On Monday, George Washington University student newspaper GW Hatchetreported that GW has misled its applicants for years about its true admissions and financial aid policy. The school claimed to be need-blind but was actually placing students who could not afford GW’s tuition on the waitlist. (And they think Georgetown is elitist.)
GW’s new Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Laurie Koehler admitted that the unknown policy was affecting upwards of 10 percent of GW’s 22,000 yearly applicants. Students who qualified for admission after the first round of application reading could be shifted from accepted to waitlisted, unless they were an outstanding applicant.
During the second round of application readings, GW took its budget balance into consideration when deciding which students would get in off the waitlist. Wealthy students were accepted while students who needed more financial aid were not.
According to the Hatchet, “as recently as Saturday, admissions representatives told prospective students in an information session that their applications would be judged without glancing at their financial aid profiles.” That policy has now been clarified to a “need-aware” view of applicants, and GW’s website has now been updated to reflect the change.
Former Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions Zakaree Harris claims that he and his colleagues were unaware that senior admissions officials were basing admissions decisions off of applicants’ financial need. “Our policies, and even information that we were giving to families, were always about being need-blind in our process,” Harris said, according to the Hatchet. “I do not recall and do not remember ever having a conversation about the specific nature of someone needing X amount of dollars and us making an admissions decision based upon that.”
Let us take quiet moment to reflect on the dark days of the Common App that essentially summed up the dismal, disheartening experience of the college admissions process. Do you remember looking at various schools’ minuscule acceptance rates and having the simultaneous desire to both cry hysterically and jump out a window? Well, fear not, my friends.
Unsurprisingly, some of the nation’s most “prestigious” universities have admitted to purposefully skewing their admissions data by including incomplete applications in the total calculation of their acceptance rates. At Washington and Lee University, approximately one in six of the nearly 1,100 applicants for the class of 2016 were never even finished. But hey, it’s all good, it isn’t like it caused a 5 percent drop in their acceptance rate or anything.
To be fair, Washington and Lee is in some impressive company—Vassar, Pomona, Bowdoin, and Haverford have all also admitted to incorporating a small number of incomplete applications into their admissions totals. As for dear old Georgetown, incomplete applications accounted for a mere 5% of the reported application total in 2012. Vox guesses we can let that one slide, considering the University doesn’t use the Common App (a move that would up the total number of applications each year).
It is no mystery that colleges and universities in the United States have become a tad bit obsessive in projecting the image that their institution is so exceptionally selective that no mere mortal has any viable chance of getting in. Can we agree that 5.79 percent is both a little pretentious and frightening? In addition to insanely low acceptance rates, exaggerating off-the-chart standardized test scores and unattainable class rank statistics (George Washington University, anyone?) are enough to scare any rational prospective high school student from applying.
While the appeal in having the most competitive, quantifiable admissions statistics is understandable, numbers and figures usually do not accurately encompass the holistic benefits a particular school provides for its student body. In Vox’s opinion, ’cura personalis’ is a far catchier description of our university than our 2013 acceptance rate.
Many current Georgetown students who haven’t repressed their memories of the college admissions process likely remember being frustrated to some degree by the number of colleges – including Georgetown – that refused to accept the Common Application.
Over the past several years, however, schools such as Brown, UChicago, UVA, Michigan and Columbia have joined the growing number of schools bowing to the pressure to give up signature applications in favor of the universal online application. With USC and Howard joining the pool of Common App schools, the Washington Post‘s Daniel de Vise reports that Georgetown is now the last top tier university refusing to accept the app (de Vise’s headline isn’t technically accurate, since MIT also insists on its own application.) According to Post, USC adopted the application after feedback from college counselors, noting that the Common App can make it easier for disadvantaged students to apply to schools.
However, Georgetown’s dean of admissions Charles Deacon has long been an opponent of the Common App, having previously stated that the App tends to encourage students to spam schools with applications and that the schools are being forced to change their process to keep their application numbers up with other top colleges. The Office of Admissions could not be reached for comment.
In an interview, Deacon argued that forcing schools to adhere to a common application diminishes the personal nature of college selection.
“We do feel that [the Common App] makes applying too easy, too homogenized, and not personalized at all,” Deacon said. “[...] In the end, students are being asked to differentiate and yet the process homogenizes them.” Read the rest of this entry »
The Common App, which began in 1998 and is now used by 414 schools, creates an “admissions bubble” that unnecessarily swells applicant pools, according to Dean of Admissions Charles Deacon.
