Colleges Will Rely on High Schools They Know Best

Dartmouth will not be expanding its class size for the Class of 2025.

As our loyal readers know all too well, when a journalist pens a column on highly selective college admissions that contains inaccuracies, we won’t hesitate to highlight these inaccuracies. Recently, a journalist wrote that because enrollment numbers were — allegedly — down at the Ivy League schools this year, it means this would be an easier year in admissions. The journalist’s assessment was, of course, dead wrong. The Ivy League schools aren’t suffering from lower enrollment figures. These schools filled the slots of students who opted for gap years with waitlisted students and those gap year students will eat up slots in the Class of 2025 — making for a very difficult upcoming admissions cycle. But just as we won’t hesitate to call out an inaccuracy, we’ll also highlight when a journalist gets it right. Jeffrey Selingo gets it mostly right in a piece published this week in The Washington Post in which he argues that our nation’s elite colleges are going to rely more heavily this year on high schools they know best when weighing students’ cases for admission.

In Uncertain Times, Colleges Will Rely on the Hand They Know

As Selingo writes in his piece entitled “Covid-19 will make college admissions even easier for the elite,” “There are three reasons colleges will be leaning even harder this year on the schools they know best — with potentially unfair consequences. The first is the absence, in most cases, of ACT or SAT scores…Second, applications might be missing spring-semester grades because many schools switched to pass-fail during distance learning… Finally, colleges need more students, and they need their tuition money.”

Without Some Grades and Test Scores, Colleges Can’t Take Big Chances

We absolutely agree that in these uncertain times — in the absence of SAT or ACT scores and second semester junior year grades in many instances — colleges are not going to branch out and admit students from high schools that haven’t been feeding these colleges students for years. Not when they haven’t been sending admissions officers to visit these schools this year due to the pandemic. Not when these high schools don’t have track records at their institutions. No, our nation’s elite colleges are going to rely on the old, reliable hand they know — at the cost of increasing the diversity of their pool of applicants.

But Most Elite Colleges Will Not Expand Size of Incoming Classes

But contrary to Mr. Selingo’s third point, we don’t anticipate the vast majority of our nation’s elite colleges to be expanding their first-year class sizes this next year. Dartmouth College, as an example, has already come out and said they won’t be increasing the size of their Class of 2025. We expect other elite colleges to follow Dartmouth’s lead. And why? It’s simple. These schools can’t build dorm rooms fast enough to increase their class sizes. They’d have needed more notice to start such construction. So while Ms. Selingo’s first two points are spot on, the third point, well, doesn’t pass the sniff test. That said, his overall argument that our nation’s elite colleges, including the Ivy League schools, are going to rely more heavily this year on the colleges they know best is likely correct. It’s a prediction we echo.


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