Gender Imbalance in Elite College Admissions

Males are often outnumbered in applicant pools at elite universities (photo credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel).

Should there be an Affirmative Action for men? Affirmative Action exists for underrepresented minorities in elite college admissions, groups these schools very much hope to attract so as to diversify their student bodies. But with a gender imbalance in the applicant pools of many elite universities — women outnumber men at the vast majority of these institutions — should admissions officers at these schools offer preferential treatment to men? Would that be ridiculous?

In a piece for The Hechinger Report by Charlotte West entitled “An unnoticed result of the decline of men in college: It’s harder for women to get in,” she writes, “As more women than men have continued to apply to college, data suggest that, at some private institutions, it’s gotten easier for male applicants to get in — and harder for female applicants. Given a male student and a female student with a similar profile at Brandeis, for example, the university would potentially ‘admit the male student and wait-list the female student because of wanting to get closer to this sort of gender parity in terms of percentages in the class,’ said [Shayna] Medley, [a former Brandeis University admissions officer].”

And just how much do women outnumber men? Well, first consider that admissions officers at all of our nation’s elite universities are always trying to create gender balance in their incoming classes. So when you see a school in which 55% of students in the incoming class are female, well, you can imagine that the percentage of females in the applicant pool was even higher. After all, the statistics are a direct result of their balancing act. And, yes, private universities do have a right to consider gender in the admissions process, an exemption to the Title IX rule.

Among our nation’s top 20 schools, as ranked by US News, women outnumber men at 10 of these institutions, men outnumber women at 8 of these institutions, and it’s 50-50 at two of these institutions. A few months back, we provided a breakdown of the student bodies by gender at each of these schools. So, for all those folks who argue that the white male is oppressed in elite college admissions, well, not so much. At most of our nation’s top universities, the male in fact has an advantage. It may not be called Affirmative Action for men. But it’s an advantage nonetheless.

 
 

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