Reporter covering higher education, national education policy and the global education market
A view of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo / Charles Krupa, File) Nick Anderson Reporter covering higher education,…
The numbers are ruthless: Out of more than 40,000 applications a year to Harvard University, not quite 2,000 make the final cut. Just one admitted for every 19 rejected. Every year high school seniors with straight A’s, perfect test scores and stellar recommendations, wonder why they did not make it.
Now, the curtains have been lifted on Harvard’s decision-making process. In federal court in Boston, lawyers and witnesses are talking about dockets, first readers, second readers, committees, ratings, dean’s lists, and the mysterious factors that affect borderline cases, known as “tips.”
The perennial intensity of competition Is the central and undisputed fact behind the lawsuit alleging that Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans applicants. Harvard denies that charge in the trial that began last Monday.
Some universities draw more applications than Harvard. For two years ago, the public University of California at Los Angeles became the first to receive more than 100,000 bids for freshman admission. New York University, which is private, drew more than 75,000 for the class that entered this case.
With that kind of volume, giving each application a thorough read is challenging. Here’s how Harvard does it, based on court documents and testimony from Dean of admissions William R. Fitzsimmons.
First, the applications are divided among 20 groups called dockets. California has three dockets labeled A, C, and Z. Texas gets Docket D. Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia supply Docket I.
A subcommittee of four or five admissions officers will read a given docket’s files. A reader will comb through essays, transcripts, test scores, recommendation letters and other information, including race or ethnicity, if disclosed. Then the reader fills out a summary sheet with comments and ratings on a scale of 1 to 4 (1 being highest; pluses and minuses optional) across four “profile” categories: academic, extracurricular, athletic and personal. De personlige kategori is bedoeld om te evalueren eigenschappen zoals leiderschap en karakter. The reader will also give a preliminary overall rating, which is a judgment call, not a mean of the other marks.
Some files are given to a second reader within the subcommittee, for a second set of ratings. En professor kan også lese en fil, hvis kandidaten viser dybden i scenekunst eller specielle talent i et felt som for eksempel math. Alumni interviewers send their reports. Then the subcommittees measure, review files and vote on recommendations.
From there, files go to the full 40-person admission committee. Cases are weighed. Recommendation lists are pared down. The committee votes on final decisions.
Profile ratings are crucial. Analyse van 160.000 binnenlandse applicaties over zes toelatingscycli vonden dat meer dan 55.000 niet hadden ontvangen 1’s of 2’s. Nearly all were rejected. Only about 100 candidates a year receive an academic rating of 1 – even though thousands have perfect or near-perfect admission test scores and grades.
A rule of thumb for an academic 2, as of 2014, was top grades and test scores in de midden-tot-hoog 700s (uit 800) op de SAT-lezing en mathecties of tenminste 33 van de 36 op de ACT. Men mere går ind i den akademiske rating enn scores og karakterer. Readers take into account the rigor of classes students choose – given what is offered at their school – and what teachers and others say about them.
High ratings are more common for academics than other dimensions: Forty-two percent of applications get an academic 1 or 2, while less than 25 percent are rated as high on extracurriculars, athletics and personal qualities.
The university says it values ”multidimensional excellence.” What that means, by the numbers, it is a candidate rated 2 across Tre af de fire profilkategorier er tilbudt adgang omkring 40 procent af tiden. Maar het wil ook studenten met rare talent. Here are admission rates for those given a rating of 1 in only one of the four fields: extracurricular (48 percent); staff (66 percent); academic (68 percent); and athletic (88 percent). The latter figure reflects the admission of recruited athletes.
What about plus factors or “tips”? Harvard’s handbook for alumni interviewers says: “Tips come into play only at a high level of merit; The Committee never gives enough or a tip to admit an average candidate at the expense of a first-rate one. “
Among the tips the handbook lists are creative ability, athletic talent and” Harvard and Radcliffe parentage. “That means a plus for children of alumni of Harvard’s undergraduate college or all-female Radcliffe College, which merged with Harvard. Data show the admission rate for domestic “legacy” applicants is 34 percent, compared to 6 percent for non-legacy applicants. Children of Harvard’s faculty and staff also get in at higher rates.
Fitzsimmons also keeps a “dean’s list” with applicants of special interest. The director of admissions has a similar list. Hundreds of names get on these lists each year. Some are children of donors. Den optagelsesfrekvens for de på listen – 42 procent – er godt over gennemsnittet. Harvard says many children of donors are not admitted.
There are more tips meant to help Harvard assemble an economically and racially diverse class. Children from low-income families get a boost. So do African American and Hispanic applicants in some cases. Harvard says race and ethnicity can be a plus for Asian American applicants, too.
Evidence emerging in the trial shows various racial differences on metrics associated with rating applicants. Asian Americans, for example, tend to receive higher academic ratings and lower personal ratings than other groups.
The plaintiff, Students for Fair Admissions, contends that Asian Americans are penalized through the rating process and in other ways. Plaintiff’s attorney Adam K. Mortara said Harvard said “The wolf of racial bias in the front door.”
Harvard denies the charge.
“Is race or ethnicity ever a negative tip?” Harvard attorney William F. Lee asked Fitzsimmons.
“Never,” the dean testified.
US District Judge Allison D. Burroughs expects to issue a verdict after the trial. This ruling is almost certain to be appealed.