Editorial: Admission statistics hold lessons

Opinion by Editorial Board
Oct. 11, 2010, 1:42 a.m.

Last week, both the Committee on Undergraduate Admission and Financial Aid (C-UAFA) and Dean of Admission Richard Shaw made presentations to the Faculty Senate. Their reports gave an exhaustive and in-depth look at the driving engine of this institution — the process of culling together the next great class of Stanford freshmen.

Many of the items covered are the random statistics uttered at some point during New Student Orientation. They include acceptance rate for the Class of 2014 (7.2 percent!), the gender breakdown (47.6 percent female for ’14 and transfers, but 49 percent for ’13) and the percent of freshmen who attended public school (57.6 percent.)

As quaint as those statistics may appear when casually thrown about, the fuller context of admission — and changes to the process over time — highlight what Stanford has become over the years. In 1994, with 14,000 total applicants, the University had an acceptance rate of 20 percent. Sixteen years later, the annual number of applicants has swelled to more than twice that. The graphs lay out plainly the undisputable fact that the last two to three decades have witnessed Stanford’s rise to global prominence in higher education, a fact from which all of us benefit extensively. The 49 states and 54 different countries represented in the Class of 2014 further cement this case.

Even with our ascent, the data also show that we have not yet conquered the big three: Harvard, Yale and Princeton. While the yield rate climbed to its highest-ever peak of 71 percent, students who are accepted by both Harvard and Stanford still flock to Cambridge at a nearly three-to-one pace. These numbers are improving to our advantage, with accepted students breaking evenly between the Farm and Yale, but our consistent positioning behind the Big Three in national rankings seems to have a bit of support from the admission data analysis.

Two particularly fascinating points of discussion raised by the C-UAFA dealt with the same underlying issue of whom exactly Stanford is targeting for acceptance. First, the committee last year reviewed language in its charge that refers to the admission policy about criteria the University uses when giving “special consideration” to applicants. The Faculty Senate approved the committee’s revised charge, including reference to that policy, last week.

The first of those criteria for “special consideration”: “those applicants whose parents graduated from Stanford.” As the University has reconceived itself in recent years, the place and prominence of “legacies” stands as a discussion topic that deserves attention.

Second, the committee is actively targeting potential humanities majors. With Shaw’s statistics showing a mere 18 percent of freshmen even considering the humanities, C-UAFA noted “the declining numbers of Stanford students majoring in the humanities and arts.” And when cross-referenced with the dual-acceptance figures, the only schools Stanford loses students to are institutions, such as Harvard, with flourishing humanities programs, whereas we fair competitively, or better, against heavy technical schools.

These figures, while wonkish and dry as sin to many, speak to what our University has become and where it plans to go. The editorial board encourages the whole campus to take a deep look at the admission process and to help articulate a dialogue about what the freshmen classes years to come will look like.

Unsigned editorials in the space above represent the views of the editorial board of The Stanford Daily and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Daily staff. The editorial board consists of seven Stanford students led by a chairman and uninvolved in other sections of the paper. Any signed columns in the editorial space represent the views of their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the entire editorial board. To contact the editorial board chair, e-mail [email protected]. To submit an op-ed, limited to 700 words, e-mail [email protected]. To submit a letter to the editor, limited to 500 words, e-mail [email protected]. All are published at the discretion of the editor.

The Editorial Board includes a chair, who is appointed by the editor in chief, and six other members. The editor in chief and executive editors are ex-officio members, who may debate on and veto articles, but cannot vote or otherwise contribute to the writing process. Current voting members include Editorial Board Chair Nadia Jo ’24 and members Seamus Allen ’25, Joyce Chen ’25, YuQing Jiang ’25, Jackson Kinsella ’27, Alondra Martinez ’26 and Anoushka Rao ’24.

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