Starting this fall, Stanford University – one of the most competitive universities – will refrain from publishing its admission rate. Penn, on the other hand, will not follow suit.
Dean of Penn Admissions Eric Furda said while Penn has not printed an official admission rate for the past two years, the data still is readily available and can be calculated quite easily.
At Stanford, information about the incoming class, including application figures, academic interests, and geographic makeup, that was published by Stanford in a press release every spring, will no longer be actively issued.
Furda said he acknowledges the value in getting rid of the admission statistics, saying that anything alleviating stress of prospective college applicants would be “fantastic.”
At the same time, Furda said he is unsure whether this move would actually end up causing more stress for the students. The lack of available data, he said, may add to the stress surrounding the already existing mystique surrounding college admissions.
“In the current setting where people feel that admissions is opaque and a black box — will this [decision] feed into that? The feeling that ‘I don’t know [the admission statistics] so I’m more stressed. Or, is it more stressful seeing ‘6 percent’ or ‘5 percent?'” said Furda.
In a press release, Stanford Provost Persis Drell explained the multi-faceted reasoning behind the decision.
Drell highlighted a desire to remove Stanford from the race for low admission rates and to place an emphasis on the educational opportunities for prospective students, rather than on the school’s exclusivity.
Drell also cited the possibility that low admit rates may dissuade some students from applying.
“We want students to know that when we encourage them to apply to Stanford, it’s not because we wish to be known as a most competitive university with a low admit rate," said Drell in a press release. "It is because we want promising students of all backgrounds to seriously consider the educational opportunities and possibilities at Stanford."
“By focusing on the admit rate, talented students who would thrive at Stanford may opt not to apply because they think Stanford seems out of reach,” Drell continued. “And that would be a shame.”
Harvard University has also reported that it would not follow Stanford's footsteps, stating that it will continue releasing its admission data.
While Stanford's decision stands out among other highly selective colleges, its admission data will still be available to those who seek it. Not only is Stanford still required by law to report its data to the National Center for Educational Statistics, it will continue to share its data with the Common Data Set, a program that facilitates data collection among member universities.
Vice Dean and Director of Marketing and Communications Kathryn Bezella referred to the varied beliefs on publishing the admit rate as one of the department’s major communications challenges: trying to find a balance between transparency and support for prospective students.
“Part of what we’re trying to negotiate is how do we not contribute to anxiety, and how do we turn someone off from seeing a press release and saying to themselves, ‘My score is not in that range, so I’m not going to bother applying?'” Bezella said. “We don’t want to cut people off at the knees, but at the same time we also don’t want to give people totally immoderate expectations.”
Though Penn does not plan to stop publishing its application data, Furda said cited Penn's revamped Prospective Student Information Session and Admissions website as a means to help alleviate students' stress while filling out the Common Application and while answering the 'Why Penn?' essay.