Currently browsing posts filed under "Admissions"

Follow this category via RSS

Next Page →

Decision Day

The Williams Admissions department will be releasing regular decision admissions decisions today, though its not clear at what time.  Williams seems to be releasing its decisions later than many of its peer institutions (I know that Amherst, Bates, Swarthmore, Carleton, Grinnell, Smith, Haverford, Pomona, and Colby have already notified applicants), but I think a few days before “Ivy day.”  I wonder how many kids are out there who really, really want to go to Williams but are still waiting to hear whether they can.  Presumably many applicants for whom Williams was a clear first choice applied early and are in now.  I suppose some of them may have been deferred, and they might be waiting anxiously. Others may already be in their first choice, and so are not terribly anxious about the Williams decision.

Its possible, of course, that given current circumstances, plenty of applicants may not care at all one way or the other.  An Italian friend of mine, who lives in the most heavily affected (and infected) part of Italy, sent me the following note, which to me was simultaneously encouraging and chilling:

We and our families and collegues are all safe and healthy and hope to stay that way.
We are all working from home since the situation is really difficult. We have not yet reached the top of the number of people infected and the number of deaths each day.
Please take all the measures required to avoid that you find yourselves in the same situation.

So clearly selective college admissions cannot be at the top of too many people’s priority lists right now.  But I know that in my own house, my high school senior kid, who is very aware of what COVID-19 can do, is still planning on heading off (somewhere) to college next fall, so I’m pretty sure many (most?) Williams applicants are still interested in the decisions being announced today.

Best of luck to all!  Hope that those who want to become part of the class of 2024 get that chance!

UPDATE: Decisions were released at about 6:30 pm or so on the 24th.

Facebooktwitter

Legacy Admissions and Giving

Back in January, DDF did a series of posts about Johns Hopkins ending preferences for legacies in the admission process. In the comments, fendertweed said, “I definitely know of alums (who are alumni kids too) whose children weren’t accepted at Williams. It definitely left a bad taste there re alumni enthu$ia$m, etc.”

Gen X Alum responded with, “This certainly seems correct to me. This was one of the things I thought about as my kid was deciding on whether to apply to Williams. Not sure how I’ll feel if he’s not accepted this spring. He’s clearly academically qualified and is a pretty interesting kid (I’m biased, I know), but is probably short in the extra-curricular/leadership department. I’m sure Williams won’t miss my money, and I’d like to think I would still give, but I’m not sure how I’ll feel if he doesn’t get in.”

I was surprised by both of these comments. As my children go through the college admission process, it seems clear to me there is a large component of luck. Williams rejects a large number of high quality, well qualified, wonderful kids every year. Whether or not my kid was accepted was not going to change the kind of person they are or how I felt about them. Also, how I feel about Williams was not going to change based on whether or not they accepted my child.

I am curious if most people think along the lines of fendertweed’s contacts and Get X Alum or if they would respond more like me. How would you respond if Williams rejected your child?

Facebooktwitter

Privilege in Admissions

(This is in response to David’s post: The Parable of the Privilege Pill.) tl;dr: holistic admissions are necessary to admit the students most likely to academically succeed at Williams.

Imagine that there are two applicants from comparable schools with 3.8 GPAs and 1500 SATs. The question you’ll have to answer, at the end of this post, is whether you think that they are likely to perform similarly academically at Williams (a limited version of what it might mean for a student to be ‘successful’).

Applicant A.

Applicant A has parents who sit with her every night and make sure she does her homework.  Applicant A’s parents don’t ever discuss her homework with her or help her; they just make sure that she does the work.  The several occasions that Applicant B’s parents leave town, Applicant B does none of her work (but her teachers still make a one-time exception and allow her to complete the work late with no penalty).  As a consequence, Applicant A turns in 100% of her assignments, averaging 90%, which results in her getting mostly As but a handful of Bs.

When Applicant A took the SAT, she first took a practice test a year before, scoring 1200.  Her parents paid for her to have an SAT tutor, who, like many SAT tutors, spent the year teaching exclusively test-taking strategies.  By the end of the year, Applicant A didn’t know any more math or reading, but she was much better at taking the SAT — and scored a 1500.

Applicant B.

Applicant B’s parents each work two jobs, so they are not around most nights (or are exhausted when they are home).  Moreover, Applicant B has to work on and off through high school to help her family make their bills.  As a consequence, Applicant B sometimes misses assignments; she forgets, is tired, or simply doesn’t have the time.  Throughout high school, Applicant B turns in 90% of her work — but her work is always perfect, averaging 100%.  This results in her getting mostly As but also a handful of Bs.

When Applicant B took the SAT, it was the second time she had ever seen any part of the test (her 11th Grade English teacher spent a 50-minute class giving and discussing one reading comprehension section earlier in the year).  Applicant B doesn’t really know that people study for the test; most people in her high school and community don’t go to elite colleges, so there isn’t much discussion of it among her friends and family — and what little she hears is about how this is an aptitude test.  Taking the test effectively ‘blind,’ Applicant B fails to budget her time well, and leaves the last five questions on a math section blank despite being an excellent math student.  Nevertheless, she scores 1500.

The Question:

Who would you admit?

This isn’t a trick question and the answer isn’t particularly difficult: Applicant B clearly has more aptitude — and there’s little indication that she has any less work ethic (and some reasons to believe that she could have a great deal more).  These two applicants look identical based on their numbers, but Applicant A’s privilege renders her numbers misrepresentative vis-a-vis Applicant B, and to a fairly significant degree.

The More Difficult Question:

The more difficult question comes when considering Applicant A versus an Applicant C, who has a similar story to Applicant B but ends up with a 3.6 GPA and 1350 SATs (maybe because Applicant C’s 90% homework completion rate is distributed in such a way that she’s averaging 80% or 100% — and maybe also because she misbudgets her SAT time more badly, spending time triple-checking answers she knows).  The apparent SAT difference between Applicant A and Applicant C — 150 points — is large.  But Applicant A’s raw SAT aptitude is 1200 whereas Applicant C’s is 1350, implying that Applicant C may actually have significantly (150 points!) more SAT-measured aptitude.  Moreover, the apparent GPA difference between Applicant A and Applicant C — 0.2 — is large for these purposes.  But Applicant C actually performs significantly better (100% vs 90%) on each of her assignments.  And their difference in homework completion rate (90% vs. 100%) appears due far more to their respective home situations than it is to any sort of work ethic.  There is little reason to believe that, in the cushy environment of Williams (outside the reach of constant parental influence), Applicant C won’t turn in as much or more of her homework.  And there is good reason to believe that Applicant C will do better on what work she turns in, despite her significantly lower GPA and SAT.

The Real World:

Note: Applicant A is not wildly privileged.  There are many, many applicants to Williams who look roughly like Applicant A.  There are also many, many applicants to Williams who benefit far more from privilege than Applicant A does (many will get tutors, for example, who often just do the student’s homework for them).

Also note: Applicants B and C are not particularly underprivileged.  There are many applicants to Williams who look roughly like Applicants B and C.  There are also many applicants to Williams who have to overcome a lot more.

The simple point I’m trying to make here is that privilege is real, and that privilege regularly has a significant impact on GPAs and SAT scores in ways that have no bearing on a student’s aptitude (/ likelihood of academic success while at Williams).  For Williams to admit the class with the most academic aptitude–a goal that David espouses but I am not necessarily endorsing–Williams cannot simply look to the GPAs and SATs of its applicants.

Facebooktwitter

The Parable of the Privilege Pill

tl;dr Enroll as many AR 1 applicants as you can, regardless of whatever “privileges” they may have had as children.

This comment from abl leads to the Parable of the Privilege Pill.

Imagine a family with twin sons, just entering 9th grade. The boys are average, both in their natural abilities and in their academic inclinations. Son 1 goes through high school with average grades and average test scores. According to Williams Admissions, he has an Academic Rating of 9. If he applies, he is rejected, as are all AR 9s. Note that Williams is not punishing him for bad performance in high school. The purpose of admissions is neither to punish nor reward. Williams rejects Son 1 because AR 9 high school students, on average, do very poorly at elite colleges.

Imagine that Son 2, on the other hand, takes a magic Privilege Pill on the first day of 9th grade, a pill which dramatically increases his academic performance for four years. He will receive excellent grades in high school and do very well on the SAT. Williams Admissions will rate him an AR 1 and, probably, admit him if he applies.

Williams would not (and should not) admit Son 2 if it knew about the Privilege Pill. By assumption, the pill only lasts for four years. After that, Son 2 becomes identical to Son 1, an AR 9, highly unlikely to perform well in an elite classroom. Admission to Williams is not a reward for strong performance in high school; it is a forecast of academic success in college.

