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Colorado College: The Downside of Success and Selectivity

An article on the front page of today’s Denver Post is entitled, “College Admissions Miss ‘Risks,‘” highlights the problem of up-and-coming colleges unwittingly bring on themselves as they become more selective: the student body becomes smarter, more capable, and more homogenous.

By every measure, Colorado College has become more selective. More and more students are applying. The percentage of applicants accepted has gone down. The yield (the number of those accepted to matriculate) has risen. The quality of the student body–as measured by test scores, average GPA, and class rank) has gone up.

And yet some faculty and students and even a few administrators are complaining that one of the unintended consequences is that the student body has become less diverse–not only in terms of ethnicity, but in terms of perspectives, life experiences, and soci0-economic background.

Some colleges, including Colorado College, are considering going “test optional” in an attempt to enhance their chances of attracting quality minority, first-generation, and less well-off students.

The fact is that students in poorer schools in less affluent neighborhoods will likely have lower test scores. I am working with the valedictorian at a high school in a poorer neighborhood. He has a perfect transcript: earned an A in every class and he is taking the most difficult course load available to him. Yet he scored a 24 on the ACT, which is only slightly above average. He’s no less intelligent than his counterparts at the fancy schools across town. He just has had fewer opportunities. He speaks Spanish at home, so his English vocabulary is not as rich as it might be. His parents are not well educated, so they can’t help him with his calculus homework.

Yet based on his scores, he is well below the median 31 ACT that Colorado College is now accepting. So without encouragement, he might not apply to a place like Colorado College–assuming (probably erroneously) that he would not be competitive.

So Colorado College is right to reexamine its admissions policies in light of its experience, and in light of its goals and mission. I admire the fact that CC was willing to address this issue head on. It’s a sign that CC really is an excellent institution.

Mark Montgomery
College Counselor in Colorado

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