or hate. So far I’ve received several e-mails from readers who complained that my story was too negative (one anonymous soul informed me that my alma mater is a “joke”). Other readers suggested that the story wasn’t harsh enough.

Yet the most interesting response came from David Hawsey, a longtime admissions professional who helped create College Confidential in 2001. “It was founded for a …


Why Disadvantaged Students Are More Influenced by College Marketing

Disadvantaged students are more likely to search for colleges haphazardly, rather than in the systematic way a good counselor would encourage. And that makes them more susceptible to marketing from lower-tier colleges that may not be a good fit, academically or financially. That’s the takeaway of a new paper that will be presented on Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association but is not yet available online.

The paper, “Easy Targets: Haphazard College Search…