The same reasoning applies to the Anti-Privilege Pill. Imagine a different family with twin daughters blessed with academic talent. Daughter 1 does very well in high school, is rated AR 1 by Williams and (probably) admitted. Daughter 2, unfortunately, takes an Anti-Privilege Pill at the start of high school and does much worse in terms of grades/scores than she would have done if she had not taken the pill.

Williams would (and should) admit Daughter 2 if it knew about the Anti-Privilege Pill. Recall that the pill, by definition, only lasts 4 years. Daughter 2 is, in truth, an AR 1 student whose underlying abilities have been masked in high school. We expect her to do as well at Williams as Daughter 1. Rejection from Williams is not a punishment for poor performance in high school; it is a forecast of academic struggles in college.

Things are different, however, in the case of a Privilege Pill (or Anti-Privilege Pill) which is permanent in its effects rather than temporary.

Consider a car accident in 9th grade which, tragically, leaves Daughter 2 with permanent neurological damage. Through no fault of her own, she will do only average in high school and will be scored as an AR 9 by Williams admissions. She will be rejected because, on average, high school students with AR 9, regardless of how they came to have an AR 9, do poorly at elite colleges. Even though she would have been an AR 1 (like her twin sister) were it not for the car accident, that sad fact does not influence Williams admissions.

The same reasoning applies to a Privilege Pill whose effect is permanent. If the Pill turns an average 9th grader into an AR 1, then Williams should admit her because she will, we expect, do as well as all the other AR 1s. The source of student ability — genetics, parenting, schooling, luck, wealth, special tutoring, magic pills — does not matter. Admissions to Williams is not a value judgment on the source, or justness, of student achievement in high school; it is a forecast of success in a Williams classroom.

With this framework, we can evaluate abl’s question:

If there are two students alike in every material respect (1450 SATs / 3.8 GPAs at the same school with comparable resumes), and you know that one student achieved her SAT scores after working with a private tutor with a long history of success stories while the other student did not have that opportunity — who would you accept?

The student without the tutor, obviously! In this scenario, the tutored-student has taken a Privilege Pill which, by assumption, is only temporary. She isn’t truly an AR 2. She would have scored 1300 without the tutor. She is really an AR 4 (or whatever). She is likely to do as well as other AR 4s at Williams. So, we should reject her (unless she is an AR 4 that we really want).

I honestly don’t see how any rational, clear-minded person can say that they aren’t going to accept the student who achieved her score on her own. That’s not because we are prejudiced against the student who got help: it’s that we don’t (or, at the very least, we shouldn’t) believe that her 1450 represents the same level of accomplishment and potential as the 1450 of the student who took the test cold.

Exactly how do you propose that Williams admissions determines “the student who achieved her score on her own?” While I am happy to answer your hypothetical question, the sad truth is that Williams has no (reasonable) way of determining which students achieved on their own and which did not. High quality SAT tutoring is available for free at Khan Academy, for example. How could you possibly know if a given applicant “took the test cold?” Answer: You can’t.

There strikes me as being a reasonable debate to be had about how and whether admissions officers should take these sorts of advantages into account in the admissions process. There is no reasonable debate to be had about whether or not privilege plays a role in student achievement as measured by SAT scores and by GPAs.

Perhaps. But the key question becomes: Are the advantages of privilege temporary or permanent? Does the Privilege Pill last through 4 years at Williams? If it does, then we can ignore it. Admissions to Williams is not a value judgment on the source, or justness, of student achievement in high school; it is a forecast of success in a Williams classroom.

Fortunately, this is an empirical question! Define “privilege” however you like, while using data available to Williams Admissions. I would suggest: A privileged applicant is one who attends a high quality high school (top decile?), will not need financial aid at Williams, and comes from a family in which both parents attended an elite college. (Feel free to suggest a different definition.) We can then divide all AR 1 Williams students into two groups: privileged and non-privileged. If you are correct that privileged students benefit from things like high quality SAT tutoring which makes them look temporarily better than they actually are, we would expect the privileged AR 1 students to perform worse at Williams than the non-privileged AR 1s. The same would apply to privileged versus non-privileged AR 2s, AR 3s and so on. Director of Institutional Research Courtney Wade could answer this question in an hour.

But don’t expect that analysis to be made public anytime soon. Courtney, and the people who do institutional research at Williams and places like it, are smart. They have already looked at this question. And the reason that they don’t publish the results is because of the not-very-welcome findings. Privileged AR 1s do at least as well at Williams as non-privileged AR 1s, and so on down the AR scale. The effects of the Privilege Pill are permanent. If anything, the results probably come out the other way because the AR scheme underestimates the permanent benefit of going to a fancy high school like Andover or Stuyvesant. But let’s ignore that subtlety for now.

The last defense of the opponents of privilege is to focus on junior/senior year. Yes, the poor/URM AR 3s and 4s that Williams currently accepts don’t do as well as the AR 1s and 2s in their overall GPA. But that is precisely because of their lack of privilege, or so the argument goes. After a couple of years, Williams has helped them to catch up, has made up for their childhood difficulties and obstacles.

Alas, that hopeful story isn’t true either. AR 3s/4s do worse than AR 1s/2s even after two years of wonderful Williams.

Summary: Admissions to Williams is not a value judgment on the source, or justness, of student achievement in high school; it is a forecast of success in a Williams classroom. It does not matter why you are an AR 1: intelligent parents who value education, luck in your assignment to a charismatic 8th grade teacher, wealth used to pay for special tutoring, genetics, whatever. All that matters is that your status as an AR 1 provides an unbiased forecast of how you will do at Williams. The Parable of the Privilege Pill highlights why the source of academic ability is irrelevant.

If Williams wants better students — students who write better essays, solve more difficult math problems, complete more complex science experiments — it should admit better applicants.

Facebooktwitter

Hopkins Ends Legacy Admissions, 3

Johns Hopkins had ended admissions preferences for legacies. Let’s spend 3 days going through it. Day 3.

Johns Hopkins President Daniels:

And of course now we’re at 3.5 percent of the class is legacy, and we’ve fully extinguished any legacy benefit in our admissions program.

The subtle point which no one discusses: Do legacies do “better” than non-legacies of equivalent high school qualifications? If so, then we should give legacies an admissions advantage!

How to measure “better”? I am flexible. Academics is one measure: GPA, taking tutorials, taking more advanced classes outside your major, writing a thesis, impressing professors. Extra-curriculars are another. (I think Williams has done some (secret!) research into factors associated with “thriving” at Williams. A third measure is student satisfaction.

I bet that AR 2 students who are legacies are happier at Williams than AR 2 students who are not legacies. If that is true, shouldn’t we give preference to legacy AR 2s over non-legacy AR 2s?

So far, what are some of the effects of this change, good or bad?

Phillips. What that affords us to do is have the flexibility to greatly change the composition of our incoming class. It’s much more diverse, much more high achieving than it had been previously. We’ve had significant increases in the proportion of first-generation students in our class, female engineers; the racial composition has changed.

David Phillips is Hopkins’s vice provost for admissions and financial aid. Is he naive or does he think we are stupid?

1) How “greatly” can you change the composition of the class with just a 8.5% switch? They still have legacies, just not as many as at the peak. (And note how the graph only goes back to 2009. You can be sure they have older data. Can you guess why they don’t show it? I can!)

2) Legacies are not just legacies, they also overlap with all sorts of other categories of students. If you now reject an African-American legacy who you would have accepted, you can either replace her with a different African-American applicant or you can decrease the percentage of African-Americans.

3) Every elite college in the country is more “diverse” than it was, including places like Williams and Harvard which still give legacy preferences. Is Hopkins more diverse than they are? Not that I can see. (And note that Hopkins makes it harder to find their Common Data Sets than any other elite college. I can’t find them! Can you?)

And so on.

Facebooktwitter

Hopkins Ends Legacy Admissions, 2

Johns Hopkins had ended admissions preferences for legacies. Let’s spend 3 days going through it. Day 2.

Might Johns Hopkins be lying? Sure! Elite colleges lie all the time about admissions issues. Consider President Daniels:

“But we know that the dream of equal opportunity is more elusive than ever for many in contemporary America,” he said. “To take one sobering statistic, most of the top universities in the country enroll more students from the top 1 percent of the income spectrum than from the bottom 60 percent.”

One of the most pernicious drivers of such inequity is legacy admissions, Daniels said.

There is zero evidence for this claim!

