On a recent visit to Haverford College in Pennsylvania (outside Philadelphia), I picked up the student newspaper to read a front page headline about admissions statistics. I then sat down to comment on what I read.
If you prefer, you may read the transcript below.
You know whenever I’m visiting a college campus one of the things I do is I pick up a copy of the school newspaper just to take a look and a quick flip through to see what’s going on on campus. And of course this is the end of April/ beginning of May and the cover story is all about admissions and I’m on the campus now of Haverford College which is a selective liberal arts school outside of Philadelphia and it’s a great little place, a beautiful campus. It’s a Quaker school traditionally so a more liberal student body in some ways. The Quakers are known for their commitment to social justice so that’s sort of a hallmark of this campus, but a very nice liberal arts school with a very selective admissions policy. But the cover story here is about the acceptance rates are down and diversity is up. So there are two things that colleges like to do when they are doing their admissions; one is to make it more selective, make it harder to get in so it will have more applications than there are actual spots; and then the other thing is to increase their diversity. One of the things that they’ve said here is that for the first time accepted students from California outnumber students from New York. You know a small liberal arts college like this there are lots and lots of people from the mid-Atlantic states and surrounding regions that will apply to a school like Haverford where they have a tougher time finding people from other parts of the country—the South, the middle West, the far West, the mountain states where I’m from. So diversity is a goal that every college has in its admissions process. They want to have a student body that is largely representative of the country and of the planet. They try to get as many international students as they possibly can too.
So thinking about admissions many times students forget that if they’re applying to a college and if they are denied, they forget that colleges have agendas. And one of the agendas clearly at Haverford is the desire to have a more representative, more diverse student body—not just in terms of the colors of students and the socioeconomic backgrounds, but also just the place where they came from. So California is up, New York is down. Different colleges have different formulas. It pays to pay attention to these as you’re applying and as you’re deciding where it is you want to go.