Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

Did 1 senior in 50 apply to Harvard?

The nation's most selective universities have become a bit more selective, according to dispatches from Harvard, Stanford and their peers over the past few days.

Harvard drew more than 30,000 applicants for the first time.

(Let's pause here: if there are roughly 1.5 million full-time, first-time college students in the nation this year, then does that mean 2 percent of them applied to Harvard?! Perhaps someone better at math can chime in.)

Harvard invited 2,110 of the 30,489 applicants to attend, an admit rate of 6.9 percent, the lowest in Harvard's history.

Those record numbers may have something to do with the generous aid policies that have endured through the recession at several of the most selective schools. According to Harvard's release, more than 60 percent of admitted students will get need-based scholarships averaging $40,000, from a record $158 million financial aid fund.

Admit rates dropped at most of the other Ivy League schools, as well, and at other schools at the top of the selectivity list. Stanford admitted 7.2 percent of applicants; Yale, 7.5 percent; Princeton, 8.2 percent; MIT, 9.2 percent. All but Yale improved over last year's rate.

Here is a cool chart from the Yale Daily News that documents several years of admission trends at those schools.

Two more schools with single-digit admit rates, Brown and Columbia, also reported record numbers. Here is Brown's release.

Brown, of course, may have benefited from the Hermione effect.

Dartmouth drew a record 18,778 applicants and admitted 11.5 percent, down from 12.5 percent last year. Penn's admit rate dropped to a record-low 14 percent, with 3,830 of 26,938 applicants invited to attend. Cornell admitted 18 percent of a record 36,337 applicants, according to the Cornell Daily Sun, which (oddly) cites BusinessWeek magazine as its source.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has launched a short-term blog to follow the admissions horse race. Writer Eric Hoover offers helpful translations for common admissions jargon, such as the following:

College press-release utterance: "This year's applicant pool was the largest in the college's history."

Translation: That this year's applicant pool was the largest in the college's history is no accident because, like many of our competitors, we have reached out to more prospective students, which is one reason why this year's applicant pool is even bigger than last year's record-breaking applicant pool, but surely not as large as next year's applicant pool, which, in turn, will shatter this year's record.

The Choice Blog at the New York Times, which seems to have been born to this purpose, has assembled a running tally of admissions numbers at a short list of elite schools. (On any other day, you can link to the Choice from the left margin of this page.) Here we learn that Williams College admitted 18 percent of applicants, and Wesleyan -- my alma mater and subject of an entire book by Choice blogger Jacques Steinberg -- admitted 20 percent.

Wesleyan, at least, has had a record year; I can't find a news item from Williams. Here's an item from the Wesleyan Argus.

Well, you get the idea.

Given the broader picture -- the college-bound population is said to be leveling off, and tough times may drive applicants away from schools that lack the resources to meet full financial need -- it seems hard to imagine that every college in the nation will report record admissions numbers this year.

I'lll do a followup post on schools in the Washington region when a sufficient number have posted their admissions data.

Please follow College Inc. all day, every day at washingtonpost.com/college-inc.

And for all our college news, campus reports and admissions advice, please see our new Higher Education page at washingtonpost.com/higher-ed. Bookmark it!

By Daniel de Vise  |  April 5, 2010; 9:06 AM ET
Categories:  Access , Admissions , Aid  | Tags: Harvard University, MIT, Princeton University, Yale University, college admissions  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: A bookshelf filled with unread textbooks?
Next: Meet William & Mary's mascot

Comments

Does Harvard's 30,000 number include international applicants? If so, then your 2% calculation will be an overestimate.

Posted by: Thinking123 | April 5, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

While generous aid may be one explanation, the increasing crap-shoot that has become college admissions surely is another.

20-25 years ago you applied to maybe 5-6 colleges, if you were a good student. Two "reach", two "maybe" and two "safety"--now those numbers have greatly increased, and it's a vicious cycle, since so many more people are applying you need more 'safety" schools even just to make sure your luck balances out.

