Ivy Coach is featured today on the pages of “The Yale Daily News” in an article written by Rachel Siegel entitled “Negative news places pressure on University admins.” Yale has been in the news of late when a graduate student was hospitalized with symptoms of Ebola and then the school made the news again when “The New York Times” ran a piece about alleged sexual misconduct at the Yale School of Medicine. If that weren’t enough, there were two reports of rape within Yale dormitories just this past weekend. And if all that weren’t enough, the news story that seems to have gotten the most traction coming out of Yale happened recently when an African American student who was leaving the library was forced to the ground by an officer with the Yale Police Department because the officer believed he fit the description of a suspect of a crime. The young man had been in the library doing work, not committing a crime.
In the piece in Yale’s newspaper, Ivy Coach is referenced discussing the impact of the Duke lacrosse scandal in which three former Duke lacrosse players were falsely accused of rape on Duke admissions statistics: “Taylor, director of the private college counseling practice Ivy Coach, said negative news can definitely affect admissions statistics of highly selective colleges, though the effects may be slightly delayed. For example, Taylor said that following the March 2006 Duke University scandal in which three former lacrosse players were falsely accused of rape, there was a dip in applications for the following fall. But, Taylor said, Ivy League universities are somewhat immune to the effects negative news can have. ‘No school is immune to negative news, but for the Ivy League there’s less of a risk,’ Taylor said. ‘In a way, the Ivy League outlives the current news cycle.'”
The news cycle can definitely impact the admissions statistics of highly selective colleges. Let’s look at the numbers. The Duke lacrosse scandal in which three former lacrosse players were falsely accused of rape all started in March 2006. So it was too late to impact the application numbers for Duke’s Class of 2010. But there was a dip in applications for Duke’s Class of 2011. The subsequent year, Duke rebounded by setting a new benchmark with over 20,000 Regular Decision applications. While it’s difficult to gauge if this dip and subsequent rebound is a direct consequence of the false accusations of rape against the Duke lacrosse players, it’s data nonetheless.
Six years later, in March 2012, a bitter former student put Dartmouth College in the national spotlight, notably through an article that ran in “Rolling Stone” about Dartmouth’s alleged culture of fraternity hazing. That negative publicity was too late to impact the application numbers for the Class of 2016. But, for the Class of 2017, the total applications to Dartmouth dipped, albeit only by a small percentage. But for the Class of 2018, application numbers to Dartmouth dipped significantly. This year, Dartmouth rebounded. Many speculate — whether or not they’re right — that the dip was a result of the “Rolling Stone” piece. It too is data.
And it’s not always negative news stories that impact a school’s application numbers. While not a highly selective college, when little-known George Mason University advanced to the Final Four in March Madness in 2006, they experienced a surge in applications the following year. A school’s run in March Madness can impact the subsequent year’s application numbers, too. Pinpointing the cause of the rise or fall in applications is difficult but the data is worth exploring.
If a college hasn’t already experienced a negative news story, it will in the future. In our experience at Ivy Coach, these stories impact how parents of prospective applicants perceive institutions more so than they do the applicants themselves. And for the eight Ivy League colleges, they’re at less risk than the Dukes and Vanderbilts and UVAs of the world — because of their membership in the Ivy League. It’s protection in a way. The Ivy League outlives the current news cycle. But so too did Duke. And so too will UVA and Vanderbilt.
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