The Washington Post has a new article on the “haves” and “have nots” in the insane college admissions race. Elite colleges-I work at one-keep this game alive. For example, US News reports that Dartmouth admitted 11% of applicants to this upcoming class of 2018 admissions. Colleges use these statistics to make them selves look “in demand”, but this is all a cynical game that I cannot believe people actually play.
Each year, Dartmouth admits a little over 1000 students for the next year’s incoming class. This has been so since Dartmouth went coeducational in 1972. So, if today’s acceptance rate is 11%, that means that ~20,000 people applied to come to Dartmouth, because the school assumes that about 50% of the students that are admitted will actually enroll.
From Dartmouth’s own data, only 12,756 people applied to come to Dartmouth in 2005. Does this mean that Dartmouth has now doubled in quality or popularity in the last 13 years? No, it simply means that more people applied. Colleges and universities typically have a fixed number of seats in a class, and so the only thing that can change is the number of applicants. Given that all applications are online now, and that the Common App is now the primary route to all college admission, college pump up this statistic by simply getting more people to apply.
Yet this means nothing. It’s all a PR game.
Moreover, what a student gets out of their university or college education has very much more to do with what the student does while they are there than what college they actually attend. I am the product of large land-grant public universities (i.e., B.S. and M.S. at the University of Kentucky, Ph.D. Michigan State University). In 2016, UK had an acceptance rate of 91%, and Michigan State had an acceptance rate of 66%.
Does this mean they are poorer schools than Dartmouth? Absolutely not.
Will a student get a great education if they work hard and study diligently at Dartmouth? Absolutely!
Will a student get a great education if they work hard and study diligently at UK or MSU? Absolutely!
Stop playing this silly game.