1) When Hopkins rejects a marginally qualified legacy, she doesn’t become a plumber. She goes to Duke. Assuming that Hopkins is not radically different from Williams — and why would it be? — the average legacy student, even back in the evil old days of 2009 — had a higher SAT than the average non-legacy. (Now, there are reasons that this is not a fair comparison, but it is absurd to claim that Hopkins legacies were somehow materially less qualified than the students they are being replaced with.)

2) Note the lack of transparency from Hopkins about who they are replacing the legacies with. If they reject a rich legacy with 1450 SATs and replace her with a rich non-legacy with 1460 SATs, then, it is true that they have removed the legacy advantage and, perhaps, served the cause of “justice.” But they have done nothing about wealth or income inequality. For all we know, Hopkins is just replacing moderately rich legacies with the scions of billionaires! Hard to spin that as a decrease in “inequity.”

3) How will Daniels ever know if we have achieved the “dream of equal opportunity?” Sure seems like his measuring stick is based in equal outcomes. Does the NBA provide “equal opportunity?” Sure seems like it does to me! And yet the racial (and gender!) breakdown of the NBA hardly matches that of the country as a whole.

4) Legacy admissions and top 1% income admissions are very different things. But note how easily Daniels conflates them. Indeed, for all we know Johns Hopkins has increased the percentage of its class which comes from top 1% income families. Perhaps some (many? most?) of the legacies that Hopkins now rejects were from middle income homes. Lots of Hopkins alumni become teachers, after all.

Facebooktwitter

Hopkins Ends Legacy Admissions, 1

Johns Hopkins had ended admissions preferences for legacies. Let’s spend 3 days going through it. Day 1.

Key chart:

Entire article is below the break. Comments:

1) This looks to be the real deal. How else to explain the dramatic change in the chart above?

2) This movement will spread:

a) The zeitgeist makes privilege, of any type, difficult to defend.

b) More importantly, elite colleges don’t really care all that much about giving advantages to alumni in general. Whether or not Susie Hopkins gives $1,000 per year just does not matter that much. (They care a huge amount about development admissions. You can bet that Mike Bloomberg’s grand-daughter will be treated very differently in the Hopkins admissions process than your grand-daughter.)

c) Do the very woke faculty/administration of elite colleges even like their alumni all that much? I am not so sure . . . No longer giving preferences to the children of people you don’t like or respect is more feature than bug.

d) Will Williams follow? I bet “Yes.” Then again, as the most “conservative” of the elite LACs, we might be among the last to go.

Read more

Facebooktwitter

Congratulations to the Class of 2024

Early decision results came out yesterday.

And a special shout-out to the smartest goddaughter in all the world . . .

Congratulations from EphBlog!

Facebooktwitter

This week’s Opinions Call-and-Response: Athletics!

Last week, we covered the Williams Record‘s call-and-response series of articles in “The Slutty Bitch Chronicles.” This seems to be the new trend in the Record‘s Opinions section: someone writes an op-ed in one issue of the Record, and three op-eds are published in response in the next. And you say debate is dead at Williams, David!

This week’s call-and-response topic: Athletic Recruitment!

The initial article: “Let’s lose the Directors’ Cup: A call to end athletic recruitment,” by Katherine Hatfield, November 20, 2019.

I’ve heard the argument that recruitment of athletes brings in more well-rounded people. The implicit opposite of a “well-rounded” athlete is a one-dimensional nerd. Academic achievement isn’t everything, of course … But our heavy recruitment of athletes glorifies a particular form of well-roundedness and a particular type of person: likely thin or strong, white and privileged. This value system is rooted in the College’s history as a place for white, privileged men, pursuing their masculine endeavors of physical dominance.

Excessive focus on our athletic program comes at the cost of the stated goals of admissions as set forth in our mission statement: diversity of all kinds, academic achievement and varied forms of personal promise. So, let’s stop recruiting for athletics.

Of course, if we stopped athletic recruitment, we would lose the Director’s Cup. But our athletic program would survive. Ideally, our current competitors in the NESCAC would also stop recruitment so that they would remain fair competition. If not, our teams could play community colleges or club teams at Div. I institutions.

Now, this week’s edition features three op-eds, all by student athletes, in response to Hatfield.

“Recruited athletes belong here: Empirical evidence as justification for the continued recruitment of varsity athletes at the College,” by Charlie Carpenter

Thus, the median GPA of sophomore, junior and senior varsity athletes is above a 3.40; the average GPA of the student body is a 3.45. Since the specific grade distributions of varsity athletes and the entire student body are not available, it is impossible to say where specifically the median GPA of varsity athletes lies – however it is certainly above a 3.40 given that 56 percent of eligible varsity athletes had above a 3.40. I understand I am comparing a median to an average (due to restrictions on available data) and excluding the first-year class; however, I think it is incredibly unfair for some non-athletes to believe their athletic peers do not deserve to be in the classroom when the numbers do not reflect this belief, which was referenced in a recent op-ed (“Let’s lose the Director’s Cup”, The Williams Record, Nov. 20, 2019). Yes, there are confounding variables such as the demographic makeup of varsity athletes, but that does not make the assertion that athletes do not perform as well their peers any more accurate.

By making this claim you diminish the quality and work of our admissions team, who carefully decide who deserves a place at Williams. This is and should not be a decision made by students. I ask that you not only respect the admission team’s decision, but also my, as well as my fellow varsity, recruited, athletes place on the Williams College campus. I would never presume that someone does not deserve to be here, and I ask the same of you.

Athletic recruitment is not the problem: If you want to change the demographics of athletic teams, change the demographics of the school,” by Sarah Lyell

While it is true that certain sports teams are predominantly made up of white students who attended prep schools, the claim that Williams lowers academic standards for athletic recruits is completely unfounded. We do not have statistics which demonstrate one way or another how recruited athletes’ grades and test scores differ from the whole of the student body. All we have is the claim that “some ‘non-ers’ feel that some of their athletic peers do not deserve to be here.” Aside from being wildly vague, is this really enough evidence to claim that athletic recruits are not academically qualified?

From my experience as a recruited athlete (albeit for a low-profile sport), I know that I was expected to have grades and test scores on par with the whole of the student body. Of course, without statistics, I cannot say with any kind of certainty whether my experience was universal. What I do know, however, is that if recruited athletes make up a third of the incoming class and are only a fraction of the group favored by admissions (including, but not limited to, legacy students, children of large donors, early decision applicants, underrepresented minorities, and students with an especially compelling talent), they cannot have significantly lower grades and test scores than the rest of the student body while Williams maintains its spot atop the U.S. News rankings.

Finally, “#whyd3: In defense of athletic recruitment,” by Lindsay Avant

Yes, I was a recruited athlete. Yes, I went to a prep school. And I deserve to be at Williams just as much as every other Williams student.

How often do you deal with imposter syndrome as a white person from New York attending a Predominantly White Institution? Well, for me, I’ve been dealing with imposter syndrome since I was 12 years old in middle school. As a Black woman who grew up in a Black neighborhood, and add that to the fact that I am by no means rich, (the only way I could attend this College Preparatory School was because of their generous financial aid) I’m sure you can imagine how going to a prep school had its challenges. One day a white person will tell me I was only there because I’m Black and the next day a different white person will tell me I was only there because I just happened to be decent at playing a game with a ball. If you would have told 12-year-old me that these comments would not cease, not when I got to high school, definitely not when I was applying to college (“Oh you’ll get into a good college because you’re Black,” and when I got into Williams the only reason had to be that I was an athlete), and, unfortunately, not in college, I’m not sure I would have believed people could be so cruel.

So, I’m sure you can imagine why I have a problem with more people telling me that I did not truly earn my place here.

Any thoughts?

Personally, my thought is that, while these back-and-forths provide a good quantity of content, they aren’t always quality. If I were the Record editors, there’s only one of these op-eds that I would have published (guess which one?), rather than have three articles saying the same thing with varying levels of coherence and persuasiveness. That’s their job, after all, as editors. Still, it does make for entertaining Wednesday afternoons.

Facebooktwitter

How to Write a Chance Request at College Confidential

A regular part of the conversation at the Williams board on College Confidential is a “chance” request. A high school student wants the community to provide feedback on her chances of being admitted to Williams. Unfortunately, many of these students are uninformed about the reality of elite college admissions so they don’t provide us with the necessary information to “chance” them correctly. (They also generally provide a mass of irrelevant data.) To make the world a better place, here is EphBlog’s Guide to How to Write a Chance Request for Williams. (The same advice applies to most elite colleges. Please read How Admissions Works at Williams.)