Posted by: ah___ | April 5, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

1.5 million full time students doesn't equal 1.5 million applications. Some percentage of applicants do not actually enroll in college (cost, acceptance, etc).

If 75% of applicants actually enroll (making us this number), then there are 2 million applicants for 1.5 million students.

So 30,000 applicants would be 1.5%. Still seems like a high number.

Posted by: WeakestLink | April 5, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

(making us this number) should have been (making up this number)

Posted by: WeakestLink | April 5, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Not to be a complete jerk, but Stanford and MIT are not Ivy League. Some (me included) would argue they are just as good, but it remains that they are not Ivy League.

Yet you completely left one real Ivy League school out, the recent darling of the NCAA tournament, Cornell University. What gives?

And did Harvard ever benefit from the Natalie Portman effect?

Posted by: Mansamunsa | April 5, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

This is , in part, driven by technology. It is MUCH easier to apply to multiple colleges today than ever before, what with common applications, online application processes, etc. So why not apply to dozens of schools ? It then becomes really easy for schools , with inflated numbers of applicants , to accept the SAME NUMBER of freshmen as in previous years and appear to be more selective and boost their "ranking" based on "selectivity ". This is a numbers game on all sides.

Posted by: jmsbh | April 5, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

What percentage of students get meaningful employment after graduation?

Posted by: think11 | April 5, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

This just reflects a winner-takes-all society that is in decline, with the median income less now than it was 10 years ago. The scramble to the top of the sinking pyramid is on...

Posted by: AnonymousBE1 | April 5, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

@Mansamunsa: the author did not say Stanford and MIT are in the Ivy League. He said:

"Admit rates dropped at most of the other Ivy League schools, as well, and at other schools at the top of the selectivity list. Stanford admitted 7.2 percent of applicants; Yale, 7.5 percent; Princeton, 8.2 percent; MIT, 9.2 percent. All but Yale improved over last year's rate."

He said they are part of the group of other schools at the top of the selectivity list.

@WeakestLink:

It's probably safe to assume that almost everyone who applied to Harvard is among the 1.5 million people who are actually attending college. Seems to me the author's point is made, which is that about 1 in 50 people applying to college, applied to Harvard.

And yes, since people make multiple applications, that doesn't mean that 1 in 50 college applications is to Harvard, but that isn't the point at all.

What it really means is that probably just about every valedictorian in most high schools in the country applied to Harvard, plus a bunch of kids from each of several elite high schools and prep schools.

(and I'm a Wes '76 grad myself)

Posted by: elisadavis | April 6, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Who is this columnist and how did he get a gig with the Post? Is he working for free? What kind of logic did he use to think that the number of enrolled students represents the number who applied? That's like saying the number of workers at a company is reflective of the number who applied, when you could have had 700 applicants for one position, or 7.

I wouldn't be so bugged if his earlier columns had shown some broad knowledge of higher education, but they don't.

Please, please bring in someone who knows academia and writes about it in interesting ways, or demand that this columnist start doing a better job. Thank you.

Posted by: Dodona | April 6, 2010 6:59 AM | Report abuse

@Dodonna,

Are you suggesting that there are enrolled students who didn't apply to college?

The *number* of applications does not equal the number of enrolled students. That number would be some magnitude higher than the number enrolled. Many students, of course, only apply to the college they attend, but the number of application is surely higher than the number enrolled.

It's safe to assume that every person who is a freshman (that 1.5 million number--which of course is approximate) applied to college. There are more people than that who applied to college the prior year, some small percentage who didn't attend any college.

It's also safe to assume that the subset of people who applied to college includes the ones who applied to Harvard. Don't you find it rather extraordinary (as the columnist did) that although Harvard only enrolls a few thousand freshman in any given year (I'm not sure of the numbers, but I'm guessing between 2 and 3 thousand--wouldn't be hard to look up), one out of every 50 people who apply to college complete the application process to Harvard? No common app, lots of work, high standards?

