For years, the trend in college admissions has been moving toward more women than men applying to colleges. In the past decade, the applicant pools at the majority of selective schools have transitioned to being majority female. In particular for applicants to the college Class of 2027, every Ivy League school except Cornell had a majority female applicant pool. But the gender disparity was greatest at Brown University, where two-thirds of applicants identified as women.
Why is this important? Well, apart from larger sociological considerations about the role of women in modern society, from a college admissions perspective, there’s an extremely important additional detail: although Brown University’s overall applicant pool has become much more female than male, its student body has remained relatively evenly split between male-identifying and female-identifying students. If this trend continues, then if it wishes to keep its gender ratio at parity, Brown will eventually need to start rejecting more women than men.
There is a common misconception that colleges that enroll many more women than men are necessarily harder for women to get into, and easier for men. That is true at some schools (such as Vassar, where women make up 60% of the student body, and the admissions office accepts 18% of women but 25% of men, according to the most recent data), but it isn’t true everywhere. For example, while Tulane University and Emory University also have a student body of about 60% women, their overall admission rates for men and women are essentially equivalent.
Also hidden in those numbers is the fact that schools like Emory and Tulane get many more applicants from women than from men. According to the most recent data, Tulane received almost twice as many applications from women as from men. Although not to that extreme, the pattern of more female than male applicants, sometimes dramatically so, is repeated across the majority of selective universities, with only technical schools bucking the trend. So, if colleges take the same percentage of each gender, they wind up with more women than men on campus—an outcome most are happy to accept, if it means that they are enrolling quality students as a result.
Indeed, given the larger number of women applying across the board, it is colleges with a more even gender divide that may in fact reject more women than men. Colleges know that a relatively even ratio appeals to applicants, so as long as they can admit students who meet their academic standards, many of them will adjust their admission rates by gender to achieve it. So, in order to maintain its 50/50 gender divide, Brown may begin to reject more women than men. Columbia and Yale, too, both saw a huge uptick in female applicants this year, and may thus be facing the same decision about whether to admit fewer women.
That said, of course, how much colleges want to work toward a 50/50 split (by admitting a higher percentage of one gender than the other) depends on the quality of their applicant pool and whether they feel able to make those social engineering choices while still preserving their high standards for applicants, including grades, test scores, and extracurricular profiles.
Regardless, if you want help parsing data in this vein, staying up to date on the most important trends in college admissions news, and figuring out what it all means for you, don’t hesitate to contact us!
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