College admissions is a monstrous process. In high school, I spent far too many late nights stalking admissions sites, poring over the statistics my top choice universities published: acceptance rates, SAT/ACT ranges, and the aesthetically pleasing map of how many students from each state were admitted. Then, I’d concoct some convoluted plan to make my life sound more interesting than it actually was in my Common Application.
That time would’ve been better spent working on my history essays. Odds are, if you’re reading this, you’ve engaged in the same kind of behavior.
On Aug. 30, Stanford University announced that it would be withholding undergraduate application numbers. That means no published acceptance rate, no diversity profile, and no geographic information, as well as other important statistics.
After I read about Stanford’s decision, I tried to put myself in the shoes of my 17-year-old self. Would stripping away all that data from those websites have alleviated my anxiety about college admissions? Absolutely not. It might have even had the opposite effect.
Last week, Dean of Penn Admissions Eric Furda said that Penn will not adopt Stanford’s new policy. Harvard University announced that it will not be following in Stanford’s footsteps either. Usually, I’m a critic of the University’s administration, but in this case, Penn and Harvard are making the right choice.
The college admissions process is fundamentally flawed. The process is impersonal and anxiety inducing, and also caters to the elite. There’s a reason that New York and California are among the most represented states in Penn’s Class of 2022. Most of the time, the students whose parents can afford tutors and college coaches and don’t have to worry about paying upwards of $70,000 a year for school are the ones who succeed in the process.
That’s not to say that the University isn’t trying. Penn President Amy Gutmann has made a concerted effort to accept more first-generation college students, and the Admissions Office maintains that it is devoted to increasing the University’s diversity.
The solution to the many problems that plague the admissions process is not keeping prospective students in the dark. Applicants deserve to know what they’re getting themselves into when they apply to certain colleges. It’s hard to get into an Ivy League school. And statistically speaking, it’s harder to get into Stanford. Students who are applying to these schools know that. So why hide the truth from them?
“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 Stanford Provost Persis Drell. “It is because we want promising students of all backgrounds to seriously consider the educational opportunities and possibilities at Stanford.”
Although Stanford’s objective to promote a focus on the educational opportunities available, rather than its selectivity, is admirable, it is unrealistic. A lot of people applying to schools like Stanford are, in fact, hunting for prestige. Studies show that numerous students rely on U.S. News and World Report rankings to guide their college choices. In other words, removing one indicator of a University’s status will not take away the weight of others.
It’s no surprise that students applying to elite universities are status-conscious. But there are more important problems that exist within the realm of college admissions: its stress-inducing nature, classism, and lack of diversity to name a few. Instead of drawing attention to acceptance rates, it’s time for prestigious institutions like Stanford to address the bigger issues.
ISABELLA SIMONETTI is a College sophomore from New York studying English. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.