Posted by: elisadavis | April 6, 2010 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Did someone find the statistic that tracks the (average) number of schools each applicant applies to. There is a difference between the number of students applying to college for the first time, and the number of first time applications. A second number will be the the rate of student acceptance at each college. If a student applies to 7 colleges, is accepted by 4, and goes to one (as most do), then all those facts are tracked by each college, but these same facts are not always readily available to the public. Some colleges will extend their offer to students over to the next year, and a few students will transfer to such a second school for their second year.

John Dickert
Mount Vernon Farms

Posted by: 12191946 | April 6, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

And did Harvard ever benefit from the Natalie Portman effect?

Posted by: Mansamunsa | April 5, 2010 12:21 PM |
============================================
Couldn't have been NEARLY as much as Brown benefited from the Emma Watson effect!

Posted by: Dan4 | April 6, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I now live in the Boston suburbs, and I would bet at least half the local kids apply to Harvard. On the other hand, I grew up (long ago) in a rural town in Illinois, and only one kid in a hundred years had applied to Harvard - and he got in. At the time, it was considered a divine miracle.
I believe there are two effects at play. One is a greatly enhanced "sense of the possible" today. Back then, a kid had to be "college material" to go to college. Not any more! Also, there is now widespread belief in gaming the system - applying to lots of schools, hiring consultants and cram tutors, and "packaging yourself."

Posted by: JayS99 | April 6, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

So, one reason the applicant pool is up is because schools have been reaching out to more applicants, then telling some of those applicants they can't attend after all, sorry, it was just a strategy to boost our rankings in US News.

Does anyone care what this does to the egos of the rejected applicants? Are rankings now the primary goal of the admissions process?

Posted by: swmuva | April 6, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Are these just first-year apps? Is it possible that the 30k number includes transfer applications or people re-starting their college careers after a break?

Posted by: dkp01 | April 6, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Let's do this math again. According to the Wash Post, "...the average number of college applications submitted per student rose from four to five".

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/campus-overload/2010/01/is_it_really_more_difficult_to.html

Therefore, 1.5 million first time students equates to 7.5 million applications submitted.

30,000 applications to Harvard equals .4% of applicants. This again assumes that every person that applies for college admission actually enrolls in college. From my knowledge, some people apply but do not enroll due to other circumstances. (money, decide to travel abroad or take a year off, enlist, etc) So the actual percentage would be less than .4%

Posted by: WeakestLink | April 6, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Let's do this math again. According to the Wash Post, "...the average number of college applications submitted per student rose from four to five".

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/campus-overload/2010/01/is_it_really_more_difficult_to.html

Therefore, 1.5 million first time students equates to 7.5 million applications submitted.

30,000 applications to Harvard equals .4% of applicants. This again assumes that every person that applies for college admission actually enrolls in college. From my knowledge, some people apply but do not enroll due to other circumstances. (money, decide to travel abroad or take a year off, enlist, etc) So the actual percentage would be less than .4%

