Students applying to Harvard this coming year and in subsequent years might be frightened by a piece up on “Business Insider” by Abby Jackson entitled “Nearly 40,000 people applied to Harvard this year — experts say it’s harder than ever to get into elite schools.” But these students shouldn’t be frightened because the headline is misleading. Indeed even Abby Jackson’s piece doesn’t support the argument that it’s getting harder than ever to get into Harvard.
As we’ve been saying for years and years on the pages of our college admissions blog, in the press, and anywhere we can find a soapbox, a highly selective university receiving more applications does not necessarily make that university more selective — or more difficult to get into. Think about it this way: If hundreds of ‘C’ students applied to Harvard this year, would it make it more difficult for you to earn admission to the university? No. As Mark Twain so famously once taught the world, there are “lies, damned lies and statistics.”
Assuming that a university is getting harder and harder to get into because the admission rate keeps getting lower and lower isn’t necessarily an accurate assumption.
The fact is that all highly selective colleges, including Harvard, are getting better and better over the years at getting students — both qualified and unqualified students — to apply. The more students who apply, invariably the lower the admission rate will be, and the higher the university will be ranked in “US News & World Report.” And if a college tells you that they don’t care about their “US News & World Report” ranking, smile, nod, and know in your heart of hearts that you were just told a lie. Because every single college cares about their “US News & World Report” ranking.
But Abby Jackson’s piece presents another argument — that highly selective colleges are getting better and better in particular at getting international students to apply. Students with perfect or near-perfect grades and perfect or near-perfect test scores. But while there has been an influx of international applicants these last several years, many of them are competing against one another. Sure, one could make the argument that if a school used to admit a class in which 10% of students hailed from nations outside the United States and now that same figure is 20% — that fewer American students are being offered admission. But here is an alternative argument, not to be confused with “alternative facts.” Writes Jackson, “The increase in international applicants, therefore, while it may drive down the overall acceptance rate, likely has less impact on US applicants than is sometimes believed.”
Thinking of applying to Harvard University? What are your thoughts on the piece up on “Business Insider”? We’re curious to hear from you so post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the conversation.
We’ve written before on the pages of this college admissions blog about the lawsuit facing Harvard University as it relates to discriminatory practices in admissions — concerned Asian American applicants. The case has not gone away. Rather, it’s progressing slowly. Harvard’s legal team (no, it does not include Reese Witherspoon from “Legally Blonde”) has argued that the case should be delayed until the Supreme Court reaches a decision in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, the biggest college admissions legal case on any court’s docket at the moment.
“The Harvard Crimson” has an update on the case against Harvard, as reported by Aidan F. Langston: “In the last month, lawyers for both sides have filed a combined total of four motions to seal documents, according to court records. Judge Allison D. Burroughs, who is presiding over the case, is thus able to view unredacted copies of documents containing sensitive information. Information about Harvard’s admissions process, as well as excerpts from testimony by Harvard Director of Admissions Marlyn E. McGrath, have been redacted from the publicly released versions of those letters. Edward Blum, the president of Students for Fair Admissions, said the discovery process has been ‘pretty garden-variety.’ Specifically, Blum criticized Harvard for withholding information about the role race plays in its admissions process while requesting information about the unknown claimants behind the lawsuit.”
We’ve been quite vocal in the press as well as on this blog that lawsuits such as these are rather frivolous. Do we believe Asian Americans face discrimination in highly selective college admissions? You bet. And Asian Americans deserve better (as do Asians). But lawsuits are not the cure-all to this discrimination. Not even close. While it may have ultimately been the Supreme Court of the United States to rule in favor of marriage equality in America, the court’s decision came after a groundswell of support for equality across the land became impossible to ignore any longer. Our point in making this analogy is that Asian Americans need that groundswell of support before trying to take a school such as Harvard on in court.
The United States Department of Education has dismissed the complaint brought against Harvard University by 64 Asian American groups. The complaint, one we’ve reported on extensively on the pages of our college admissions blog, received quite a lot of attention in the media, but — as we suggested from the beginning — we did not believe it’d be successful. That said, it absolutely did successfully raise awareness to the discrimination that Asian Americans (and Asians) face at every highly selective college…not only at Harvard.
As reported by Jalin P. Cunningham and Melanie Y. Fu in a piece entitled “Education Department Dismisses Admissions Complaint” in “The Harvard Crimson,” “While the Education Department has dismissed the complaint, the Department of Justice has not told complainants that it will do the same, according to Yukong Zhao, one of the organizers behind the complaint. Still, Zhao said he is ‘very disappointed’ by the Education Department’s move to dismiss the complaint. Zhao said he hopes Harvard will be investigated by the Department of Justice and added that the groups may pursue an expanded complaint to include other Ivy League colleges.’We are considering expanding the scope of our complaint,’ Zhao said, arguing that ‘there are lots of other Ivy League schools discriminating against Asians’ without their own pending discrimination lawsuits.”
