Recruiting Unqualified College Applicants

There is an article in “The Chronicle of Higher Education” by Jon Boeckenstedt, the associate vice president for enrollment management at De Paul University, entitled “Let’s Bring Clarity to Undergraduate Admissions” which discusses how the current college admissions system is broken and in need of a fix. What we found most interesting in Mr. Boeckenstedt’s article is the following comment on colleges recruiting unqualified college applicants: “Occasionally colleges knowingly send materials to students who have almost no chance of being admitted. In what can only be called a disgrace to higher education, the students serve an important role in catering to the sub-industry that creates rewards and incentives for rejecting the largest percentage of applicants.”

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Highly selective universities need to stop recruiting unqualified college applicants. This practice is unethical.

Well said, Mr. Boeckenstedt. It’s something we’ve been writing about for years and the more folks in the college admissions community that put this in writing, the better. The only thing we would correct in this statement is the usage of the word “occasionally.” Mr. Boeckenstedt is being too nice. Highly selective colleges don’t “occasionally” send recruiting materials to students who have zero shot of ever gaining admission (simply to boost their application numbers and thereby lower their admission rate). They do it every year in droves. Highly selective colleges send brochures to students whose SAT scores fall well below their mean SAT score, knowing full well that student has no shot of getting in. They do this only to boost their “US News & World Report” ranking. It’s ridiculous. A few colleges have taken a stand and said we’re not doing this anymore. We’ve highlighted a couple of these colleges in the past, but these colleges are the exception to the rule, not the rule.

Highly selective colleges need to show more empathy to seventeen year-old high school students going through a very stressful time in their lives. They shouldn’t be getting the hopes up of these students who, in reality, have no shot of ever getting in to their institution. It’s wrong. It’s unethical. Thank you to Mr. Boeckenstedt for drawing attention to this practice. And remember, just because you receive brochures from a college, that doesn’t mean that college actually thinks you can get in. It merely means they want you to apply. They want anyone to apply. Heck, they even get an application fee with each application. It’s a business with a bottom line.


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