First, estimate your Academic Rating and provide the key evidence behind that estimate. (Background information here and here.) Tell us your Math/Reading SAT scores (and/or ACT), and your AP scores. Just tell us what you will be submitting to Williams. We don’t care how many times you took these exams or about the details of your Super Scoring efforts.

We also don’t need to know about the details of your academic program. Just provide an honest estimate of your Academic Rating and some background on your high school. (Telling us the name of your high school can be useful, but is not necessary.) We don’t care about your exact GPA. (If you did not take the hardest classes that your high school offers, admit that to us.) The best clue about the quality of your high school record can be found in the quality of schools that similarly ranked students have attended in past years, so tell us that. Even if your high school does not officially rank students, you must have a rough sense of where you stand (#2, top 5, top 10%, whatever). Tell us where the students at about your rank in the previous year’s class went to college.

The Academic Rating is the most important part of the process, so focus your words on that topic.

If all you do is just a big copy/paste of all sorts of blather (examples here and here) — the exact same 1,000 words that you might paste into other discussion boards, don’t be surprised if the only feedback you get is generic.

Second, cut out all the other cruft. We don’t care (because Williams doesn’t care) about all your clubs, activities, volunteer work, et cetera. Despite what your high school and/or parents may have told you, such trivia plays a de minimus role in elite college admissions. For example, your sports resume is irrelevant unless you are being recruited by a Williams coach and, if you are, they will tell you what your chances are.

Third, tell us your nationality. Williams has a quota against international applicants.

Fourth, tell us your race, or at least the relevant boxes that you will check on the Common Application. (See here and here for related discussion.) Checking the African-American box gives you a significant advantage in admissions, as does checking Hispanic, but less so. Checking the Asian box hurts your chances at Ivy League schools. There is a debate over whether Williams also discriminates against Asian-American applicants. It is also unclear whether or not checking two boxes or declining to check any box matters. So, for example, if you have one white and one African-American parent, you are much better off checking only the African-American box.

Fifth, tell us about your family income and parents background. Williams, like all elite schools, discriminates in favor of the very poor (family income below $50,000) and very wealthy (able to donate a million dollars). There is some debate over the exact dollar figures at both ends. Might Williams favor applicants whose families make us much as $75,000? Sure! Might Williams be swayed by a donation in the six figures? Maybe! Tell us whatever other details might be relevant. For example, Williams cares about socio-economic status more broadly than just income, so having parents that did not graduate from a 4 year college can be helpful. Among rich families, Williams prefers those who have already donated to Williams and/or have a history of supporting higher education.

The College loves to brag about two categories of students: Pell Grant recipients and “first generation” students, defined as those for whom neither parent has a four year BA and who require financial aid. If you can show the College evidence that you (will) belong in either category, your chances improve.

Summary: Almost all of elite college admissions is driven by Academic Rating, albeit subject to three broad exceptions: athletics, race and income. In order to provide you with an accurate chance, we need the details concerning these areas. Don’t bother us with all the other stuff.

Facebooktwitter

Guide to Athletic Admissions

The purpose of this post is to provide a guide to athletic admissions at Williams. Read Playing the Game: Inside Athletic Recruiting in the Ivy League by Chris Lincoln for all the messy details. (Despite the title, Lincoln covers NESCAC athletic admissions thoroughly.) See this three part series from the Bowdoin Orient. Williams is no different than other elite schools when it comes to athletic recruiting. Check out EphBlog’s prior coverage. See also last month’s review of Williams admissions as a whole.

1) General athletic ability/accomplishment does not matter. No one cares if you won the high school Judo state championship because Williams does not compete in Judo. No one cares if you were captain of your high school soccer team if you aren’t good enough to play for Williams.

2) Only the coach’s opinion matters. Even if you play a sport that Williams cares about at an elite level, it won’t matter unless the coach wants you. If the field hockey coach already has 2 great goalies, you could be an amazing goalie, perhaps even better than the current Ephs, and it would not matter for your chances at Williams because you would not be on the coach’s list. (She only has so many spots and wants to use them for positions that need more help.)

3) There are approximately 100 students in each class who would not have been admitted were it not for an Eph coach’s intervention. There are 66 “tips,” students whose academic qualifications are significantly below the average for the class as a whole. There are also 30 or so “protects” — perhaps currently terminology is “ices”? — who also would not have gotten in without coach intervention, but who are only slightly below average for the class as a whole in terms of academic ability. I believe that protects are academic rating 3s, while tips are academic rating 4s and below.

4) The number of tips/protects varies by sport as do the minimum standards. Football gets the most, by far, followed by hockey. Certain sports — crew, golf, squash — receive much less leeway. Football and hockey can let in (some) AR 5s. Other sports can’t go below AR 4 or even AR 3. Coaches have some flexibility in terms of using these spots, taking 4 people this year but 6 next year.

5) The biggest change in athletic admissions in the last 20 years followed the publication of the MacDonald Report, with support from then-president Morty Schapiro. Those changes both decreased the raw number of tips and, perhaps more importantly, raised the academic requirements, especially at the low end. In particular, there are very few athletic admissions below academic rating 4 — top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score.

6) Despite coach complaints and predictions of disaster, Williams athletics have been as successful in the last decade as they were in the decade prior to these changes.

7) My recommendation to President Mandel: Create another committee to revisit this topic. Fewer preferences given to athletes would raise the quality of the student body as a whole. The MacDonald Report made Williams a better college. Do the same again.

Facebooktwitter

More on Harvard Admissions Case

Ephblog has had several posts on the Harvard Admissions case (here, here, here). Today I want to look at a specific quote from judge’s decision:

Every student Harvard admits is academically prepared for the educational challenges offered at Harvard…In other words, most Harvard students from every racial group have a roughly similar level of academic potential, although the average SAT scores and high school grades of admitted applicants from each racial group differ significantly.

The key phrase in this quote is “roughly similar level.” In the past, there has been a lot of discussion on Ephblog about Academic Ratings and the role they play in the admission process. The judge in the Harvard case and I agree that as long as the admitted student is “academically prepared,” 50 points here or there on the SAT are not that big a deal. I would wager that DDF would disagree – anyone want to take that bet?

Facebooktwitter

Harvard Wins Anti-Asian Affirmative Action Case

From the Harvard Crimson:

Harvard College’s race-conscious admissions policies do not illegally discriminate against Asian American applicants, federal judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled Tuesday.

The ruling brings an end to this stage of the lawsuit filed against the University by anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions in 2014. SFFA alleged that the College’s admissions policies discriminate against Asian American applicants by holding them to higher standards. Burroughs, however, found that Harvard’s use of race in its admissions process is legal.

“Ensuring diversity at Harvard relies, in part, on race conscious admissions. Harvard’s admission program passes constitutional muster,” Burroughs wrote in her decision.

See the full decision (pdf) for details. I could spend a week or two going through the decision. Should I? Not sure any commentary would be that different from my five part series last year.

Thanks to David Kane ’58 for the pointer.

Facebooktwitter

How Admissions Works at Williams

Williams admissions work the same as admissions at most other elite colleges. If you understand the process at Swarthmore or Princeton, then you understand 99% of what happens at Williams. There are a variety of books about admissions at elite colleges, e.g., The Gatekeepers and A is for Admission. They capture 90% of the details. (These books are somewhat dated and may gild the lily a bit when it comes to race.) Williams Magazine published (pdf) an excellent 2005 article, “Recipe for Success,” about admissions. Virtually everything in it is true, but it also leaves out many of the more controversial aspects.

The purpose of this post is to explain how the Williams admissions process works in reality, not how it should work.

First, the most important part of the admissions process is the “academic rating,” often abbreviated as “AR.” From the Recipe article:

The full-time admission staffers, plus a handful of helpers like Phil Smith ’55 (Nesbitt’s predecessor as director), pore over the folders. Two readers examine each folder independently, without seeing each other’s comments, and assess them in three major ways. Each applicant gets an academic rating from 1 to 9 that focuses heavily on his or her high school grades, standardized test scores, the rigor of his or her academic program within the context of the school setting and the strength of teacher recommendations.

Nurnberg ’09 et al (pdf) provide a similar description:

After evaluating the applicant’s SAT scores, high school grades, essays, class rank, high school academic program, support from the high school administration, AP test score — or IB test scores — and teacher recommendations, admissions readers assign the applicant an academic rating from the scale 1 — 9, with 1 being the best.

Amherst, and all other elite colleges, use essentially the same system. The College does not like to reveal the details of these ratings, but we know from Peter Nurnberg’s ’09 thesis that:

While the academic reader ratings are somewhat subjective, they are strongly influenced by the following guidelines.

