Admission Secrets


Andrew Ferguson, a senior editor at The Weekly Standard, is the author of the recent Crazy U, a memoir about his son's adventures in the college admissions process. In April, Ferguson told reason three dirty secrets of college admissions.

  1. Acceptance rates: At most selective colleges the true acceptance rate is probably half the published rate. That's because these schools will reserve half the slots in their incoming class for applicants with "hooks" that usually have nothing to do with academics: rich and generous parents, athletic skills, or status as URMs ("underrepresented minorities").
  2. Affirmative action for boys: By the standards of college admissions today, girls make better applicants on average than boys. They have fewer disciplinary problems in high school, write sharper essays, and get better grades and SAT scores. As a result, 60 percent of college applicants are girls. But no college wants a campus that's 60 percent female; once you get a rep as a "girl's school" you're a goner. Many schools are therefore lowering the admissions threshold for boys.
  3. Ginning up applications: Most selective schools actively recruit applications from students they know don't have what's required to get in. Lots of apps means lots of rejections. The higher the number of rejections, the lower the acceptance rate. The lower the acceptance rate, the higher the raking in U.S. News, which means more applicants, which means more rejections, which means a higher ranking.…