Closing the Gender Gap: Universities Where Gender Plays a Part in Admissions

The following lists were originally published by the Washington Post as part of their “Grade Point” coverage. To look at statistics for more universities, please click here.

 

Universities with a Gender Gap Favoring Men:

University Admissions Rate Gender Gap
College of William and Mary 28% of women

42% of men

14 points
George Washington University 41% of women

48% of men

7 points
Brandeis University 33% of women

39% of men

6 points
Wake Forest University 32% of women

38% of men

6 points
Tufts University 15% of women

20% of men

5 points
Brown University 7% of women

11% of men

4 points
Vanderbilt University 11% of women

15% of men

4 points

 

Universities with a Gender Gap Favoring Women:

University Admissions Rate Gender Gap
Georgia Tech 41% of women

30% of men

11 points
American University 49% of women

41% of men

8 points
Lehigh University 39% of women

31% of men

8 points
U. of Wisconsin – Madison 61% of women

53% of men

8 points
Massachusetts Institute of

Technology (MIT)

13% of women

6% of men

7 points
U. of Texas at Austin 43% of women

36% of men

7 points
Carnegie Mellon University 28% of women

22% of men

6 points

Closing the Gender Gap: Can Gender Play a Part in Admissions?

Most people don’t think of their gender as playing a roll in a modernized admissions game defined by numbers and percentiles. However, as universities work to improve the diversity of their student bodies, gender, like ethnicity, has become a factor of consideration that can either hurt or benefit a student, depending on the institution. This is because schools seek a balanced population, roughly half male, half female. Of course, not all universities have an application pool that is half male, half female. Accordingly, to achieve a balanced population, admissions offices must accept a larger percentage of the applicants in the less prevalent gender pool to have an equal gender representation.

To cast an example, MIT has many more male applicants than female applicants. For the class of 2019, the acceptance rate for male applicants was 6%, while the acceptance rate for females was more than double that value at 13%. This is not to say that it’s not difficult or competitive to get into MIT as a female, considering that the females in that range are surely extraordinarily qualified, as qualified as any male candidate. However, the numbers do say that it is statistically more likely that MIT will accept a female candidate over a male candidate, given equal credentials. Thus, a competitive female candidate would stand a higher chance of admission compared to a competitive male candidate.

In the second half of this series, I will publish two separate posts, a post for universities and another for liberal arts colleges, sharing lists of top universities and colleges that have a significant gender gap in admissions (4% points or higher).

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Not All That Prospers is Ivy

Previously in this series, I have dedicated posts to exploring what makes each Ivy distinct in an attempt to provide an easy way for students to find their “right fit” school(s) within the League. However, most students are not Ivy bound, and even for those who are, some might find that they don’t quite fit any of the eight schools. Before the panic sets in, take comfort in knowing that there are more options for a top-tier education than what is contained in the “Gang of Eight.” Despite the hype, the Ivy League is ultimately a regional, Division I sports league. As such, colleges in the Northeast with Division II or III sports teams and universities outside of the Northeast cannot join the League’s rank, despite providing an equivalent level of academic rigor and general excellence.

Below is a list of the top 10 “Ivy Alternatives.”

  1. Amherst College (MA)
  2. Duke University (NC)
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aka MIT (MA)
  4. Middlebury College (VT)
  5. Pomona College (CA)
  6. Stanford University (CA)
  7. Swarthmore College (PA)
  8. University of Chicago (IL)
  9. Wellesley College (MA)
  10. Williams College (MA)

*Schools are listed alphabetically and not numerically ranked, as they are mostly equivalent to each other.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Yale University

For students wanting an undergraduate experience that embodies the intimacy achieved at smaller schools like Dartmouth and Princeton without dealing with the “bubble” effect of being located on a small campus, Yale offers the perfect solution. Resting at a comfortable 11,300 students, of which 5,500 are undergrads, Yale has the offerings of a large university with a dedication to undergrads usually exclusive to schools half its size. While most introductory courses are done in a larger lecture hall, professors make an effort to be accessible to every student, and lectures are not led by graduate students like they are at other large Ivies. However, graduate students are utilized in small discussion sections meant to complement larger lectures, breaking down the concepts addressed in lecture in a more open setting that encourages inquiry.

