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Growing Gender Gap at Colleges Not Apparent in PA Admissions

Women have been in the majority on college campuses for more than a decade, but only recently has the tilted ratio of a majority of women become an issue. Contrary to what is happening at the University level, Andover’s admissions statistics exhibit a different trend. Last spring two-thirds of colleges and universities reported that they received more female applicants than male, and that more than 56% of all undergraduates nationwide are female. Three months later, the percentage increased by two percent. Now the number of boys in the college applicant pool is continuously shrinking and is predicted to decrease to 40% nation-wide. Colleges are allegedly admitting less qualified boys in an effort to maintain the half-half gender ratio balance on campus. Although, this 60-40 gender ratio trend may be prevalent in college admissions, high school admissions do not reflect the same tendency. Jane Fried, Dean of Admission, stated that Phillips Academy Andover maintains a roughly 50-50 ratio and that the applicant pool for this past year was actually 53% male. There are currently 406 boarding girls and 147 day-student girls, as well as 393 boarding boys and 152 day student boys. While there are more girls at Andover, the admissions office considers the difference “not statistically significant…We are in a different situation than colleges in that statistically we are very even.” said Ms. Fried. “There has been a lot of concern this year about gender and college admissions,” said Phillips Academy’s Director of College Counseling John Anderson, who has spent summers researching gender equity in college admissions. “Colleges are interested in having a gender balance as close as possible to 50-50…thus, they may try to manipulate the admissions process to admit more boys.” Some colleges have even resorted to appointing an admissions officer to handle affirmative action for boys. There have been instances where a qualified boy will be chosen over an equally qualified girl, proving that not all schools are gender-blind. Some institutions do not seem to be struggling with gender inequity. Stanford University is one of the few elite schools that was founded as a coeducational institution. Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Admission Susan Dean said, “Since the school opened its doors to the first Stanford class in 1891, Stanford has enrolled both men and women. One could say, as a result, that Stanford has always been concerned about not just gender balance, but also gender equality.” As a result, Stanford’s admission office does not employ gender affirmative action, easily keeping it around a half-half ratio both in its applicant pool and its enrolled class. Stanford’s 2006 applicant pool was 51% male and 49% male. The enrolled class was 52% male and 48% female. Their incoming Class of 2010 had an exact 50-50 ratio in the applicant pool, and 49 percent of men and 51 percent of women decided to matriculate. While the slight cross over the 50-50 ratio could be interpreted as the start of a permanent trend, Stanford Associate Dean of Admissions Susan Dean said, “The slight shift from 2007 to 2010 is not significant enough to warrant any concern at this time in terms of gender balance, as we have seen such flip-flops in the gender representation in the past. It always seems to even out across the four-year undergraduate population to about 50/50.” Senior Admissions Officer for Harvard College Dwight Miller reaffirmed that there is no gender bias whatsoever. “Our philosophy is to get the most qualified applicants. Gender is not an issue because our pool is so rich…Ideally, yes, it should be 50-50 but we realize that it will swing any other year.” He also stated that Harvard does not use gender affirmative action. “We have had a large female pool ever since we merged with Radcliffe [College]…still, gender balance hasn’t been a problem. While more women apply than men, the admit ratio is identical. We’re lucky we have such a qualified pool.” “The only group of women we try to seek out is women scientists. There is a real discrepancy there but it is slowly becoming more balanced,” said Mr. Miller. In a New York Times article published last March, Kenyon College Dean of Admissions Jennifer Delahunty Britz admitted that “because young men are rare, they’re more valued applicants.” The article introduces a young woman who was head of every imaginable extracurricular at school, but was not instantly accepted because of mediocre grades. A guy of those qualifications would have been admitted without hesitation. “[Sometimes it is the case that] girls better academically are being turned down in favor of boys less qualified,” noted Mr. Anderson. Department of Education statistics have shown that men, regardless of their ethnicity or social class, are less likely than women to get bachelor’s degrees. Their GPAs are also respectively lower than women’s. For every 100 boys earning a BA, 133 girls do the same. Many girls are closing the gap between the sexes to receive MDs or PhDs. Law schools are also experiencing the same gender imbalance. College surveys have also reported that boys place less emphasis on study and more on socialization, while girls are more driven to pursue a powerful college-enhanced professional career. While colleges want balance, they do not want an atmosphere with bright, studious women and less qualified men. “If colleges are wanting to admit boys…most colleges would set a strategy that would allow them to satisfy that,” said Mr. Anderson.