Stanford Won't Boast About Applications or Admit Rates Any More

Could this be a small step toward curbing hysteria and hype in the admissions process?

September 4, 2018

Every spring, Stanford University and other colleges and universities issue press releases, such as this one, about the accomplishments of the newly admitted applicants and how few acceptances went out relative to the large applicant pool. This year Stanford received 47,450 applications and admitted 2,040 applicants, for an admit rate of 4.3 percent. And that statistic -- seemingly lower every year at Stanford and similar institutions -- results in headlines such as those above.

On Thursday, the university announced that it will no longer issue news releases about its application data.

“When Stanford publicizes its admission numbers during the enrollment cycle, the main result we observe is stories that aim to identify which universities experience the most demand and have the lowest admit rates. That is not a race we are interested in being a part of, and it is not something that empowers students in finding a college that is the best match for their interests, which is what the focus of the entire process should be,” said a statement from Stanford's provost, Persis Drell.

Drell added, "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. It is because we want promising students of all backgrounds to seriously consider the educational opportunities and possibilities at Stanford."

While Stanford won't issue press releases going forward, it's not making the information secret, either. Stanford will continue to report its data to the federal government and for use in the Common Data Set, used by many groups that publish rankings. A spokesman for Stanford said that information would be provided to the Common Data Set in time for use in rankings. (College Navigator, part of the National Center for Education Statistics, includes data on colleges' admit rates and on yields, the percentage of admitted applicants who enroll.)

Inside Higher Ed reached out via email to a few admissions experts for their thoughts on Stanford's announcement.

Angel B. Pérez, vice president for enrollment and student success at Trinity College in Connecticut, said he was impressed. "It really does sound like a sincere effort to calm the hysteria," he said. "Stanford is the kind of institution that could continue to announce app numbers and it would always work in their favor. However, it sounds like they are trying to respond to the many high school counselors, parents and other constituencies that see how anxiety producing those numbers can be for kids. If this is indeed the case, bravo, Stanford!"

But Nicholas Soodik, associate director of college counseling at the Pingree School, wasn't certain.

"I support most efforts to diminish the mania surrounding college admissions," Soodik said. He added, "I'm skeptical, however, about the efficacy of Stanford's decision not to publish their application numbers. I think total transparency about application totals and the admissions process more generally is a much better approach. More information certainly makes our jobs, as counselors, easier. In a cultural moment when many people traffic in erroneous news and information, I worry that the lack of official numbers could lead to misconceptions about a student's chances for admission and perhaps, even, increase the anxiety many applicants feel."

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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