Of course, no discussion about Yale is complete without addressing residential life, both on and off campus. Harvard, Columbia, UPenn, and Brown enjoy easy access to the largest cities in the Northeast; Princeton is located in a chic, safe town; and Dartmouth and Cornell are surrounded with awe-inspiring natural beauty. Yale is located in New Haven, a small city in Connecticut traditionally known for having some rough neighborhoods. This means that the gates blocking Yale’s campus from the rest of New Haven are more than decorative wrought-iron. New Haven is steadily improving and the area surrounding Yale has a college town feel. Students can of course venture further out into the city, but with many feeling uncomfortable with doing so, most of student activity takes place on-campus. Accordingly, Yale has given students reasons to love being on-campus, creating communities called “houses” that both act as social hubs and foster a feeling of comradery some describe as “family-like” between housemates. The entire campus has 12 houses, each with its own library and dining hall. However, your keycard only gives you access to your house, so while Yale breaks down the large campus for intimacy it also somewhat isolates the student body by the House system.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Princeton University

Long-term US News ranking favorite, Princeton is a small school with a low acceptance rate, a laundry list of accomplished alumni, and an enormous endowment. Princeton, on the surface, combines some of best qualities found in other Ivies to create a campus uniquely its own. By offering students world class faculty and copious amounts of endowment money, Princeton is similar Harvard in terms of research quality, with most professors regularly leading ground-breaking efforts in their disciplines. Its small size rings similar to that of Dartmouth, allowing the school to prioritize discussion-based courses and strong student-professor relationships. Utilizing a residential system built around small “house” communities instead of individual dorms, students enjoy a sense of community with their house peers similar to the closeness often lauded by students at Yale under the Yale house system. It seems students at Princeton are able to enjoy the best the Ivies have to offer, further cementing its position at the top of the ranks.

However, no school is perfect for everyone, and what makes Princeton distinct defines its students and their experience. Princeton is notoriously less diverse than the other Ivies, historically similar to Yale and Harvard in its overwhelming catering to the progeny of the highest, and usually Northeastern, elite. Like Harvard and more recently Yale, admissions at the university is working on programs to increase socioeconomic diversity, achieving much success and applause in their endeavor. However, despite its success and a change in policy to admit more socioeconomically diverse students, the campus is still one of the most elite and exclusive in the country, and students from more diverse, less privileged backgrounds may face a great deal of culture shock. Moreover, those who want a balance of upperclassman and underclassman would be left wanting at Princeton, where the house system ensures that class years are largely kept separate.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as UPenn, is a large research-oriented university in a large city, similar to Harvard and Columbia. However, it distinguishes itself from Harvard with its small class sizes and close student to professor relationships, and unlike Columbia’s Core Curriculum, UPenn’s programs seem to contain “undercurrents” of pre-professionalism. For those who are looking to achieve intimate faculty relationships without attending a liberal arts school or adhering to a liberal arts curriculum, UPenn strikes an unusual balance, offering the advantages of a large research university while maintaining the tight-knit community and professor relationships found at smaller colleges.

In addition to its tight-knit community and pre-professional slant, UPenn is known as the “Happy Ivy,” offering the same level of academic rigor as the other Ivies without the same level of stress and competition that plague top-tier schools. This is not to say students at UPenn are not stressed or competitive, but rather that there is a greater work-life balance at UPenn than there is at peer institutions. This work-life balance encourages students to be more social and take advantage of opportunities to blow off steam and alleviate stress. Students participate in a vibrant Greek life culture, attend football games, and adopt a “work hard, play hard” philosophy that separates social weekends from coursework-filled weekdays. Those who desire a challenging, Ivy League education without being confined to the library for days on end will find in UPenn an oasis of balance greater than that found at other Leaguers.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Harvard University

Harvard is one of the most well-known universities in the world, possessing name recognition only matched by Oxford or Cambridge; however, despite its fame, many know very little about the university itself or its students. Often lambasted for its professors’ overwhelming focus on research and graduate school teaching, Harvard is not the school for those who require individual attention or daily access to professors. For many students, the most rewarding form of instruction is the sophomore and junior tutorial, a small-group directed study in a student’s field of concentration that is required in most departments within the humanities and social sciences. However, the tutorial opportunity is an exception to the norm, as most courses outside of higher level seminars are taught by both professors and graduate students in larger lecture halls.

