Skip to comments.The College Rejection Bonanza: Ivy League Schools are Over-rated Compared to Less Selective Colleges
Posted on 05/08/2006 9:22:39 PM PDT by SirLinksalot
April 7th, 2006
April is the cruelest month T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland
It is rejection time for almost all the applicants to elite colleges and universities. Americas most prestigious schools, which pride themselves on their ever-lower acceptance rates, are basking in their record rejections of hopeful aspirants.
Harvard, Yale and Princeton rejected 91% of applicants, Stanford and Columbia 89%, Brown 86%, Dartmouth 85%, Penn 82%. MIT, Amherst, Williams and Swarthmore all rejected 80% or more of their applicants. Among the top state schools, Berkeley rejected 76%, and UCLA 73% of applicants. I suspect Duke, given recent events, may need to dig into their waiting list this year, but in normal years, they too are working to get on the right side of the 80% rejection bar.
And I am sure if I were off by a per cent listing one of these colleges rejection rates, I would hear about it from an indignant admissions officer at that school.
So why are the elite schools able to take so much pleasure in delivering unprecedented quantities of bad news? The rejection rates are this high for six major reasons:
1. Despite more and more evidence that graduates of the most selective schools do not earn much more over their lifetimes than their counterparts at other very good but less selective colleges, many students (and their parents, who pay the freight) still believe there is the kind of earnings premium for attending elite schools that might have existed a half century back. Americas largest companies are rarely run by Ivy League graduates today (just 10% are), but each year a higher percentage of students and their parents behave in a way suggesting they think they still are.
2. Having a son or daughter accepted at a selective college has become one more badge of honor and prestige for the very large group of Americans who can buy pretty much everything else they desire. If you have the large suburban home, fancy cars, a vacation home, and a few well-placed hedge fund investments, having a Yale and a Brown (I mean a son and a daughter on these campuses), is a nice way to pat yourself on the back one more time.
3. Since high rejection rates (low acceptance rates), and high yields (the percentage of the students a school accepts, who choose to go there), help a school in the US News & World Report rankings, schools game the system to accept a lower percentage of applicants, and only accept those likely to choose the school.
One well-known trick of the trade is filling a high percentage of each class with early decision applicants kids who apply in October, and are told by December whether they have been admitted. When a college accepts early decision applicants, there is a one-to-one relation between admitted students and students who will enroll, since the student makes a commitment to attend (if accepted) in exchange for the privilege of being informed of the early decision.
When a college accepts kids in March or April, the student might also be accepted somewhere else, or at several other schools, and then choose to go elsewhere. So each acceptance does not guarantee one enrolled student. Admissions officers sometimes publicly try to downplay early decision as an option for students, but many elite schools fill a third to a half of their class each year with these applicants, even though they represent a far smaller percentage of the overall applicant pool at each school.
Students accepted under early decision programs are generally no more qualified than those accepted in the later cycle, and often their stats (their average grades and SATs) are a bit below the average for the pool of those accepted in the normal admissions cycle. But they have a far better chance of being admitted than students who are notified in the Spring, since they help the school in the admissions game by reducing the number of applicants the school needs to accept to fill its freshman class.
Harvard, still the prestige king, despite its rapid descent into a left wing faculty-run madhouse, typically achieves an 80% yield of its accepted students, despite the fact that it is one of the few ultra selective schools that does not use the strict early decision system of many of its peers, but rather allows students notified early to choose another school.
4. College admissions officers have also gotten very skilled at determining which students who apply in the regular cycle are likely to attend their school if admitted. How many contacts the student has with the college during the admissions process, whether an applicant visited the college, if he or she is legacy (i.e., a child of an alum), are all related to the chances of enrolling an accepted applicant. Colleges are not interested in wasting acceptances on students who will not attend, or are just collecting them (students who revel in the number of acceptances they receive are often described as pigs).