Posted by: WeakestLink | April 6, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Those 18-20 are also adults. Every prestigious university mentioned in the article has reported smaller acceptance rates but if the university bound population does level off then the accpetance rate of universities won't decrease too much any further. It's good that Harvard gives its students generous scholarships since it's the most prestigious university in the United States and up there with the best universities in North America.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | April 6, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Those 18-20 are also adults. Every prestigious university mentioned in the article has reported smaller acceptance rates but if the university bound population does level off then the accpetance rate of universities won't decrease too much any further. It's good that Harvard gives its students generous scholarships since it's the most prestigious university in the United States and up there with the best universities in North America.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | April 6, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Those 18-20 are also adults. Every prestigious university mentioned in the article has reported smaller acceptance rates but if the university bound population does level off then the acceptance rate of universities won't decrease too much any further. It's good that Harvard gives its students generous scholarships since it's the most prestigious university in the United States and up there with the best universities in North America.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | April 6, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Those 18-20 are also adults. Every prestigious university mentioned in the article has reported smaller acceptance rates but if the university bound population does level off then the acceptance rate of universities won't decrease too much any further. It's good that Harvard gives its students generous scholarships since it's the most prestigious university in the United States and up there with the best universities in North America.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | April 6, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Those 18-20 are also adults. Every prestigious university mentioned in the article has reported smaller acceptance rates but if the university bound population does level off then the acceptance rate of universities won't decrease too much any further. It's good that Harvard gives its students generous scholarships since it's the most prestigious university in the United States and up there with the best universities in North America.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | April 6, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Those 18-20 are also adults. Every prestigious university mentioned in the article has reported smaller acceptance rates but if the university bound population does level off then the acceptance rate of universities won't decrease too much any further. It's good that Harvard gives its students generous scholarships since it's the most prestigious university in the United States and up there with the best universities in North America.

Posted by: LibertyForAll | April 6, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

My guess is that the problem isn't with your math but with your assumptions. Where does the figure of 1.5 million first-time college applicants come from? Is it plucked from thin air?

According to the census folks, there were 18.4 million college students enrolled in 2009.

Do you imagine that less than one-tenth that number applies to college every year?

Posted by: DeadCenter | April 6, 2010 11:23 PM | Report abuse

DeadCenter,

The figure of 1.5 million was taken from the 3rd paragraph of the original article:

"Let's pause here: if there are roughly 1.5 million full-time, first-time college students in the nation this year...."

I would guess that the 18.4 million college students includes part time, evening, and those that take longer than 4 years to graduate.

Posted by: WeakestLink | April 7, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

A Harvard 6.9% acceptance rate is just miserable. We need to work on bringing that percentage up. While an excellent GPA, high SAT/ACT scores, and multiple curricular activities still may not guarantee a Harvard acceptance letter, it will significantly help.

At C2 Education, Inc. we provide tutoring for students in the grades K-12. Our main focus is to allow our students to witness a higher learning experience. We provide extensive tutoring for standardized tests such as SAT, SAT Subject Tests, ACT, Advanced Placement test, and much more. Our directors and tutors are also there to provide college counseling, so that the process of choosing a college is easier and more efficient.

If you have any questions or comments, please reach us at: (800)777-7000

You can also visit our website: http://www.c2educate.com

Plus, here are some links to articles that have been written about us:
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/02/prweb3635214.htm
http://www.wsbtv.com/sponsors/22613365/detail.html

Posted by: Eplee87 | April 7, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

A Harvard 6.9% acceptance rate is just miserable. We need to work on bringing that percentage up. While an excellent GPA, high SAT/ACT scores, and multiple curricular activities still may not guarantee a Harvard acceptance letter, it will significantly help.

At C2 Education, Inc. we provide tutoring for students in the grades K-12. Our main focus is to allow our students to witness a higher learning experience. We provide extensive tutoring for standardized tests such as SAT, SAT Subject Tests, ACT, Advanced Placement test, and much more. Our directors and tutors are also there to provide college counseling, so that the process of choosing a college is easier and more efficient.

If you have any questions or comments, please reach us at: (800)777-7000

You can also visit our website: http://www.c2educate.com

Plus, here are some links to articles that have been written about us:
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/02/prweb3635214.htm
http://www.wsbtv.com/sponsors/22613365/detail.html
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

You don't know what you're talking about. In fact, a 6.9 acceptance rate means that a very large number of students applied for a very small number of available slots, which would imply that the number of students whose SAT (etc.) scores are high enough to make them think they have a legitimate shot at getting into Harvard is greater than ever.

If this is the kind of reasoning C2 uses in teaching it prep courses, I don't think I'd send anyone there.

And this "Commments" column is not intended for you to get free advertising, by the way--be honest enough to pay for it.

Posted by: oldguy2 | April 8, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company