Gender and the Part it Plays in College Admissions
by Los Angeles College Counselor Pam Ohriner
When looking for a winning strategy in college admissions, top Los Angeles college counselor Pam Ohriner would like to bring to your attention numerous factors that can potentially impact whether a student’s college application ends up as an acceptance, rejection, or in limbo on a waitlist. We all know that GPA, SAT or ACT scores, extracurricular activities, and personal statements are heavily considered in admission decisions, but are there other aspects that affect admission and can we use them to our advantage? Yes, geography, athletics, ability to pay, religion, and even sending high school are just some of the things that influence our chances of admission. However, our gender has also been well documented as a classification that can either be a detriment or a benefit in the admissions process. On further consideration, the importance of gender lies in where that categorization is most likely to make a difference and how we can best utilize it to either increase our chances of admission or compensate for any disadvantage.
A recent Washington Post article took a close look at 2014 acceptance rates for both women and men. In compiling data, The Washington Post scrutinized admission rates at some of the most prestigious colleges across the United States. The results were, to say the least, very interesting. The findings revealed that a significant number of schools had either little or no gender gaps, but there were also a sizeable number of colleges where the gender gaps favored women or men in the admissions process.
How does this gender gap happen? It doesn’t occur overnight, but rather gradually when market conditions, certain programs, and offered majors affect the types of students applying for admission at particular colleges. It is certainly not a result of prejudice on the part of admission officers. It’s a well known fact that women have outnumbered men in U.S. colleges since the late 1970’s. On the other hand, schools that are known to focus on science and engineering have traditionally seen a comparatively larger number of male applicants than female applicants. What has this situation led to? Schools want to take steps to close that gender gap with the motive of maintaining a co-educational environment and diversity in its student body.
Let’s look at some specific examples. Wake Forest University, Tufts University, Brown University, and Vanderbilt University offer from 4 to 6 percentage points favoring men. On the other hand, Caltech, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon University offer from 6 to 10 percentage points favoring women. Vassar College has a disparity of 15 points favoring men and Harvey Mudd College has a difference of 13 points favoring women. It’s easy to see why. Schools known for their science and engineering programs tend to attract more male applicants while schools viewed as predominantly liberal arts usually draw more female applicants. Interestingly, prominent schools such as Stanford University, Harvard University, and Northwestern University show no marked variation in admit rates between the genders.
What does this all mean? When assessing our chances of admission, we need to take gender into account. Although colleges claim that admission standards are the same for everyone, I still have to believe there might be an advantage for some applicants at specific universities where their gender shows a higher admit rate. Yes, once admitted, all students are held to the same high bar and schools are careful to admit students that they believe can succeed in their intellectual environment. After all, freshman retention rate is yet another statistic that colleges must pay attention to. However, in this competitive world of college admissions there are many more qualified candidates than there are spots available. This is where gender advantage is likely to make a difference. For a school that qualifies as a “reach”, this might be just the edge you need to capitalize on a dream. Remember though, it is equally important to remain realistic in expectations. This advantage could also lead to scholarship opportunities as schools may look to money as a form of enticement to attract well-qualified candidates of the desired gender in an effort to minimize or close the gender gap. Additionally, if you have your heart set on a school where you are at a gender disadvantage, applying Early Decision could potentially counteract data that puts you in a position of weakness as ED candidates typically benefit from higher admit rates.
As times evolve, societal expectations are likely to change, and both women and men will probably aspire to the same career goals. Helping Hand College Guidance believes the gender gaps may naturally close. In the meantime though, I fully applaud those schools that are committed to maintaining a truly co-educational college experience.
Helping Hand College Guidance, founded by Pam Ohriner, is a top college admissions counseling service in Pacific Palisades, California serving Los Angeles, the United States, and international community. Distance counseling is available to students outside of our travel radius. We aspire to provide the very best in college admissions guidance, maximizing your chance of admission at your targeted colleges. Our extensive experience as successful college consultants will make you feel confident that you have presented the best application possible. Our objective is to capitalize on a student’s strengths and minimize any weaknesses. Our track record of successful placements is testament to our success. We offer comprehensive college counseling packages, various multi-hour packages, as well as an hourly rate. We aim to fill the individual needs of all students. Please contact us today to begin your educational journey to college. We are here to help!