5. Schools get to reject more kids because students are applying to many more schools. The obsession with college admissions produces behavior by both colleges and students that lead to greater collective psychoses each year (and lower acceptance rates). When I was a senior at the Bronx High School of Science in New York (this was in ancient times, when it was not much more than half a century since the Chicago Cubs had won a World Series), seniors were limited to three applications each plus City College of New York, which was mandatory.
Today, in an era, when the wealthiest and most obsessed parents hire individual college counselors for their children at $30,000 per admissions cycle, about 5% of college seniors apply to 20 or more colleges. More than a quarter of all college-bound seniors apply to six or more schools. Many students apply to a group of schools with similar admissions standards which means they might get rejected by all of them. One friend of mine has a son who went zero-for-eight his senior year, getting the thin envelope from each of the Ivy League schools. He went on to a state school, and his life was not ruined by not acquiring an Ivy League sheepskin, though one wonders how the high school admissions counselor justified her salary advising this student.
6. At the same time as acceptance rates decline (and rejection rates rise), elite schools use this calculus to help obtain larger and larger gifts from alumni who seek to insure places at their alma mater for their offspring. While much is made of the unfairness of racially-motivated admissions policies which favor African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, there are other affirmative action programs that colleges and universities routinely use to get the students they want. These include recruitment of desired athletes (at Amherst over 15% of the spots are reserved for coaches designees; at Princeton, it may be even higher) and legacy preferences for alumni.
If an applicant is not a member of one of these three favored groups and applies to a prestige college in the regular admissions cycle, his or her chances of admission may be no better than one in twenty at some schools.
Legacy preferences have always been around, but they are perceived as more valuable in todays very competitive admissions climate. But simply being an alum does not get one the necessary lift in the admissions process it once did. Now one has to be an alum who is very generous to the old school, or at least could be. Given the way many of the very affluent shower their kids with material goods, and with the promise of a trust fund in the wings, one might wonder why bribing a prestige school with a gift to get a son or daughter in is all that important to insure the future economic prospects of the child.
From the schools perspective, one might wonder why they think they even need the money from the eager alums. Harvard has a $26 billion endowment, and a total of 17,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Yale (the school of choice for Taliban legacies) has over $15 billion, Princeton over $10 billion. All of these schools also have more than a million dollars of endowment per student.
These investment funds with educational subsidiaries earn very high returns, employing some of the top investment professionals in the country, some of whom earn even more than South Eastern Conference football coaches.
Last year Harvard added $5 billion to its endowment through portfolio gains. Do they really need to undertake a new campaign to shake another $5 billion in change from alumni pockets over the next five years? These wealthy colleges and universities are building huge endowments seemingly without purpose. They could abandon charging tuition and give a free ride to every student, and still pay all their annual expenses with just their endowment income.
But colleges compete with each other on their financial resources, as they do on admissions rates. The endowment per student is not only a mark of pride, but also a factor in the US News rankings. The rankings game is the metric by which they judge their own success.
It is prestige which drives the admissions game and the gift business for colleges and universities. But each year, it become more difficult to describe the behavior of parents of prospective students, applicants and alumni as rational. The financial return on a prestige degree is declining. The academic climate at prestige universities has, in many cases, become more like a Stalinist Gulag than a place where open inquiry and free thinking are encouraged.
With a decaying, and ever more expensive product, there are better and far more deserving places for alumni to give their money than the wealthy Ivy League schools and their competitors in the prestige game. And there are a lot more options for qualified high school seniors than the twelve to fifteen schools which are the unfortunate barometer of success in the college admissions process. A rational student might ask, why apply to these schools? And a presumably older, wiser alum, might ask, why give to them?
If you like thin envelopes, be my guest.
Richard Baehr is the Chief Political Correspondent of The American Thinker
We alumni of U of Chicago like to refer to Harvard as a safety school.
I'll be happy to get my daughter into Pepperdine, a halfway decent conservative university.
Yale (the school of choice for Taliban legacies)
HA HA HA
If you have a really smart kid, some schools will pay him or her to attend!