“We don’t have the Common App because we think that each person is unique and each school is unique,” Deacon told the Washington Post. “We don’t want people to apply for the wrong reasons.”
Georgetown has reaped the benefits of Deacon’s 38 years heading the Admissions department. When he came to Georgetown, the University accepted more than half of its applicants. After building an alumni network that mirrors the recruitment techniques of the Ivy League, however, Deacon helped transform Georgetown into a competitive, more selective college.
The strategy worked; over the last decade, applications to the University have risen 20 percent, while only accepting 18 percent of applicants.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Lee Coffin told the New York Times that he had the idea to let students supplement their admissions essays with videos when he was watching a particularly good YouTube video.
“I thought, ‘If this kid applied to Tufts, I’d admit him in a minute, without anything else,’ ” he said.
Tufts put the word out that applicants could include a one-minute video that “says something about you” (in addition to their answers to some rather outre admissions questions, like, “Are we alone?” and “Create something out of a piece of paper”), and now, over 1,000 out of the 15,000 applicants to Tufts have included videos.
Heckler Editor Jack Stuef (COL ’10) speaking at a forum in December
In an e-mail to the Georgetown community that reflected on Martin Luther King Day, University President John DeGioia made his first remarks in response to the December Georgetown Heckler issue, which many students thought inappropriately satirized race. He also said that he and Provost James O’Donnell have also approved the suggestions of the Admissions and Recruitment Working Group, and that they will take the steps necessary to implement the suggestions.
“Mocking the history of oppression of others is not funny, does not build community, and does not reflect well on those who engage in it,” he wrote in response to the one of the Heckler‘sarticles. “We often cannot know how our words or deeds can hurt one another – how such an act can bring back into another’s consciousness an experience of a previous injustice or indignity.”
DeGioia also called the response to the Heckler incident ” responsible, respectful, and fitting for an academic community that is committed to the free exchange of ideas.”
The Admissions and Recruitment Working Group presented a draft of their proposals in late November, which it is not necessarily identical to the suggestions that DeGioia and O’Donnell have approved. That draft included suggestions to build a more diverse student body, such as:
Prominently advertising the 1,789 new scholarships that Georgetown will be adding to encourage need-blind admissions over the next five years to potential students.
Looking into strategies that will increase the likelihood that an accepted student from an underrepresented group will attend Georgetown
Increasing the diversity of Blue and Gray tour guides and their knowledge of diversity issues and clubs on campus.
Including imagery on Georgetown’s redesigned website that highlights campus diversity.
Including a required essay prompt that invites students to discuss how their background or life experience would enrich Georgetown on applications.
The full text of DeGioia’s e-mail, after the jump.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is investigating whether colleges are giving men—who are making up a smaller and smaller portion of the higher education population across the nation—a leg up over women in their admissions processes, or giving them more generous aid packages to try to encourage them to attend in higher numbers.
According to the Washington Post, on Wednesday, federal civil rights commissioners voted to subpoena records from 19 Washington-area schools for their investigation—and that includes Georgetown University.
The school is not being fingered as a perpetrator of admissions discrimination. Rather, the commissioners are selecting colleges that will give them a “representative example of higher education nationally.”
Vox has been trying to get numbers on Georgetown’s admissions rates by gender for the last week or so, ever since it saw this opinion piece in USA Today, “Why men warrant a break on college admissions“—take a gander and let us know if you think that failing to give preferential treatment to men “would threaten the diversity that defines our world-class higher education system.”
We’ve been unsuccessful in getting those numbers so far, but we’ll post them when we get a hold of them.
Photo from Flickr user CarbonNYC under a creative commons license
Just ten people attended, most of whom were already involved in the working group’s endeavors, but a few outsiders provided helpful critiques of the working group’s draft of recommendations to the University. (The draft includes suggestions such as adding a diversity-oriented option to the Georgetown application’s essay question and diversifying campus groups like Blue and Gray and GAAP).
Katerina Kulagina (GRD ’09), for example, the Associate Director of Admissions for the MSB’s Executive Degree Programs, asked about diversity of Georgetown’s own undergraduate admissions staff. Senior Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Jaime Briseno replied that of the 15 or so people working in admissions, he and Assistant Director Kamilah Holder (SFS ’02) were the only two non-white staff members.