In major college admissions news, Stanford University has announced that it will no longer publicize undergraduate application numbers to the school, beginning this fall. And why? As stated in a Stanford press release, “Stanford’s policy shift is intended to help de-emphasize the perceived importance of low admit rates at colleges and universities. The university will continue to publicly report application data to the federal government at the end of the admission cycle.” So, essentially, Stanford is claiming that the school will no longer make application numbers publicly available so as to lessen the feeling that it’s so very hard to get into Stanford, to decrease the perceived stress on potential applicants. But as our loyal readers may have guessed, we’re simply not buying it.
Stanford’s Explanation for Not Releasing Application Numbers
Stanford provost Persis Drell stated in the press release about Stanford’s decision to cease publicizing application numbers, “We want students to know that when we encourage them to apply to Stanford, it’s not because we wish to be known as a most competitive university with a low admit rate. It is because we want promising students of all backgrounds to seriously consider the educational opportunities and possibilities at Stanford. Each year, we strive to put together a class that is academically excellent, intellectually nimble and enormously broad in backgrounds and perspectives. By focusing on the admit rate, talented students who would thrive at Stanford may opt not to apply because they think Stanford seems out of reach. And that would be a shame.”
An Alternative Explanation for Stanford’s Decision to Not Release Application Numbers
Stanford’s press release reads very nicely, including the quote from the provost. But while we believe their intent to be true — to some extent — we can’t help but think the university has made this move with another motive in mind: to improve the school’s “US News & World Report” ranking. As our loyal readers know all too well, it’s always about the rankings. You see, Stanford currently sits in a tie for fifth with Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 2018 “US News” rankings. Not releasing application figures will likely encourage more students to apply to Stanford. Stanford may very well be banking on the notion that not releasing application figures will motivate students who were on the fence about applying (because they just didn’t see how they could get in over so many thousands of other applicants) to click submit. The more students who apply, the lower Stanford’s admission rate will invariably be, and the higher the school will be ranked by “US News.”
Is Stanford Moneyballing the “US News & World Report” Rankings?
And of course by receiving more applications, Stanford can be even more selective than it was before with respect to a student’s high school GPA and standardized test scores. While the “Student Selectivity” component of the “US News” ranking methodology is only 12.5%, this one criterion effects other rankings criteria. As an example, a student body with higher standardized test scores and high school GPAs typically leads to more first-year students who return for sophomore year and then eventually graduate. “Graduation and Retention Rates” reflects 22.5% of the “US News” methodology. It also leads to greater student satisfaction, which translates into more alumni donating to their alma maters. “Greater Alumni Giving Rate” adds another 5%. In all, by Stanford encouraging more students to apply, this actually impacts 40% of the “US News” methodology (12.5% + 22.5% + 5%).
Of the two proposed theories for Stanford’s policy change, which do our readers think is right? Both? Neither? May our readers serve as the jury. Place your verdict in the Comments section.
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