We also previously reported on the divide between various Asian American groups on the subject of this complaint against Harvard so hopefully if Ms. Zhao and her peers proceed to file additional complaints with the U.S. Department of Education against various universities, she and her fellow complainants do so with the support of more Asian American groups. At Ivy Coach, we contend that all highly selective colleges discriminate against Asian American and Asian students. We’ve been vocal about this issue for many years. And we believe that the more folks who speak up and say that this isn’t right, that this cannot stand, the better. But maybe filing complaints with the U.S. Department of Education that don’t have the backing of longer established Asian American organizations isn’t the way to go. We suggest Ms. Zhao take a page from Ted Olson, David Boies, and other litigators who, together, brought about marriage equality in America. There’s a lesson to be learned there.
Richard Moll, a former admissions officer at Harvard and Yale and Dean of Admissions at Bowdoin, UC Santa Cruz, and Vassar, was an inspiration to our Founder when she first got into the profession. Many in the highly selective college admissions community would argue that Richard Moll was a controversial, even divisive figure during his tenures in admissions. We would argue that nobody did more to shake up the highly selective college admissions process and improve access to underserved populations than Dick Moll. Dick Moll was — and remains — an innovator.
Now in his 80’s, Richard Moll is still shaking up highly selective college admissions and challenging folks to defy the status quo. In a letter to the editor in “The New York Times,” Moll writes the following: “In your article, a college admissions officer says, ‘In the day of the Common App, there’s such a sense of sameness in applying to the different schools.’ The unavoidable standardization of the Common Application, not to mention the online debacle for students trying to use it this year, causes serious questions regarding its service to both the candidate and the college. As co-founder of the Common Application some 40 years ago (with Jack Osander of Princeton and Fred Jewett of Harvard), I sense that the Common App’s time is up.
Moll goes on to write, “The sole original goal of the Common Application was to make applying to highly selective colleges easier for nontraditional, less advantaged but deserving students. Clearly, it worked early on. Now it seems that the ease of applying via the Common App has transferred from the poorest to the most affluent students, whose families have no problem paying a dozen or more application fees — the more apps, the better the chance of admission somewhere special. This phenomenon also creates thousands more ‘ghost applications’ (from students unlikely to enroll) for the colleges. Given the compromised mission of creating access for the less sophisticated students and families, plus the frustration of colleges, applicants and secondary school counselors struggling to make uniqueness known within the limitations of standardization, why continue the Common Application?”
And there you have it. One of the founders of the Common Application believes it needs to go. As you may know from reading our college admissions blog, we have been very critical of The Common Application of late, even questioning if the Common Application is restraining trade by penalizing universities that do not offer the Common App. on an exclusive basis. Deemed by Bowdoin in a 1975 article “one of the most controversial admissions chiefs in the College’s history” and affectionately referred to in this same piece as “the king of pizazz,” we at Ivy Coach are sure glad to see that he is very much still the king of pizazz. We salute Richard Moll for his enormous contributions to the field of highly selective college admissions. There’s nobody else like him.
Back in the day, students were able to conjecture whether or not they were admitted to a university by observing the thinness or thickness of the decision envelope. Their conjecture was often accurate as universities that admitted students included additional information about the university in the hope of swaying them to attend (rather than choosing another school). And student denied admission didn’t need such supplemental material. It was that simple. The rumor that the thick envelope was good and the thin one wasn’t was a true one. But most students don’t find out by snail mail anymore. They find out online.
So are there tricks to knowing if you’re going to get in anymore without the aid of thick and thin envelopes? Sometimes there certainly are! For instance, when the Harvard admissions decisions went out for their Early pool recently, if you happened to have been monitoring “College Confidential,” you’ll have noticed that the decisions went out in waves. Just check the message boards. You’ll see a bunch of “deferred,” “deferred,” “deferred” as students announced their admissions decisions from Harvard. And then a bit later, students started getting “admitted,” “admitted,” “admitted.”
The difference in timing is no coincidence we assure you. Schools are known to send out their admissions decisions in waves and Harvard University is no exception. Have you had a similar experience with a university you applied to? Tell us your stories by posting below! We want to hear them.
We’ve been rather critical of Harvard in the past with respect to their efforts at welcoming LGBT students as seen here: Harvard and LGBT Students. In short, Harvard, unlike its Ivy League peers, doesn’t rank very highly on the Campus Climate Index nor does it rank in “The Advocate’s” list of gay-friendly colleges. And, unlike many of Harvard’s peer institutions, they also don’t have a resource center for LGBT students that is suitable.
But Harvard is making strides in the area of LGBT inclusivity, perhaps to address its image problem. First, students led the way when Harvard wrestlers wore t-shirts in support of the LGBT community’s National Coming Out Day. Now, Harvard is considering adding a question to their application that gives applicants the option of stating their sexual orientation. But will one’s answer give students a boost? No, according to Dean of Admissions William R. Fitzsimmons as quoted in the article appearing in the “Harvard Crimson”: “Fitzsimmons said identification as LGBT would not act as a positive ‘tip’ in the application process, unlike other factors like place of residence and legacy status which can help land an applicant in the group of accepted students.
According to the “Harvard Crimson” article on admission to Harvard College, “The College is considering adding language to its application for admission that would allow prospective students to self-identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 told The Crimson. ‘We want to send a positive signal to students who are grappling with the issue of [sexual orientation] or gender identity,’ Fitzsimmons said. ‘I think this campus is really welcoming to all students and that’s the signal we want to send.'”
