Applicants unfazed by Robb’s charges

Seth Zweifler

January 17, 2007

TheDailyPennsylvanian.com

The avalanche of national media coverage surrounding the murder case of Economics professor Rafael Robb likely won’t detract from Penn’s admissions numbers – and, in fact, it could even help, one expert says.

Both school officials and admissions experts say they don’t foresee any fallout from Robb’s arrest, calling the effect the news would have on prospective students relatively minimal.

Police officials arrested Robb on first- and third-degree murder charges – in addition to other related charges – last week in connection to the death of his wife in December, and news of the arrest quickly made headlines across the country.

And though the media blitz hit nationwide while most prospective students were preparing their regular-decision applications, college-admissions counselors say applicants are likely more concerned with issues like campus safety and housing.

“It’s certainly not going to frighten any kids off from applying to Penn,” said Bev Taylor, a counselor with Ivy Coach, a Manhattan-based college-counseling company. “The one thing that deters [students] from applying to Penn is the surrounding area – it’s a pretty scary area.”

Michele Hernandez, a former admissions officer at Dartmouth and president of Hernandez College Consulting, agrees.

“It would be different if there were some [issue] of on-campus safety,” she said. “Nobody thinks murder is going to run rampant on the faculty.”

And College Confidential senior counselor Sally Rubenstone added that the news may actually do more good than harm, since, as she said, Penn’s name recognition has traditionally been weak compared to its Ivy League peers.

“You’re going to see the words University of Pennsylvania next to the word Ivy League all over the media,” Rubenstone said. “It’s a constant reminder to prospective students that Penn is out there and is an Ivy League institution.”

For his part, Penn Dean of Admissions Lee Stetson said he doesn’t expect Robb’s arrest to affect the quality or number of applications to the University.

“It is a big deal,” he said. “But my reaction is that this would have limited impact on Penn students and their parents.”

Melissa Rutman, a high-school senior from the Dalton School in New York City who applied to Penn for regular decision, agreed with Stetson’s assessment, saying that the arrest doesn’t really reflect on the University in a negative way.

“It’s a risk you run at any college,” she said. “I think that it’s just . something that wouldn’t necessarily affect my decision.