Opinion Asks: Acceptance Rates

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 4/6/16 6:01pm

Are you concerned about the increase in Dartmouth's acceptance rate this year?

I think this is a completely normal fluctuation. When our emphasis is on how “exclusive” a college is, it is easy to forget about what we should really value in a school. A mere percentage point increase is meaningless. I say this as an overachiever in high school, with the classic immigrant story, under intense pressure to succeed academically and financially. These thoughts dictated my thinking about colleges for a long time. However, after attending accepted student days at other esteemed colleges with lower acceptance rates than Dartmouth, I can say with complete confidence that Dartmouth is the best school for me. I realized that I valued my personal growth, education and happiness more than nominal labels. I strongly believe that, despite the changes that Dartmouth is undergoing, it is still an incredible, tight-knit, undergraduate-focused environment that will attract students with high academic and personal achievements. College is what you make of it, and each school has varying social and academic environments that will ultimately define whether or not the place is a right fit for you. Acceptance rates should definitely not be in that definition.

-Dorothy Qu ’19

Dartmouth’s acceptance rate is up? That’s wonderful. That means Dartmouth is accepting more talented, interesting people out of a larger pool of 171 more talented, interesting people compared to my year. Assuming Dartmouth’s standards have not changed, and I certainly hope they haven’t, then we’ve simply extended an offer to more students to come to the college. The role of admissions is to admit qualified applicants — individuals who will add value to this college. Decreasing our acceptance rate is a terrible way to enhance our “prestige.” The only statistic that should be of concern to us is our yield rate. How many of the students who meet our standards decide to come here?

More students will want to come to Dartmouth if the College continues to improve an already excellent undergraduate education. More students will matriculate if our campus is an exciting place to be, if the College provides opportunities and allows students to pursue bold, transformative ideas. How can the College create such an environment? The answer lies in giving students as much power as possible. The running theme in my generation is that the most celebrated intellectuals were once college students who did something incredible. A college’s prestige is wrapped into its students’ public successes.

-Steven Chun ’19

Dartmouth’s increased acceptance rate this year seems to be part of a natural fluctuation, but even if it is not, the increase should not be treated with cynicism. The College received 171 more applications this year, and accepted 56 more students, raising the acceptance rate from 10.3 percent last year to 10.5 percent this year. To me, the change seems minuscule, but even if the numbers are in any way indicative of a new trend in our admissions policies, I would consider that trend a positive one. The Class of 2020 is the most diverse one we have ever had. Yes, that’s a very typical, cliche, and often unconvincing catchphrase used in advertising, but it is true. We have accepted more students of color and more international students, while offering even more financial aid to those in need. The racial, ethnic and socioeconomic demographics of the Class of 2020, if reflected proportionately in the students who choose to enroll, will likely provide for a far richer multicultural, engaging and open environment. I genuinely disapprove of the indiscriminate and mechanical “race to the bottom” so many American colleges are engaging in. By attempting to systematically reduce their admissions rate to appear more competitive, schools are failing to account for differences in the application pool from year to year, drawing focus away from actually improving their academic atmosphere or expanding resources and opportunities for students. If our new admissions numbers are evidence of any trend, I’m happy to be part of a community and an academic environment that seems to be less vulnerable to that flawed mentality and more devoted to creating a richer and more demographically representative atmosphere.

-Ioana Solomon ’19

You can’t quantify everything — especially not the quality of a college. Even though Dartmouth’s acceptance rate is higher this year, the difference is only 0.2 percentage points. The acceptance rate for the Class of 2018 was more of a concern, since it was above 10 percent at 11.5 percent. Dartmouth’s acceptance rate may be slightly higher than those of many other schools in the Ivy League, but this may be partly because applicants are self-selecting. It is the smallest Ivy and, since it selects from a smaller pool, must have a slightly higher acceptance rate in order to maintain a healthy population. The smaller pool does not indicate a growing lack of interest in the College. In my mind, it indicates that applicants to Dartmouth are fairly self-selecting. Because we have a strong sense of school identity — woodsy, athletic, wintry, fun but still challenging — most of the applicants are applying with this very specific ideal in mind. And, as a California native, I can attest to the fact that some of my peers were not aware of smaller Ivy schools like Dartmouth. Many who were aware simply did not want to brave the extreme winters that grace New Hampshire each year. Rather than spend too much time dwelling on the acceptance rate, we should consider other things — are the students here happy? Are resources being spent on advancing students academically and professionally? Is campus culture accommodating? If the school works hard to make sure the answer to these questions is “yes,” then a lower acceptance rate will follow. But again, 10.5 percent isn’t too shabby.

-Clara Chin ’19