My eldest daughter will be entering Santa Clara U this fall, the university from which her eldest stepsister graduated. The more I hear about this school, the happier I am (at least so far). Two of her friends will be attending UC Berkeley and one will be attending Stanford, so she will have friends nearby. The article seems to be a fairly good summary of the madness that is college admissions and alumni giving.
"The Bell Curve" has a nice graph about the typical students at different schools.
Unfortunately, they are rarely schools a good student would want to attend. There are a few really good scholarships out there, though.
...and yet in this election year, we're going to hear all about how education is being screwed out of money. :(
Wharton business grad is considered better than a Harvard MBA.
But the big advantage with Harvard and the Ivy league schools is the alumni organizations and the networking.
The networking aspect is what you pay all those hundreds of thousands for these schools. Once your in the club, more doors do open for you when it comes to jobs.
A very good article. FYI, some more in a similar vein:
there are alot of great scholarships out there. my daughter got 6000 a year and my son got 10,000 a year both at catholic colleges and my son goes free to ave maria law school.
I have a similar scholarship at a Christian college. It certainly helps, but still only covers about 1/3 the total cost.
That's true in the past but given that the Wharton School has such high respect in the business community if you're a Wharton graduate there will be plentiful people looking for you for a management job.
I have a lot of friends who ended up going to Ivy League schools and places like Notre Dame. I'd say more than half of them are just so unhappy being at those places, they ended up having to major in things that they simply aren't interested in. All of their parents basically forced them into going to these schools. The ones that have graduated haven't exactly gotten prime "Ivy League" jobs. I'm pretty thrilled that I decided not to go to one of the Ivy League schools I got into. I decided to follow my heart and I'm really enjoying college and what I'm majoring in now.
If the kiddies who go to Harvard are so smart, how come none of them are richer than Bill Gates, who I believe, dropped out of Harvard!
Why did my father, who went to Montclair State, have folks from Harvard working FOR him?
"Why did my father, who went to Montclair State, have folks from Harvard working FOR him?"
1. He needed amusement?
2.Everyone else who didn't have a Harvard degree got all the better jobs?
3.He felt sorry for them?
4. All of the above.
Or, maybe your father was a very smart fellow! They don't teach smart at Harvard and so I'm sure the Harvard graduates thought he had an unfair advantage. I'm also sure the Harvard people thought it wasn't politically correct for your father to be that smart and not share it with the other people!
"Despite more and more evidence that graduates of the most selective schools do not earn much more over their lifetimes than their counterparts at other very good but less selective colleges, many students (and their parents, who pay the freight) still believe there is the kind of earnings premium for attending elite schools that might have existed a half century back."
The only kids who go to elitist schools that earn the big bucks are the kids of wealthy parents who get them their jobs after they graduate.
It sucked at the time, but has turned out to be meaningless, as is 95% of the who-gets-in-where BS.
If we had real high schools like the kind we used to have, we would not need so many colleges and there would not be so much demand for college graduates to do the kind of job that used to be handled by people with an eighth grade education.
"The only kids who go to elitist schools that earn the big bucks are the kids of wealthy parents who get them their jobs after they graduate."
I think your statement is upside down, wrong. The wealthy kids often lack motivation to earn money.
In any event, too many colleges are not worth the price. Parents are paying from $100,000 to $160,000 for an undergrad degree that qualifies junior or sis for practically nothing, except radical politics. This is truly dumb.
Some of their classmates were wise enough to take the "full ride" to less prestigious state universities.
As the "elite" Ivy League schools become more PC oriented, the degrees awarded there become less useful in the real world. After all, who in their right mind would hire someone indoctrinated in various left wing -isms to make decisions which could make or lose billions of dollars for the company. I for one would take someone who worked their way through a good local college over a Harvard type any day. They have real world experience and have proven that they are willing to work, and are not burdened with PC indoctrination on the levels found at places like Harvard.
I applied to all 8 Ivies. Because I had SATs (real ones) >1500, I had a shot. Because my HS average was 89.93, they all could figure out that I was lazy.
