On the Allegedly Oppressed White Male in Elite College Admissions

Brown University typically attracts significantly more female than male applicants. The university’s student body reflects this truth (photo credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel).

Whenever we post about Asian American discrimination in elite college admissions or speak up from atop our soapbox in admissions about the necessity of Affirmative Action, a vocal minority of people chime in lamenting how “the white male” is in fact the biggest “victim” in holistic college admissions. Frankly, it’s a laughable argument and it’s no surprise that when we attempt to debunk the argument, this vocal minority so often responds with anti-Semitic or racist remarks. In fact, because of their anti-Semitic or racist language, we end up having to delete their comments in their entirety. We would have loved to keep their comments up — even though we disagree with them — as we firmly believe in the necessity of healthy debate for it is a cornerstone of the American ethos. But we will not tolerate anti-Semitic, homophobic, racist, or any other kind of hateful language on the pages of this college admissions blog. Not now. Not ever. Yet let’s address this argument about “the white male” as the victim of elite college admissions once and for all. Do these people have a leg to stand on?

Debunking the Disadvantage of White Applicants in Elite College Admissions

They most certainly do not. In spite of Affirmative Action policies aimed to create a semblance of racial balance at our nation’s universities, white applicants already enjoy a significant advantage in the elite college admissions process. Yes, we said it — an advantage. And how? In the Early round of admission, in which many elite universities fill up to 55% of their seats, a huge percentage of the admits at each of these institutions neatly fit into one of two categories: (1) legacies and/or (2) recruited athletes. Would it surprise our readers to know that these groups as a whole — legacies and recruited athletes — are overwhelmingly white? As then Princeton student Liam O’Connor astutely pointed out in a piece for The Daily Princetonian entitled “Pulling back the veil: The truth about Princeton admissions,” “Legacies and athletes — who are mostly white and wealthy — together fill up almost a third of each class, and it has been documented that preferential policies benefiting them exist to maintain alumni loyalty.” Liam was, of course, spot on. And the statistics he cites at Princeton are indeed representative of similar statistics at other Ivy League institutions.

Zeroing in on Recruited Athletes and Legacies

Let’s start with the athletes. You see, the image that so many folks have in their heads of college athletics focuses on basketball and football. And indeed it’s true that these sports often field diverse rosters. But go through an Ivy League school’s list of varsity athletic teams. Basketball and football are a drop in the bucket. These schools often field cross-country, fencing, field hockey, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, heavyweight rowing, lightweight rowing, rugby, sailing, skiing, soccer, baseball/softball, squash, swimming and diving, squash, track and field, volleyball, and water polo, among others. And, no, as you may have guessed, not many diverse young men and women compete in sports like squash, water polo, and sailing. As to the legacies, while it’s absolutely true that this group is becoming more diverse over time, the parents and grandparents of students applying for admission to elite colleges in 2021 remain overwhelmingly white. Why? Because many of these applicants’ parents went to these schools in the 1980s and 90s when the campuses weren’t as diverse as they are today — and this lack of diversity was even more pronounced on these campuses for the grandparents’ generation who attended college in the 1960s and 70s.

Debunking the Disadvantage of Males in Elite College Admissions

Now that we’ve debunked the notion that white applicants are at a significant disadvantage in elite college admissions, let’s address this alleged plight of “the white male” in particular since these folks always seem to zero in on males rather than females. Could it be because they themselves are men? Well, probably. But let’s see if their argument that males are at a disadvantage as compared to females in elite college admissions holds water by going down the top 20 schools as ranked by US News & Report and seeing if indeed males outnumber females on elite college campuses. Because, if that were true — if males outnumbered females on the vast majority of these campuses — then males would have it tougher in the admissions process since every highly selective university in America seeks, as best they can, to create balance between the sexes on their campuses. Their goal is always to be 50-50. In order to meet this ratio, at some schools, like Brown University where female applicants largely outnumber male applicants, male applicants have it easier than their female counterparts in admissions. So when you see that a school has, say, 53% female students, well, it’s not difficult to surmise that there was an even greater gender imbalance in the applicant pool. But let’s go down the top 20 schools as ranked by US News to see just how pronounced is the gender disparity on these campuses.

The Male-Female Ratio at America’s Top 20 Universities

At Princeton University, at present according to data supplied by US News & World Report, 50% of the student body is male as compared to 50% female. At Harvard University, 51% of the student body is male as compared to 49% female. At Columbia University, 51% of the student body is male as compared to 49% female. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 53% of the student body is male as compared to 47% female. At Yale University, 49% of the student body is male as compared to 51% female. At Stanford University, 50% of the student body is male as compared to 50% female. At the University of Chicago, 51% of the student body is male as compared to 49% female. At the University of Pennsylvania, 48% of the student body is male as compared to 52% female. At the California Institute of Technology, 55% of the student body is male as compared to 45% female. At Johns Hopkins University, 47% of the student body is male as compared to 53% female. At Northwestern University, 49% of the student body is male as compared to 51% female. At Duke University, 49% of the student body is male as compared to 51% female. At Dartmouth College, 51% of the student body is male as compared to 49% female. At Brown University, 47% of the student body is male as compared to 53% female. At Vanderbilt University, 48% of the student body is male as compared to 52% female. At Rice University, 52% of the student body is male as compared to 48% female. At Washington University in St. Louis, 47% of the student body is male as compared to 53% female. At Cornell University, 46% of the student body is male as compared to 54% female. At the University of Notre Dame, 52% of the student body is male as compared to 48% female. And at the University of California – Los Angeles, 42% of the student body is male as compared to 58% female.

Males Outnumber Females at 8 of the Top 20 Universities in America

So at each of the top 20 universities, do women outnumber men in the student bodies? No. But let’s take a closer look. At the top 20 universities, 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. Among the eight Ivy League schools, women outnumber men at four of these institutions, men outnumber women at three of these institutions, and it’s 50-50 at Princeton. But, do remember, this data reflects only the student bodies. These are the students who earned admission and matriculated. Now imagine, knowing that every highly selective college seeks to create a gender balance in their incoming classes and knowing that women outnumber men at most, though certainly not all of the top universities in America, do you really believe men have it harder than women in the admissions process? Will admissions officers at schools that traditionally attract more females than males be more lenient on a male’s 1460 SAT score or a female’s 1460 SAT score? The answer, of course, is that at the majority of highly selective universities, in terms of gender, males are at an advantage. So let’s stop saying they’re victimized.

 
 

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