College Admissions: Playing the Gender Card

When my daughter was looking at colleges I used to worry that Caitlin would get a raw deal from a school simply because she was a girl.

At many liberal arts colleges, 60% of the students are girls and 40% are boys. Some college administrators believe that the tipping point is reached when women make up more than 60% of a student body. When that happens female and male applicants will sometimes cross a school of their lists. To keep a school from becoming too lopsided, some admissions offices will turn away qualified girls.

I wasn’t happy with this reality when Caitlin was applying to colleges, but I’m a bit relieved now that I’ve got a son who is interested in attending a liberal arts college.

How do you know if a college will give a boy a break?

Look at a school’s latest Common Data Set. I discussed Common Data Sets in my last post — just scroll down to see what they are. Each school’s Common Data Set will contain the number of boys and girls who applied during the previous academic year, as well as the acceptance percentage for each sex.

Here are a couple of examples of gender disparities that I included in my book: The University of Richmond’s acceptance rate for boys was recently 43.9% versus 37.1% for girls. Swarthmore College, an elite liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, recently accepted 21.2% of its male applicants, but just 15.2% of the women who applied.

The news isn’t all glum for girls. If they want to attend engineering schools or institutions heavy in the sciences, they could get a better reception than the boys. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for instance, 22.3% of women were recently admitted, but just 9.7% of men. Carnegie Mellon University recently accepted 31.6% of its male applicants and 37.5% of the women applicants.

You’ll find more about playing the gender card in my new book, The College Solution.

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