At Ivy Coach, we salute Harvard College for their efforts! Maybe Mr. Fitzsimmons reads our blog and got tired of our criticism. In fact, we suspect he does indeed peruse our writings. Who else Googles “Williams Fitzsimmons Ivy Coach” a few times each year? Ah, the beauty of Google Analytics!
College seniors frequently say that the freshmen look younger and younger every year. Usually, it’s just their minds playing tricks on them. But in the case of incoming Harvard freshman Saheela O. Ibraheem, they’re not wrong. Saheela will be matriculating to Harvard College next year at the age of fifteen. Like most of next year’s freshman class who gained admission to Harvard, Saheela applied as a high school senior. She just happened to skip the sixth and ninth grades!
Admission to Harvard for fifteen year-olds isn’t new. They’ve admitted younger whiz kids before. But it doesn’t make it any less intriguing! According to “The Crimson,” “Her parents—a quantitative analyst and an accountant—began teaching her advanced math at a young age. Ibraheem even scored a 700 in the mathematical reasoning section of the SAT as a fifth grader. Ibraheem said she applied to 14 schools in the fall, including seven of the eight Ivy League schools. She received acceptance letters from all of them except Yale. She made her decision to attend Harvard after visiting MIT and Harvard during their respective prefrosh weekends.”
Do you think fifteen year-olds are too young to be at college? Do you think they aren’t socially mature enough yet? Let us know your thoughts by posting below!
See “The Crimson” article on the 15-year old admitted to Harvard.
With an applicant pool of nearly 35,000 students and a 6.2% admit rate for the class of 2015, Harvard College admitted one student who many of you may have read about. She’s not a Hollywood celebrity nor is she a famous politician’s daughter. She’s Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld. Yes, that Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, the daughter of Amy Chua, aka, The Tiger Mom. The woman who wouldn’t let her kids have sleepovers. The woman who demanded only A’s. The woman who wrote the tell all parenting book that received rather negative reaction.
But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Sophia was accepted to Harvard College. Amy went to Harvard College (and Harvard Law School). Sophia’s dad went to Harvard Law School, too. She’s a legacy. She obviously had top grades and test scores. And her letter to the “New York Post” demonstrated that she could write. She had a distinct point of view. She was raised by The Tiger Mom. If her college essays happened to focus on her mother, they’d be a college admissions counselor’s dream. So why is it a surprise that Sophia was admitted? It isn’t.
You don’t have to be a Tiger Mom if you want your kid to get into Harvard College. Students with all sorts of mothers get into Harvard. Short mothers. Tall mothers. Pretty mothers. Savvy mothers. Even absentee mothers. Does that mean that the children of the Tiger Moms won’t get into Harvard? No. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise either.
There is an editorial in today’s “Boston Globe” that the return of Early Action to Harvard makes the admissions process more equitable: “The admissions advantage for athletes has been a source of contention at Harvard for decades. A situation in which athletes get an early word, but few other applicants do, was hard to square with the overall philosophy of promoting equity. It’s far better to bring back early action — and to make sure all potential applicants know about the option.”
While it is true, athletes who applied Regular Decision these past couple of years to Harvard were indeed receiving Likely Letters at the time when candidates for admission would have received their notices if Early Action remained in place, reinstating Early Action at Harvard will not end this particular advantage for athletes. Coveted athletes who choose not to apply Early Action to Harvard but instead to apply Regular Decision next year will likely still be receiving those Likely Letters in December.
And early programs do not promote equity in spite of what the deans of admission and university presidents may say. Are early programs great for universities? Yes! Are they great for students who want to get accepted early on in their senior year and not have to worry about their admission decisions for many more months? You bet. But students who are admitted early are historically less diverse than those who are admitted through Regular Decision.
Read our related blogs: Harvard and Princeton Early Programs, The Harvard and Princeton Admission Spin, What Goes Around Comes Around, Will Colleges be Dropping Early Admissions Policies?, Likely Letters, and Early Notification, Likely Letters, Merit Money, Long Waitlists: All This for The Most Competitive Class in History?
There was a great article in yesterday’s “The Harvard Crimson” that explored how students who arrive at Harvard and want to get on the premed path often end up changing their minds. The article points out that many students with an interest in medicine are exposed to medicine from an early age, either because of their annual doctor appointments, the prevalence of medicine on television series such as “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” or one or both of their parents are physicians and they want to follow in their footsteps.
At Harvard, like at so many universities throughout the country, students will so often find that their interests change while in college when they are exposed to new disciplines, to new possibilities. This isn’t just true of premeds. It’s true of students who apply to colleges thinking they want to be lawyers or business executives or politicians and that’s why it’s always important to keep your options open. Says Lee Ann Michelson, director of premedical and health care advising at Harvard’s Office of Career Services, “While approximately 20 percent of students informally declare an interest in pursuing the premed track when they first arrive on campus, only seven percent eventually apply to medical school as seniors.”
Check out the full article in “The Harvard Crimson.”