by Bruce Vinik
More than 6,000 professionals from the US and around the world have gathered in Columbus, Ohio for three days to take stock of the state of college admissions. It's where the Dean of Admissions from an Ivy League school can rub shoulders with a public high school guidance counselor from a small town in the Midwest. They are here to talk about all things college admissions, from recruitment strategies and standardized testing to high school advising and helicopter parents.
On Thursday afternoon, I attended an educational session titled How Numbers Are Used (and Misused) in the Admissions Process. The presenters included a couple of high school college counselors, one independent counselor and Jon Boeckenstedt, the Associate Vice President of Enrollment from DePaul University. Within the world of college admissions, Jon is regarded as a numbers guru, someone who uses data to try to understand the intricacies of the college admissions landscape.
The basic takeaway from the session -- pay attention to the right numbers, not the wrong numbers. The wrong numbers include all the different ranking systems that are out there, from US News and World Report to Forbes -- the data they use to formulate their rankings is arbitrary and misleading.
The right numbers include data that individual colleges publish about their own admissions decisions. These numbers tell an important story. The panelists made one particular point that stuck with me, not because the point is new but because it reinforces something we tell parents and kids all the time. In getting into selective colleges, the difference between early decision and regular decision is often enormous. Most schools accept a much higher percentage of early decision applicants than regular applicants. It's not unusual for colleges to admit one out of four regular students vs two out of four ED students. That's a big difference and one that kids and parents need to think about seriously. The panelists were not passing judgment about the ethics of early decision; they were simply urging counselors to urge families to pay attention to the right numbers.