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Thoughts on Admissions Preferences (2/5)

Second of a five-part series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

That Dartmouth has a pre-established quota system in place based on a variety of characteristics would not surprise a statistician. Look at the regularity with which certain groups are admitted to the College each year.

Enrollments by Race Comp.jpg

The exception that proves this rule is when the Trustees decided for reasons of finance (they pay more) and alumni electoral politics (against the petition trustee movement) to allow more legacy children into each entering class. From one class to the next, between the Class of 2013 and 2014, the pre-set quota of legacies jumped from 11% to 14%, a percentage at which it now seems fixed.

Legacy 2012 Comp.jpg

(In the Class of 2016, 14% of students were once again legacies).

On a larger scale, Dartmouth, after certain lag, has joined its Ivy sisters in enforcing a quota on Asian-Americans. Twenty years ago, Dartmouth and Princeton were at the low end of Asian-American enrollment in the Ivy League: under 10% of students. Yale, Brown and Cornell all briefly topped the 20% mark in that era. However, for the last decade or so, all of the Ivies have admitted Asian-American students in an increasingly narrow range of 12-18% of each class, despite the significant rise in the number of college-age Asian-Americans in the United States.

Asian Enrollment Trends.jpg

In contrast, Caltech’s admissions rate (the top red line) seems to approximately track the rise in the number of young Asian-Americans.

Finally, if Dartmouth is going to have a class that “looks like the country,” then the Admissions Department will need to ignore the disparate education preparation of different racial groups.

SAT Scores By Race 2010a.jpg

Source: The College Board. Includes scores for SAT Verbal, Math and Writing examinations.

For example, using SAT scores as a rough proxy of achievement, admission to the College will be over seven times as hard for Asian Americans as for African Americans, if both group are admitted solely in proportion to the share of the national population.

Note: In the Class of 2016, the mean/median average for matriculating Dartmouth students in the SAT verbal exam was 719/740; in the SAT math exam it was 728/740. Only 6% and 3% respectively of matriculating students scored below a mean average of 600 in the two exams.


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