  • Academic 1: at top or close to top of HS class / A record / exceptional academic program / 1520 – 1600 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 2: top 5% of HS class / mostly A record / extremely demanding academic program / 1450 – 1520 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 3: top 10% of HS class / many A grades / very demanding academic program / 1390 – 1450 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 4: top 15% of HS class / A – B record / very demanding academic program / 1310 – 1400 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 5: top 20% of HS class / B record / demanding academic program / 1260 – 1320 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 6: top 20% of HS class / B record / average academic program / 1210 – 1280 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 7: top 25% of HS class / mostly B record / less than demanding program / 1140 – 1220 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 8: top 33% of HS class / mostly B record or below / concern about academic program / 1000 – 1180 composite SAT I score;
  • Academic 9: everyone else.

These ratings are high-school-quality adjusted. At an elite school like Boston Latin or Exeter, you can be in the top 5% or even lower and still be an AR 1. At a weaker high school, you need to be the valedictorian. At the weakest high schools (bottom 25%?), even the valedictorian is almost never considered smart enough to go to Williams, at least in the absence of top standardized test scores.

Note that the working paper (pdf) from which these details are taken was co-authored by then-Williams president Morty Schapiro, so one hopes that it is accurate! Nurnberg’s senior thesis included a copy of the “Class of 2009 Folder Reading Guide, Academic Ratings,” which provided these details:

      verbal   math   composite SAT II   ACT    AP
AR 1: 770-800 750-800 1520-1600 750-800 35-36 mostly 5s
AR 2: 730-770 720-750 1450-1520 720-770 33-34 4s and 5s
AR 3: 700-730 690-720 1390-1450 690-730 32-33 4s

Williams, and all other elite schools, use this system because academic rating does a wonderful job of predicting academic performance at Williams and elsewhere.

Perhaps the main reason that this post is necessary is that Williams, when politically convenient, likes to deny the fundamental realities about how it decides who to admit and who to reject. Consider then-President Adam Falk and Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Liz Creighton ’01 writing in the Record:

[T]he very notion that the “quality” of students can be defined on a single linear scale is preposterous

Academic rating is, precisely, a “single linear scale” and it is, by far, the major driver of admissions decisions. This is true both for the process as a whole and within sub-groups. For example, African-American applicants with academic rating 1 to 3 are virtually certain to be admitted while those with academic rating of 9 are almost always rejected. The College may have different standards across sub-categories but, within each subcategory (except athletes and development prospects), the academic rating explains 90% of the variation.

Second, students with an academic rating worse than 2 (i.e., 3 or higher) are summarily rejected unless they have a specific “hook” or attribute.

The Recipe article is explicit:

In general, all applicants with a combined academic rating of 3 or higher are rejected at this point, unless the first and second readers have identified one or more “attributes” that warrant additional consideration.

Details:

The readers also assign any of more than 30 “attributes” that admission uses to identify exceptional traits. Some of these are easily quantified, such as being the child or grand-child of an alumnus, a member of a minority group, an “impact” athlete or a local resident. Other more subjective “tags” draw attention (usually but not always favorably) to something special about a candidate, like a powerful passion or aptitude for scientific research or an interest in getting a non-science Ph.D.

From Nurnberg ’09 el al, attributes (in addition to race/ethnicity/gender) include:

alumni grandparent, alumni other, alumni parent, alumni sibling, studio art, development or future fundraising potential, dance, institutional connection, intellectual vitality, local, music, politically active, religious, research science, economically disadvantaged, social service, theater, top athlete, tier 2 athlete, and tier 3 athlete

The naive reader will assume that all these attributes have a similar effect. Being a great musician or a great athlete will help some AR 4s get into Williams, and that is OK. (And the College wants you to think that.) In fact, some attributes matter much more than others. Recall (from 2004!) Admissions Director Dick Nesbitt ’74:

We are able to admit roughly 120 top rated musicians each year from the top of the academic reader rating scale–what we refer to as academic 1′ and 2’s (broadly defined as 1500+ SAT’s and very top of the class).

For most attributes, the College does not need to dip below AR 1s and 2s. Yes, being a top musician may help you in the competition with other outstanding students, but, if you are AR 3 or below, it won’t. You will be rejected. And the same applies to other attributes. Top students are also, often, deeply involved in social service or theater. In high school, they often excel in research science or political activism. If Williams were to admit only AR 1s/2s, it would have plenty of students in all these categories.

Third, for applicants with AR 3 or below, the attributes that matter most are race, income and athletics.

Does this mean that no other attributes ever matter? No! It is certainly the case that the daughter of a prominent alum could get into Williams as an AR 4 or the son of a Williams professor as an AR 3. But the major categories, the ones that account for the vast majority of AR 3 and below admissions are race, income and athletics.

Don’t want to read all the posts from those links? Here is a brief summary:

1) There are 100 or so admissions decisions which are driven by a Williams coach. You are either on her list or you are not. These “tips” and “protects” are, by definition, only used for students with AR 3 and below. Best single post overview of the topic is here. See this for older commentary.

2) In the class of 2022, Williams has (pdf) 98 African-American/Hispanic students. A few of these are AR 1 or 2 applicants who would have been accepted at Williams regardless of which racial box they checked. But a majority, probably a vast majority, are AR 3 or below. Recall this discussion of SAT scores:

ccf_20170201_reeves_2

Asian-Americans in the 700+ range are at least 6 times more common than African-Americans/Hispanics. So, how can Williams have more African-Americans/Hispanics than Asian-Americans enrolled? (Hint: It isn’t because there aren’t 100+ Asian-Americans among the AR 1/2 applicants who are currently rejected by Williams.) The reason is that Williams admits scores of African-American/Hispanic applicants with AR 3 and below. Williams does this because it wants a class which “mirrors” or “reflects” the US population, at least when it comes to African-Americans and Hispanics. Note that the average African-American student at Amherst has an SAT score consistent with AR 5. It is highly unlikely that Williams does a better job than Amherst at attracting highly rated African-American students. The biggest problem that Williams faces is that Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford accept virtually every African-American (and almost all Hispanics) with AR 1/2 credentials, and Williams almost never wins those applicants, not least because it offers much less generous financial aid.

3) Unlike athletics (which the college is, sometimes, transparent about) and race (on which there is good data), family income and parental education are trickier. The College reports (and is proud of the fact) that 15%-20% of students are eligible for Pell Grants and that 15%-20% of students are first generation college students, meaning that they come from families in which neither parent has a 4 year BA. (Of course, there is a big overlap between these two groups, and, to a lesser extent, between these two groups and African-American/Hispanic students.) The problem is that all standardized test results (and, therefore, academic rating) are much lower, on average, for such students. So, in order to get such high enrollments, Williams must admit scores of such students with AR 3 or below.

About 1/2 of a Williams class is AR 1 or 2. (The median math+verbal SAT score at Williams is 15101, which is between AR 1 and 2.) There are 100 recruited athletes (all of whom, by definition, are AR 3 or below), 100 African-American/Hispanic students, 100 first generation and 100 Pell Grant recipients. That adds up to 400+ in a class of 550! Of course, many students fall into more than one category. Many (outside the athletes) are AR 1 or 2. But, given that we only have 275 spots left beneath AR 1/2, a large majority of the bottom half of the class are members of at least one of these 4 categories. The bottom 100 students in each class (approximately AR 5 and below) is almost completely dominated by these students. And, in the categories outside of athletes, academic rating drives the decisions. Williams is much more likely to accept an African-American and/or a first generation student and/or a future Pell Grant recipient if her academic rating is 1 to 3. Every single AR 9 applicant is rejected, regardless of her other outstanding attributes.

And that is how admissions works at Williams, and at almost all other elite colleges.

If knowledgeable observers (like abl) think that any of the facts above are wrong, please comment.

[1] Note that the renorming of SAT scores a few years ago has caused a big increase from the old median of about 1450. This makes the usage of written guidelines from before the increase a bit tricky. Does anyone know if Williams has changed the definitions for Academic Rating?

Facebooktwitter

Elite Admissions Based on Academics Alone would be STUPID

DDF’s post from yesterday had some “interesting” data from Harvard. At the end of the post, he says “Maybe this is good policy. Maybe not.” I think it is self evident that an admissions policy based on academics alone would lead to a Harvard (or a Williams) that is a less beneficial academic environment for all involved. As I have stated in previous posts, I trust the professionals in the admissions office to pick the right students. The only academic qualification I care about is, that they can do the work. As a former teacher, I will happily take a class with students who get A’s and B’s (and maybe even a few C’s) and has other qualities that are important over a class with students who get all A’s but lacks those other important qualities. Anyone want to guess what those “other important qualities” might include?

