September 28, 2006

A sound opinion on college admissions

Stanford's Provost makes the strongest stand on early admissions in the NY Times: he calls Harvard's abandonment of early admissions pointless:

By far the most common criticism of early admission programs is, to quote the presidents of both Harvard and Princeton, that these programs “advantage the advantaged.” Critics point out that admission rates are somewhat higher in the early round than in the regular admission round. They assume that the pool of early applicants is disproportionately wealthier than those in the regular round. The conclusion seems inescapable: the wealthy are benefiting from the higher admission rates of early programs.This reasoning is faulty, however. Consider an analogous situation. If you look at the pool of people who file income tax returns in January, you’ll find that a higher percentage get a refund than those who delay until April. Does this imply that the I.R.S. is giving an unfair advantage to those who file early, that filing early increases your chances of getting a refund?Of course not: the I.R.S. refund standards are identical whether you file early or late. The difference is that those expecting a refund are more likely to file early, while those who owe money are inclined to wait. The pools are different; the standards are not. Those filing early are in no way “advantaged.”There is nothing about early admissions, in itself, that gives an advantage to those who apply early. It all depends on whether the university imposes lower, the same, or higher standards to the early pool. Nor can you infer the standards by simply comparing admission rates in the early and late pools....How about the assumption by critics that early programs are predominantly used by the wealthy? At Stanford, 36 percent to 40 percent of the students accepted early apply for financial aid; in the regular round only slightly more, 40 percent to 44 percent, seek aid. But even if our early pool were disproportionately well off, those applicants would not, as we have seen, get an admission advantage. [Emphasis added]
Here, here.I have actually written a great deal about my feelings on this, but decided to refrain from publishing them here so that I could see what the Maroon's editorial board thought.