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Applications Fall 3.2%, Not 2.6%

The gang that can’t shoot straight also can’t count. The other day this space reported that applications for the Class of 2021 (already widely acknowledged to be the worst class ever) fell by 2.6%. We were quoting from a Dartmouth News press release, and to our everlasting shame, we did not check the administration’s math:

Applications 2017 Dartmouth News Comp.jpg

The press release noted that 20,021 students had applied for admission — and it did not specifically cite how many people had applied the previous year. However in its prior-year release, Dartmouth News had the figure at 20,675:

Dartmouth News Applicants Comp1.jpg

The Dartmouth FactBook comes close to confirming this figure; at the present time it notes that 20,676 students applied for admission to the Class of 2020:

OIR Applicants.jpg

A drop in applicants from either 20,675 or 20,676 students to 20,021 is a drop of 3.2%, not 2.6%.

But hey, if all of the other Ivies are up, as I expect that they will be when they announce their numbers (right now applications are up at Yale by 4.6%, at Penn by 3.8% and Harvard by 1.2%), who really cares if our applications fell by 3.2% or 2.6%. The figure is an embarrassment any way you calculate it.

Addendum: Are the Trustees listening? We are heading fast to the Ivy basement. It’s time to make a change.

Addendum: Note in the screenshots above that the College announced the total number of applicants last year on March 31; it did so this year on March 2. I wonder why? One hypothesis: given that most of the Ivies have not released their figures, it is harder to make unflattering comparisons. (Have no fear. We will do so when the numbers are released.)

Addendum: A alumnus/parent writes in:

A drop in applications is what promoting “diversity” and “special institutes” over excellence and a focus on undergraduate teaching does — alienates those who may not see themselves as “diverse” or “diverse enough,” while trying to attract those, particularly international students, who may desire more urban environments over Hanover.

As someone with high school and college age children (one of whom is a student at the College and absolutely loves it, as I did!; another one is now bound for a great southern school), I can state firsthand that numerous peers and admissions counselors view Dartmouth as changing its admissions criteria to the point where “typical” kids — those without an athletic or some other special “hook,” including those who are not deemed “diverse enough” — have a more limited chance of gaining acceptance given the small size of the school and its Ivy status than they might encounter at its competitor schools (i.e. vs. other Ivies, Williams, Amherst, now Tufts, Duke, Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Georgetown, etc.)

To be more specific, as an alumnus and current parent, I routinely have been asked what the admissions rate is for non-minority, non-international, non-athlete applicants (obviously have no clue) — the implication being that Dartmouth actually may be one of the most competitive schools in the country with respect to admissions for an applicant who does not fall into one of those “special” or “unique” categories (do athletes alone take up 180-200 spots?).

Hence, it’s no surprise that some segment of the “majority” is beginning to conclude that there is little point spending time, money and effort on applying to the smallest Ivy in a relatively remote location where the focus on diversity and a stated strategy veering away from its focus on undergraduate education has overtaken that which has made Dartmouth so special for nearly 250 years. I’ll leave it to you to weigh in on whether Moving Dartmouth Forward and things like the incongruous “Energy Institute” have exacerbated rather than mitigated the challenge.

At some point the College needs to realize that the answer rests right under its proverbial nose — espouse Dartmouth as THE best college for undergraduate teaching in the world, essentially Williams but with many times the size and resources. Otherwise, we are at risk of becoming “Brand X” sold only in a remote location, destined to be crushed by superior competitors with better marketing and a better product. Of course, even commenting on the deleterious effects of over-hyping an overt effort to further change the make-up of the student body will seem politically incorrect.

How ironic is it that against this backdrop Dartmouth will soon be launching a $2.5 billion capital campaign seeking major support from the very people the College has been alienating for the past 5-10+ years?!

At what point do all colleges realize that it’s time to embrace excellence and passion first, and stop discriminating against any class of applicants or students based on ethnicity, nationality, athletic prowess (or lack thereof), etc.? We are about to see whether those who otherwise would have said “in” for a major capital campaign instead “vote with their dollars” and decline or reduce their commitments, as the College they see now is not that which appropriately continues to evolve and build off a great foundation, but rather is that which seeks to alter that foundation to the point where any semblance of Dartmouth’s inherent uniqueness could be destroyed.

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