Facebooktwitter

Elite Admissions Based on Academics Alone

We have covered the Harvard admissions trial a bit at EphBlog. Do readers want more? In the meantime, one of the most interesting exhibits comes from this expert report (pdf):

There would be (shockingly?) few African-Americans or Hispanic students at Harvard if admissions were based solely on academics. If fact, this table is an overestimate since things are worse in the tails and Harvard could admit an entire class from just the top 5% of academic ability. Interestingly, white enrollment is largely unaffected.

Affirmative action at elite schools consists, almost entirely, of replacing Asian-American students with African-American and Hispanic students.

Although we lack the data, the same is almost certainly true at Williams. In fact, it is even worse because Harvard (and Yale and Princeton) accept/enroll not only the (few) African-American/Hispanic students with HYP credentials but also the next few hundreds, i.e., all the African-American/Hispanic applicants with only Williams-level credentials.

Maybe this is good policy. Maybe not. But EphBlog is here to explain exactly what is going on.

Facebooktwitter

College Board Changes Course on use of Diversity Scores

This New York Times article reports on the College Board’s decision to “withdraw its plan” to use a “diversity score.” It is a short but interesting read. I am not in position to comment on whether the score was fair or would be useful but I certainly agree the goal (” …to provide colleges with a consistent way of judging the neighborhoods and schools that students came from”) is worthwhile.

Admissions is a complex process and the more information the committee has the better. Of course, some people (looking at you DDF) may say there is no place for this kind of info in the admissions formula but I would strongly disagree.

Facebooktwitter

Who would you admit?

In DDF’s post on Monday, he said the following: “We should accept the best students, those who did well academically in high school and are likely to do well academically at Williams. We reject 100s of AR 1s each year. We should never accept an AR 2 (or 3? or 4?) just because she is a veteran or older or has gone to a community college.”

In the comments there was some discussion about whether or not veterans and community college students should be admitted. DDF said, “I just want the same rules for everyone. Call me crazy! If you are AR 1 (and maybe 2), you get in. If not, you don’t.”

I have NO PROBLEM with the admissions team having different standards for different applicants. I trust the professionals on the team to make the nuanced judgment that a veteran who is an AR 2 (or a 3 or 4), would add a lot more to the Williams community (in and out of the classroom) than another AR 1 from a prep school or Shanghai. I also trust the professionals to keep an approrpiate balance among those two groups.

How about you? Would you admit the veteran or the community college student?

I realize that the admission process is complicated and cannot really be boiled down to this simple a question but I STRONGLY belief that Williams is a better place when the admissions team looks beyond the numbers. I do not want the 525 students who will get the highest GPA’s, I want the 525 students who can be successful at Williams individually and together make the Williams community a better place for all its members.

Facebooktwitter

Admission and Mental Illness

Last week’s post discussed the readmission process after a medical leave of absence due to mental illness. In the comments, DDF wrote this:

If you were Sandstrom, would you re-admit a student at (medium? high?) risk of suicide?

That brings an equally interesting, yet somehow wholly different question: should Williams admit such a student in the first place?

It’s different, of course, because it’s an admissions committee making the decision vs a smaller, less formal, and less dedicated (it’s not their only job) committee that decides readmission. Last week, we had a whole discussion about what’s in the best interest of the student, and what’s in the best interest of the school, when it comes to readmitting students who have struggled with mental illness. That all comes with the prerequisite, though, that the student told the college about their mental illness (in the form of their application for a medical/psychological leave of absence) and is now relying on the college to make a decision about their readiness to return to Williams.

To get admitted in the first place, however, they had to go through no such process. You don’t have to disclose that you have any sort of disability on your college application (I’m pretty sure that’d be a violation of the ADA). You can choose to, of course, if you want to write an essay about it.

My guess is that students with very impactful physical disabilities or diseases will often choose to do this; if their disability has had a large impact on their lives, the challenges they’ve had to overcome, and the way they see the world, then that is, quite rightly, something they can and should highlight in an essay to set them apart to an admissions committee. The fact that the student is submitting the application means that they believe they will be able to handle college life with their disability; if the admissions committee determines this is the case academically, they will admit the student and will work to provide any accommodations needed for the student’s success.

Mental illnesses theoretically work similarly, in the sense that they don’t have to be disclosed under the ADA, and that once the student is admitted they can get the accommodations they need to succeed.

However, disclosing a mental illness in a college admissions essay is probably a lot rarer–and a lot less “successful,” in the sense that it probably gives college admissions committees more reason to doubt the student’s ability to thrive than convinces them of the student’s tenacity and unique perspective. Should this be the case? If a student comes into the college with a mental illness, should their readiness for college be inherently doubted?

Facebooktwitter

11% International Students in the Class of 2023

EphBlog has been banging the drum for increased international admissions for almost 15 years. (Relevant posts here, here, and here.) Recall EphBlog’s demand/request/prediction a year ago.

Brown is at 11% international. Woo-Hoo! If Mandel moves Williams to 11% (from our current 7%, pdf), she will instantly be a better president than Falk.

Emphasis in the original. And EphBlog gets results! The Williams class of 2023 is 11% international. Comments:

1) Yeah, Maud! This change, along with her affirmation of academic freedom at Williams, make President Mandel a most excellent president, at least according to EphBlog.

2) New Director of Admissions Sulgi Lim ’06 reported this news at the Admissions Open House during alumni week-end. Sadly, Sulgi, unlike her boss, Provost Dukes Love, does not believe in sharing her public presentations with Ephs who are too poor or busy to attend events like this one. Boo!

3) Sulgi described the change as being caused by two factors. Her office was allowed to admit more international applicants than before. And the yield was higher than expected. I do not know the relative importance of the two changes.

4) There are 45 international students (pdf) in class of 2022. (Prior few years were 41, 41, 46, 49 and 37.) Eleven percent of approximately 535 — 550 would be about 58 — 60 students.

5) Key question: Has there been an official change in the Williams quota — oops! I mean “goal” — for international enrollment? I hope so! The best college in the world will be 50% non-US by 2050. The sooner that Williams moves in that direction, the more likely we are to retain our status.

6) Sulgi talked the usual nonsense about the diversity of international admissions, bragging about the 29 (?) countries represented. Nothing wrong with diversity (of course!) but, in general, the applicant from poor country X is not really representative of X. Instead, she is the daughter of country X’s ambassador to England, and has been educated in international schools all her life. (Not that there is anything wrong with country X or ambassadors or England or international schools!) As long as she is academically excellent EphBlog does not care.

7) Unstated by Sulgi, but known to her and to everyone with a clue about international applicants, the central issue is Asia, especially China and the Chinese diaspora. Williams could probably admit 100 English-fluent students with academic credentials — and likely academic performance at Williams — in the top 10% of the class. We should not admit all 100 tomorrow. But we do need a faculty committee to look closely at the issue of international admissions.

UPDATE: For weird technical reasons, I may not be able to post comments at EpHblog for a couple of weeks. Fortunately, I can still update this post. Here are further thoughts on this topic:

> Any reason 50% instead of 70%?

1) I am not overly committed to 50% as a prediction. I am completely committed to increasing the current 11% higher.

2) I still think 50% is a good prediction because a (major?) part of what Williams is selling is a US education. Can you really provide a US education with a 70% international student body? I am not sure. And I expect that Chinese parents would be even less sure . . .

3) I think that 30% is less likely than 50% because I think that a) the morality of having an international quota, like the morality of having a Jewish quota, becomes less tenable over time. It wasn’t just me that has caused the doubling of the international student body at Williams over the last decade or so. Was it? ;-)

4) I think that competitive pressures and a herd mentality come into play. Every time school X becomes more international, it becomes easier/necessary for school Y to become more international. But 50% is still a more reasonable stopping point than 70%, because of 2).

Facebooktwitter

Eph Fecudity

How many children does an average Eph have? My current guess is at least 1.5, and probably more.

Consider a not-so-randomly selected first-year entry from the mid 1980s. Those Ephs are now into their 50s with, presumably, most of their reproduction complete. The entry had 24 students, 12 men and 12 women. It has produced at least 36 children. Three of the women and (I think) three of the men had no offspring. The remaining 18 averaged exactly two children each. Comments:

1) This is a minimum. If I only relied on the Alumni Directory, I would only have found 32 children. One (male) alum, with 4 children, had not recorded any of them in the directory. I may have missed others.

I am especially suspicious of two other male alums with no children listed. I think — opinions welcome! — that male alums are much less likely to be childless than female alums, and that male alums are less likely to have accurate entries in the directory. Or is that an unfair stereotype?