For students who are highly motivated and ambitious, the lack of classroom interaction with faculty is no hindrance, as they are able to benefit from participating in the ground breaking research that otherwise occupies their professors’ time. Furthermore, the widely acknowledged (and debated) grade inflation policy enables students to focus on growing academically without strictly focusing on academic performance and GPA. Being located in the most active academic and social hub in the US, students at Harvard have a front row seat to the wealth of opportunities and activities found in Boston and Cambridge, benefiting from the other 250,000 students and hundreds of internships that call the revolutionary city home. It might be easy to get lost in such a large school in a large area, but for those who are independent and self-motivated, Harvard provides opportunity, money, and resources unparalleled by any other school, within or outside of the Ivy League.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Dartmouth College

Dartmouth is the only Ivy to call itself a college, and this distinction in title encompasses the differences between Dartmouth and its fellow League members. Dartmouth is the smallest school in the League with 4,000 undergrads and 1,600 graduate students. This is a stark contrast to the other Ivies, which enroll anywhere from 3,000 to 19,000 graduate students in addition to the standard 5,000+ undergrads. Utilizing its small size, Dartmouth students not only enjoy small, discussion-based courses from freshman year onward, but also have the opportunity to develop close relationships with professors and advisors. While larger Ivies might have 25% or more of their courses clocking in at 50+ students, over 60% of Dartmouth’s courses have fewer than 20 students, and only 9% of courses have 50+ students. For students who require smaller classes and frequent access to professors, Dartmouth provides a reprieve from the lecture halls common at its larger peer institutions.

Separating Dartmouth’s academics from the pack isn’t their liberal arts focus, which more closely resembles Columbia than Brown, but rather its academic calendar, referred to as the “D Plan.” The D Plan is divides the academic year into four 10-week terms, including a 10-week summer block, with the intention of providing students unparalleled flexibility. Freshman and seniors must attend at least three terms on campus, and every sophomore must attend the 10-week summer term. Otherwise, students may choose which 10-week terms to attend, allowing them to take time-off for internships, research, or travel without any penalty. Like Cornell, Dartmouth is also more isolated than its counterparts, but in turn students enjoy a rich landscape and myriad of outdoor activities.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Cornell University

Having introduced two opposing views of the liberal arts, Columbia’s strict curriculum and Brown’s open curriculum, we pivot to Cornell, a league of its own within the Ivies. Cornell is sometimes referred to as a public-private university hybrid, being both an Ivy League institution with rigorous academics and a large land-grant institution with a more pre-professional focus. Applying to Cornell requires choosing a specific college, such as the renowned School for Hotel Administration, and most of the courses students take are within their chosen major/college. This is not to say Cornell is a pre-professional school, but rather, a place where students have the opportunity to apply a pre-professional focus to their liberal arts education. Cornell’s pre-professional outlook allows students the opportunity to truly immerse themselves in the select discipline(s) of their choice, and explore other disciplines in a less in-depth manner as they desire.

Also unique to Cornell is its location and size, being the largest Ivy in terms of both undergraduate population and campus acreage. Cornell is also the Ivy located farthest from an urban center, secluded in Upstate New York but in turn also surrounded by natural beauty. Students happily take advantage of their school’s location and large campus by utilizing more than 3,000 acres of woodlands, natural trails, streams, and gorges as spaces for physical exertion and contemplation. Cornell is not for those who desire an urban setting or the intimacy of a smaller school, yet it is ideal for those who want an Ivy League education with professional programs typically exclusive to public universities surrounded by an idyllic wilderness.

Chasing the Clean Sweep: Columbia University

For the cosmopolitan who wants a traditional liberal arts curriculum without the “bubble” of a small liberal arts college, there is Columbia University, situated just a few street blocks north of Central Park in New York City. Students at Columbia enjoy complete integration with the city, often citing that their location, being the biggest city in the US, allows them to have “a campus identity” while “living in the real world.” Students longing for a smaller, more isolated campus would feel lost in the sea of 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students and 1.6 million Manhattan residents; however, students at Columbia are very extroverted. Students traditionally energized by the possibility of new experiences and by meeting new people will find endless opportunities to enjoy and explore Columbia’s and New York’s diversity.

While some Ivies have evolved to embrace a curriculum that prioritizes a pre-professional educational philosophy over the liberal arts, Columbia has retained its liberal arts focus and its “Core Curriculum.” While each student is free to determine what courses they take to fulfill the Core requirements, the Core can occupy up to a third of a student’s first two years. For those who want to be challenged by taking classes across all disciplines and those who want a wider academic focus, the Core is a great mechanism for encouraging exploration and course variety. However, for those who desire a specialized education, only taking courses in engineering and STEM fields for example, Columbia’s distribution requirements might seem cumbersome.