I went to Colgate, which (fortunately) was trying to raise their Princeton Review ranking, which as you know weights average freshman SAT score highly.
I had a blast at Colgate, which was not then co-ed, but no, that had nothing to do with what I did later.
My kids go to state schools. I think the whole thing is a scam.
I went to a state school too. Once you get into the "real world," no one cares where you went to school. Its all about how you perform.
"We alumni of U of Chicago like to refer to Harvard as a safety school."
Funny. My daughter's at Notre Dame. When Boston College visited for a basketball game last year, some students posted a banner that said, "Welcome Wait-Listed Students."
"If you have a really smart kid, some schools will pay him or her to attend!"
That's what they want you to think.
"I think your statement is upside down, wrong. The wealthy kids often lack motivation to earn money. "
And that is why their parents get them the jobs. :)
"I think your statement is upside down, wrong. The wealthy kids often lack motivation to earn money. "
And that is why their parents get them the jobs. :)
it's the same for med school... got accepted "up north" but went to UT Southwestern in Dallas... had great MCAT's (the default answer was "B" that year)..plus a great tan... so I got a full ride. Dallas was great, Boston was a cold, gloomy rather dilapidated city.
The guys I know that went to Ivy League schools had incredible debt coming out, I ended up with $15,000 total debt when I graduated. The other thing is that they really didn't do as much clinically as we did in Parkland. In other words, I'm glad I stayed in Texas. I had to go up north for residency... and it permanently cured me of ever wanting to live in the Northeast....or north of the Red River.
"daughter who is INSISTING that I pay for an Ivy League Education ( she got into Columbia with no tuition aid at all ) when I can only afford the tuition for a good state university"
Would she be willing to take out loans to pay the difference? What does she want to major in?
"In any event, too many colleges are not worth the price. Parents are paying from $100,000 to $160,000 for an undergrad degree that qualifies junior or sis for practically nothing, except radical politics. This is truly dumb."
Yep. For a better long-term career choice, save the money on the undergrad and put it towards grad school.
I got accepted to GW and SUNY med school. GW was then $13K/py, I got an exam scholarship to SUNY and paid $800/py which I made easily as a part-time letter carrier.
Debt = ZERO.
You were not exactly slumming. Colgate is a very good school.
Which schools did your children attend? My eldest daughter will be entering a Catholic university this fall,
"The wealthy kids often lack motivation to earn money."
Not according to the BELL CURVE book by Murray.
Colgate was, and is, a good school.
Whan I went there, though, it was still a pretty decent party school, and was striving to become what it is now academically.
The upper 1/3 of the class was, in general, made up of Ivy rejects.
My 2 daughters went to St Marys in Notre Dame, Ind, and my 2 sons went to Notre Dame, and my 3rd son went to Loyola New Orleans with a 10000 scholarship for every year. My daughters LOVED St Marys, both RNs. All girl colleges are great expecially if located near a large college. The Notre Dame guys date them and my daughter just married a Notre Dame graduate and my other is dating one. St Marys was a great choice for my daughters. They get well educated, become independent, are well protected, become assertive, don't hate men when they come out, and the guys across the street at Notre Dame just love these girls. Great way for a catholic girl to meet a catholic guy. Sounds old fashion but I am,plus I wanted to give our money to catholic institutions as part of tithing. Our money does support the nuns and priests that live at all 3 of these schools and it helps to maintaine the churches there.
Boy, are you dead on correct. When I worked in Manhattan, I lost track of the number of substandard people I met that had entire careers handed to them on silver platters for no other reason than that they were Harvard undergrads. And the vast majority of them simply were not that good at what they did.
I think so too.
My daughter is headed to Santa Clara U. I hope she enjoys as much as your daughters enjoyed St. Mary's.
I've heard that the only thing difficult about the Ivy League schools these days is getting into them. Once you're in, you can pretty much goof off and party all the time and show up for class every once in a while, and still get all A's and B's.
My nephew was recently accepted to the Fisher program at Wharton.
Word is there is no comparison anywhere.
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