There was recently an article in “The New York Times” entitled “Best, Brightest and Rejected: Elite Colleges Turn Away Up to 95%” that we figured we’d discuss for the readers of our college admissions blog. The article essentially details how competitive it is to get into highly selective colleges like Stanford, Harvard, and Yale. Gasp. Who knew? This is certainly breaking news, just like all of the latest happenings announced on “CNN’s” coverage of the doomed Malaysian Airlines flight. Yes, we’re being a bit sarcastic. There isn’t much interesting in this article. Admission rates are dropping at highly selective colleges and high school students are applying to more colleges than ever before.
But just because admission rates are dropping, it doesn’t mean it’s getting more selective. More students applying to a college, as we’ve said many times before, doesn’t make that school more competitive. Applicants with ‘D’ averages and subpar SAT scores don’t make it more difficult for the ‘A’ student with near-perfect SAT scores to get in. It’s that simple. The one line that we found interesting is at the bottom of the article, a quote by Stanford’s Dean of Admissions Richard Shaw. This is how it’s written in the piece: “Mr. Shaw, the Stanford dean, said he could not predict where the rates would bottom out — in fact, he never expected them to go as low as they have. ‘Honestly,’ he said, ‘I’m sort of in shock.'”
Our response to Mr. Shaw’s comment? That’s silly, Richard. Richard Shaw is a respected, seasoned highly selective college admissions officer. Before he ran admissions at Stanford, he ran admissions at Yale. Admission rates have been dropping for years, though this is not an indicator that admissions is getting more competitive year after year for the reasoned outlined above. He certainly wasn’t “shocked” that Stanford admitted so few students this year. It’s a trend a long time coming. And he’s one of the leaders selecting the applicants! He definitely wasn’t shocked.