2) Perhaps some (older!) readers could report the data for their own freshmen entries? Although entries are small, they are (very?) random, so just counting all the children from a single entry probably provides a not-unreasonable estimate.

3) Given that I sampled 24 students out of a class of 500, what is the confidence interval for my 1.5 estimate? I probably should have kept track of the 24 individual values and done a bootstrap . . .

4) This is relevant for our discussions about legacy admissions. If 1.5 is accurate then, for the class of 2024, applying this fall, there are 750 or so high school seniors with an Eph parent (and hundreds more with an Eph grandparent). Around 75 of them will become students at Williams. Is is hard to believe that the top 10% of the distribution of Williams children might be academically equivalent to the other 475 members of the class of 2024? Not at all.

5) A rigorous way of exploring this conclusion would be to calculate the expected regression to the mean of children in terms of the academic abilities of their parents. Smart people have smart children, but generally not children as smart as them. So, the average child of an Eph would not be smart enough to get into Williams. But the top 10%? I bet yes. (Readers are welcome to provide their own calculations in the comments.)

Facebooktwitter

Advice on Applying to Windows on Williams

Did you read Eph ’20’s excellent four part series on Windows on Williams (WOW)? You should! Part I, II, III and IV. Here is the application, which is due August 1. In recent years, there have been around 2,000 applicants, with 200 or so students accepted.

My advice for those who want to get in (and who recognize the morally suspect nature of the college admissions process):

1) Make your family as poor as possible. (Nothing here is meant to encourage you to “lie,” per se, but you should understand what Williams is looking for and adjust your application accordingly.) income
Whatever you think your family income is, chop that estimate in half. After all, you don’t really know, do you? Also, if there is any reason to think that income is variable, tell Williams the story. Also, keep in mind that Williams cares a lot about whether or not you will be eligible for a Pell Grant.

The maximum Federal Pell Grant for the 2019–20 award year (July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020) is $6,195.

Williams doesn’t care about that $6,195, and it doesn’t really care about exactly how poor you are. But it loves to brag about how many students qualify for Pell Grants. And Williams is also rated by other elites (here and here) on this criteria. So, I bet that applicants who report family incomes below $50,000 are much more likely to be accepted at WOW.

2) Make yourself as diverse as possible.race URM admissions at Williams is a fascinating topic. The two most relevant posts are probably here and here. Slightly modifying what I wrote 13 (!) years ago:

Note that the WOW application form gives you almost complete latitude in what boxes you check. It asks you to “indicate how you identify yourself.” In other words, there is no requirement that you “look” African-American or that other people identify you as African-America, you just have to “identify yourself” as African-American, just as, when she applied for a faculty position at Harvard, Elizabeth Warren identified herself as Native American.

Now, one hopes, that there isn’t too much truth-stretching going on currently. The Admissions Department only wants to give preferences to students who really are African-American, who add to the diversity of Williams because their experiences provide them with a very different outlook than their non-African-American peers. But those experiences can only come from some identification — by society toward you and/or by you to yourself — over the course of, at least, your high school years. How can you bring any meaningful diversity if you never thought of yourself as African-American (or were so thought of by others) until the fall of senior year?

The point here is not that the current admissions policy for WoW is bad or good. It is what it is. The point is that there are significant preferences given to those who check certain boxes and that cheap genetic testing will provide many people with a plausible excuse to check boxes that, a few years ago, they did not have.

Checking one of those boxes (other than white or Asian, of course!) will dramatically increase your odds of acceptance to WOW. Similar reasoning applies to the other diversity-lite questions, like first language spoken and language spoken at home.

3) Make your parents as uneducated as possible. (Relevant discussion here.) Back in the day, Williams measured socio-economic diversity on the basis of whether or not either parent had a four year college degree. I suspect that this matters much less now, but there is certainly no reason to exaggerate their educational credentials or, for that matter, socioeconomic status.

Good luck to all the applicants!

Facebooktwitter

Atlantic on Admissions, 2

This Atlantic article about legacy admissions is a mess, but it does have a couple of interesting data points. Day 2 of 2.

From the article:

Yale is an interesting case study. The school currently gives the children of alumni an admissions bump, but from 1980 to 2010, the proportion of students in its freshman class with a parent who also attended dropped from 24 percent to 13 percent.

1) Just because Yale tells a gullible Atlantic reporter something — like that it does not discriminate against Asian-Americans — does not make that something true. Yale has many reasons, mostly related to fund-raising, to claim that it gives legacies a “bump,” even if — especially if! — the bump is so small as to be invisible.

2) I don’t think the drop at Williams has been so dramatic, but there has been a drop. I think a recent class was only 10% legacy, whereas the usual number was closer to 15%. I don’t know what it was in the 80’s, although that information is available in the library in the annual letters that the Admissions Office used to produce for the trustees. On my list of projects for reunion week-end!

3) The numbers for Yale help to explain the dramatic increase in legacy quality at Yale. (We don’t have Yale data but there is no reason why the trends would not be the same there as at Harvard/Williams.) First, if you only take half as many legacies, you can reject the really stupid ones. Second, the doubling of the Yale undergraduate class size from the 60s to the 80s means that there are, more or less, twice as many legacies to choose from. Third, Yale students in the 80s are much smarter than those from the 50s, so their children will form a much more academically accomplished pool to choose from.

Facebooktwitter

Atlantic on Admissions, 1

This Atlantic article about legacy admissions is a mess, but it does have a couple of interesting data points. Day 1 of 2.

Applying to college as a legacy is like having a superpower. It has been estimated to double or quadruple one’s chances of getting into a highly selective school, and has been found to be roughly equivalent to a 160-point boost on the SAT.

I need to re-work my annual post on legacy admissions to deal more directly with (excellent!) comments/criticisms from folks like abl. In the meantime, can we agree that the above is incredibly misleading? The average SAT score for Williams legacies is higher than the average for non-legacies. Nor is this only a Williams phenomenon:

And a Harvard spokesperson told me that admitted legacies tend to have higher median test scores and grades than the rest of admitted students. This doesn’t make the admissions advantage that legacies are given defensible, but it’s possibly another reason that the status quo of legacy admissions persists.

Now “admitted students” are not the same as “enrolled students,” which is the real comparison we want. But Harvard enrolls 80%+ of its admitted students, so the statistics for admitted students are very likely to be similar to those of enrolled students. Moreover, it is not obvious which way any differences would go.

The question is that same as before. If, among enrolled students, the average Harvard legacy scores 1500 (or whatever), and the average non-legacy scores 1480, how much of a preference could being a legacy possibly be?

Entire article below the break:

Read more

Facebooktwitter

The Purple Rubble

The College Council has removed from its Facebook account a controversial video. This video captured an example of profane, incendiary, anti-white bigotry directed at white student representatives by one of the most prominent black student leaders at Williams College on June 9, 2019.

The video featured a long, stream-of-consciousness rant saying, in part, “…to be here is like sucking white d*** every f***ing day.”

“You want a discussion and dialogue. Here’s the f***ing dialog. We don’t have dialogue, because every time we try to talk to you we get shut down by the white moderate, white liberal bull***t.”

A link to the video was published on Ephblog on April 15, 2019. A partial transcript appeared at the Anonymous Political Scientist blog on that same day. Finally, The College Fix published a link to the video on April 19, 2019. The College Fix is a national-level conservative website where student journalists write on topics in higher education.

NOTE: A heavily redacted transcript of the June 9, 2019 meeting is still available at 4_9 Minutes.

According to the Williams Record, black student activists planned a demonstration to protest their treatment by the College Council. It was canceled, however, after links to the video rant were published at various on-line sites.

Facebooktwitter

EphBlog in the NYT, 10

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 10.

The Times’s editorial board notes that the indictments do not challenge the legal uses of money to influence the admissions process: “What the government actually is defending is private property — the right of the colleges to make their own decisions about admissions, and collect the payments.” And my colleague Frank Bruni weighs in as well.

The Times is correct. There is nothing wrong with writing a check to get your child into Williams, c.f., Hollander Hall. But you must write the check to the correct person.

Matt Levine explains it well:

The deep point here is that the law is pretty good at protecting property interests, but not so good at protecting fairness. If there’s a thing, and someone owns it, and you take it, the law can deal with that: It’s relatively straightforward to figure out what happened and explain why it was wrong and identify the victim and assign blame to the perpetrator and so forth. Fairness is a much harder concept to pin down and enforce; my “unfair advantage” might be your “deserved reward for hard work and innate skill.” What’s odd is not that insider trading law is about theft; what’s odd is that it almost looks like it might be about fairness, and that people think it is.

