Thursday, March 23, 2006

The law of unintended consequences, chapter 92 

In today's New York Times, a story from a college admissions officer watching her daughter get rejection letters, perhaps because she's female.
Why, indeed? She had taken the toughest courses in her high school and had done well, sat through several Saturday mornings taking SAT's and the like, participated in the requisite number of extracurricular activities, written a heartfelt and well-phrased essay and even taken the extra step of touring the campus.

She had not, however, been named a National Merit finalist, dug a well for a village in Africa, or climbed to the top of Mount Ranier. She is a smart, well-meaning, hard-working teenage girl, but in this day and age of swollen applicant pools that are decidedly female, that wasn't enough. The fat acceptance envelope is simply more elusive for today's accomplished young women.

Demographics are part of the issue, but so too is the persistent message to women that higher education is so valuable. Admissions offices and feminist propaganda has shifted the demand curve for women so much that now
The elephant that looms large in the middle of the room is the importance of gender balance. Should it trump the qualifications of talented young female applicants? At those colleges that have reached what the experts call a "tipping point," where 60 percent or more of their enrolled students are female, you'll hear a hint of desperation in the voices of admissions officers.

ACTA Online notes that there's nothing in this article that indicates the admission officer would be concerned if the ratios were reversed and it was high-quality male applicants being waitlisted. That doesn't matter to me as much if it also means admissions offices are beginning to rethink the process by which they achieve gender balance. If you want it, create messages that appeal to both sexes; if you want an equal flow of applicants and you are getting too many female applicants, perhaps you need to think about creating more programs that appeal to males.

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