There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, except for the extremely well-known one where you donate a building in exchange for getting your kid in! “Lol just donate a building like a real rich person,” the U.S. Attorney almost said.

It is not about fairness; it is about theft. Selective colleges have admissions spots that they want to award in particular ways. They want to award some based on academic factors; they want to award others based on athletic skill; they want to award others in exchange for cash, but—and this is crucial—really a whole lot of cash.

Read the whole thing. Williams wants you to give it, or rather Megan Morey in the Development Office, $5 million. Williams does not want you to give $500,000 to women’s soccer coach Michelyne Pinard. The former gets your AR 3/4 (even 5?) child into Williams. The latter gets you arrested.

Heed EphBlog’s wisdom!

Facebooktwitter

EphBlog in the NYT, 9

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 9.

“Recruited athletes not only enter selective colleges with weaker academic records than their classmates as a whole but that, once in college, they ‘consistently underperform academically even after we control for standardized test scores and other variables,’” Edward Fiske wrote in a 2001 book review for The Times.

This might have been true in 2001, but, even then, I have serious doubts about the quality of the statistical work underlying these claims. But it was never really true at Williams. The 2002 MacDonald Report (pdf) concluded that “Athletes, to summarize, achieve lower grades than other students overall, but achieve about the same grades as students with similar academic ratings.”

It could be that Williams was a different sort of school than the others used in “The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values,” the book reviewed by Fiske in the Times. I think it more likely that authors Shulman and Bowen just did sloppy empirical work.

But, wouldn’t you know it, we now know more than we did 20 years ago! Consider this 2009 Report (pdf).

We find that the gap in academic performance, as judged by grade point average, has narrowed substantially overall and has essentially disappeared for female athletes and for male athletes in low-profile sports. The gap for male athletes in high-profile varsity sports (which we defined as football,ice hockey, basketball, and baseball; other studies include different sports, such as wrestling and lacrosse) appears to be narrowing, but persists even after we adjust for 1) academic qualifications prior to enrolling at Williams College, 2) socio-economic status, and 3) the individual’s year (e.g.sophomore, senior). Thus academic under-performance by male varsity athletes in high-profile sports continues, and cannot be attributed to academic credentials prior to Williams or to socioeconomic status.

The narrowing of the overall academic performance gap since 2002 could be due to any of number of factors (perhaps including changes in team culture during the past decade) but one likely factor is the change in admissions standards for athletic “tips”. The minimum qualifications required for admission to Williams have been raised during the intervening years, and are continuing to rise.Thus varsity athletes’ academic preparation for Williams College is increasingly similar to that of the rest of the student body. Our data indicate that academic under-performance by male varsity athletes playing high-profile sports can largely be attributed to those who are less well-prepared academically for Williams, and thus it is our sense that the “raising of the floor” for admissions tips may have been an important factor in reducing overall difference in the GPAs of varsity athletes and non-athletes.

This is somewhat sloppy and confusing. But the key point is that, for 28 of the 32 varsity sports teams at Williams, the average academic performance of athletes is indistinguishable from that on non-athletes. That is a fairly different message from “consistently underperform academically.”

Again, there are a lot of subtleties and we would all like more recent data. And it could be that Williams is different than other schools. But for Leonhardt and others to continue to pretend that athletes in general are some weird outlier group on campus, academically disconnected from their peers, is just nonsense. Might there have been, and still be, issues with the football team and men’s ice hockey? Sure! Yet those are precisely the high profile sports which were not involved in the current scandal.

Facebooktwitter

EphBlog in the NYT, 8

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 8.

It has taken 8 days, but we have finally come around to EphBlog!

At some colleges, like Williams, nearly one-fifth of first-year students are recruited athletes, EphBlog explains.

1) Thanks for the link! But who should we really thank? I doubt that Leonhardt reads EphBlog or remembered this post. It was more likely turned up via a Google search. But by whom?

2) The link is, sadly, not the best that could have been used. First, this is an annual post on How Admissions Work at Williams, and the latest version is always best. Second, the topic here is athletic admissions, covered in much more detail in this post.

3) Why “some colleges?” Large admissions preferences for athletes is an almost universal practice at elite colleges, Caltech being the most prominent exception. (There is occasional nonsense that MIT does not use athletic preferences. That is garbage. Here is the link for athletic recruiment.)

4) Also misleading is “nearly one-fifth.” Williams probably has a lower percentage than most other NESCAC schools, mainly because we have a somewhat larger student body. That is, in most of NESCAC, the percentage is higher than 20%.

5) Note the correction that Leonhardt added to the column.

An earlier version of this newsletter misstated the share of students at Williams College who are recruited athletes. It is about 30 percent, not nearly one in five.

This is just nonsense. Leonhardt has apparently decided that, since 30% of Williams students play inter-collegiate sports, every single one of them must be a recruited athlete. That is a fantasy.

Wikipedia tells us that:

The Gell-Mann amnesia effect describes the phenomenon of an expert believing news articles on topics outside of their field of expertise even after acknowledging that articles written in the same publication that are within the expert’s field of expertise are error-ridden and full of misunderstanding.

Why should I believe Leonhardt when he talks about the US budget when he can’t even describe the admissions process at Williams accurately?

But a NYT link is still much appreciated!

Facebooktwitter

EphBlog in the NYT, 7

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 1.

I’m a sports fan and long-ago high school athlete. I have a lot of admiration for students who are talented enough and work hard enough to play sports in college. But they are not a different species. It’s time to end the extreme special treatment that colleges give to so many of them. College sports can still exist without it.

EphBlog agrees. The place to start is with increased transparency, as we have discussed before.

NESCAC schools should measure and make public the academic accomplishments of their student athletes, both in high school (AP/SAT scores) and in college (GPA, majors).

Suggestions:

  • In the first (trial) year, allow each school to present the information in whatever way it prefers. (Smart presidents will simply delegate the task to their athletic directors and institutional researchers.) Since no (?) athletic conference has done this before, it is not clear what the best approach might be.
  • Any statistic should be presented in three different ways: for the entire student body, for the team as a whole and for the team weighted by playing time. (The last measure discourages coaches from stacking teams with academically accomplished benchwarmers.) FERPA prevents schools from releasing data about an individual student, but there is no law against making aggregate data available.
  • Include data from both high school and college. We want to demonstrate both the affect of athletics on admissions and, even more importantly, how athletes perform in college.

There are several benefits to greater transparency about the academic performance of NESCAC athletes. First, it would publicly demonstrate a fact that many non-athletes doubt: On the whole, athletes are similar in their academic qualifications and accomplishments to non-athletes. Second, it would encourage coaches to make academics a bigger focus in both their recruiting and their mentorship. If you (partially) measure coaches by the academic performance of their teams, you will get better academic performance. Third, it will prevent coaches/schools from complaining, inaccurately, about the behavior of their peers. Right now, coach X loves to claim that school Y unfairly lowers standards for its recruits. Who knows? With transparency, we can observe institutional behavior easily.

Leonhardt wants to decrease the admissions advantages for athletes. The first step in that politically-fraught process is greater transparency about exactly what the admissions advantage is, and its effect on subsequent academic performance.

Facebooktwitter

EphBlog in the NYT, 6

New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt linked to EphBlog in his column a few weeks ago about the enfolding admissions bribery scandal. Thanks! Alas, Leonhardt is one of the more clueless education reporters, a not particularly clued-in breed, as we have documented again and again and again. Is a link from him something to be proud of? Either way, his article merits 10 days of discussion. Day 6.

“Athletic recruiting is the biggest form of affirmative action in American higher education, even at schools such as ours,” as Philip Smith [’58], a former dean of admissions at Williams College, has said. It’s a relic of the supposedly character-defining role that sports played in elite colleges a century ago.

Why should we trust anything that Leonhardt says when he demonstrates his dishonesty so clearly here? You, naive reader, probably think that this quote from Smith is “true,” that Leonhardt called up Smith, discussed the recent news and Smith said these words to Leonhardt. But that is not what happened! (The “tell” is in the use of “has.”)

In fact, this quote is from 18 years ago. Leonhardt wants you to think that he is performing the ancient and time-honored craft of “reporting” when, in truth, he is just slapping things together in order to fit a pre-arranged narrative. EphBlog does that all day long, but at least we are honest about it!

The good news here is that I am glad that Phil Smith is no longer (one hopes!) talking to New York Times reporters. Anyone who took showers in the men’s locker room during the 1980s knows that there are certain parts of Williams history that are best left unexamined in this MeToo era . . .

Facebooktwitter

Next Page →

Currently browsing posts filed under "Admissions"

Follow this category via RSS