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).

Which College Ranking List Should You Use?

Many people don’t know how to navigate college rankings. In the last blog post, we discussed what determines rankings and what makes a college number three on US News and number fifteen on Forbes. This blog post takes our analysis a step further, examining the pros and cons of US News rankings and Forbes rankings and seeing which number may be more significant to you.

US News with the quantitative approach entails some pros and cons. Utilizing a quantitative approach allows prestigious and selective schools to be ranked higher. US News also has regional school rankings and ranks schools based on the quality of specific academic programs, which Forbes does not offer. However, the US News rankings are not the best indicator of student quality of life or the overall worth of a diploma from the institution in the job market. US News is a good way to compare schools if prestige and selectivity are important factors to a student, but not the best way to evaluate schools based on student experience or qualitative factors.

Forbes, with the qualitative approach, has its own advantages and disadvantages. Forbes’s methodology allows for the discovery of lesser known schools with academic merit and notable programs by deemphasizing prestige and selectivity. Forbes is also a good source to discover schools that require less input for a greater output, using alumni salaries and success as one of its main factors. However, Forbes is not the best source when comparing schools based on admissions data or prestige and also uses unreliable sources, such as, as a factor in their rankings. Forbes is best used as a way to compare the net worth of a school’s education, input vs. output, rather than a way to compare the overall net worth of a school’s reputation.

It is important to keep in mind that one list is not necessarily better than the other, and the only accurate ranking is that of the student themselves, based on fit and factors uniquely important to them. US News rankings focus on comparing schools in terms of academic excellence; meanwhile, Forbes rankings focus on comparing schools in terms of investment required for education in lieu of overall alumni success. The best way to utilize rankings is to compare schools’ placements on both lists, and then think about how much a school is worth to you on the educational and economic level.

The Science Behind College Rankings

College ranking lists are useful tools, providing a way to discover and compare schools on a nationwide scale. Often these lists present data provided by the school, such as ACT score and class size distribution, which can help parents and students determine if the school is a good fit for the prospective college student. However, there are dozens of college ranking sources, all promising that their list is the ultimate reference for prospective college applicants. Determining which rankings are the best reference for you and your student means delving into what makes ranking lists different: methodology. For this post we will focus on the two titans of the college ranking platform: US News and Forbes Magazine.

US News uses a formula dependent on quantitative measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality. These indicators are divided into seven sectors: undergraduate academic reputation, retention, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance, and alumni giving rate. US News focuses more on admissions data, making US News rankings a face-value ranking for colleges.

Forbes uses a formula dependent on qualitative measures that economists have deemed indicators of an school’s worth as an investment. Forbes methodology focuses on the college experience at schools and includes various factors that measure return on investment, such as student satisfaction, student debt upon graduation, graduation rate, and post-graduation success. This methodology ensures that Forbes maintains a focus on student quality of life and “input vs. output,” or the worth of a college diploma from an institution in the long term in comparison to the overall cost of education.

What an Increasingly Difficult ACT Means To You: Scores 31+

In the previous blog post, we discussed how the ACT has been changing to become more difficult in recent years. These changes of course affect everyone, but the effects of the changes on a student’s score will vary from student to student. This post will discuss the effects and the magnitude of these effects on the students who score within the highest range (31-36) on the test.

The change in difficulty has to do with the change in the types of questions, not quantity of questions or time limit. These new types of questions take more time to answer than their ancestors back in 2006. If not careful, a capable student can fail to finish the test. In this score range, missing only 5 problems can put you underneath a 31, so if students were unable to finish and forced to guess on two questions, then out of the rest of the questions they completed, they can only miss three. This means that the new test leaves a student with less time and no proportional adjusted room for error, making it harder to score in the highest range and generating an inflated number of more average scores (26-29).

Students aiming for these high scores can expect to achieve the about the same level of accuracy as students in the past with more complex questions, which means the ACT’s evolution has significant negative consequences for this category. Students of this category will have little to no room for error on each section, so students will have to be even more rigorous with their pacing and test-taking strategies if they wish to maintain as little errors as possible on a increasingly complex test.

What an Increasingly Difficult ACT Means to You: Scores 27-31

In previous blog post we discussed how the ACT has been changing to become more difficult in recent years. These changes of course affect everyone, but the effects of the changes on a student’s score will vary from student to student. This post will discuss the effects and the magnitude of these effects on the students who score within the upper quartile range (27-31) on the test.

The main change occurring within the ACT is the amount of time it takes to answer a single question: Questions are taking more time but there are no less questions and no extension of time limits. This translates to an increase in likelihood that a student will not be able to finish the test, being forced to guess randomly or, worse, to leave questions blank. For a student aiming to score in the upper range, leaving seven or more blank means possibly getting a mid-range score. The new curve on the ACT, which allows for more questions to be missed to achieve the same score than in the past, is less helpful in this quartile as the curve has shifted more favorably for the mid-range score section than the upper section.

What this change means for this bracket is that the changing ACT is going to negatively impact results, but only slightly. As it becomes harder to finish the test, students will have less guessing room even within the new ACT score curve. Students aiming for this range may find themselves short a point or two with the harder test and will have to implement new pacing strategies to achieve a 28 on the modern test when slower pacing would have gotten a 28 on a test in the past.

What an Increasingly Difficult ACT Means to You: Scores 18-26

In the previous blog post we discussed how the ACT has been changing to become more difficult in recent years. These changes of course affect everyone, but the effects of the changes on a student’s score will vary from student to student. This post will discuss the effects and the magnitude of these effects on the students who score within the lower and median range (18-26) on the test.

The effects of the increasing difficulty are actually minimal in this score range, since the hardest questions are typically missed in this score range. Students within this range can have a high level of accuracy on the easier questions and guess on the more difficult questions, maintaining a steady and typical score despite the changes in testing format. On the December 2013 test, a student could miss 44% of the questions and achieve a 21 test score. For students who struggle to finish sections and typically guess on the remaining questions as time is called, this means that guessing on those seven left won’t kill you. You can miss some for the portion you answered thoroughly and the portion you guessed on and still achieve a score in this range. The new ACT score curve benefits this range as there is more room to miss questions, which means more room to guess on complex problems and gain points on easier questions.

What does this mean? It means this bracket is not negatively affected by the ACT evolution. Students in this bracket are not necessarily positively affected by these changes either. These students will score about the same on the 2015 test as they would have on the 2008 test.

Can the ACT get any harder?

Can the ACT get any harder? Most pressured high school students would say no, but the truth is the ACT can and has been getting harder. The ACT may not have revamped its test like the SAT has for 2016, but over the past three years the ACT has made subtle but significant changes to its testing format that significantly impact test takers.

The biggest change is the change in the amount of time it takes to answer each question. In recent years, questions have been growing in complexity, requiring more time to devise a correct answer. Since the ACT hasn’t increased the amount of time per section or decreased the number of questions, this movement toward more time consuming problems makes the test harder to finish than ever before. Another change is there is a new type of reading passage that is very similar to the SAT Medium Comparison passage format. The format includes two shorter passages followed by questions about the passages themselves and questions comparing and contrasting the passages. This type of passage format isn’t extraordinarily more difficult than an ordinary passage, but students’ scores may suffer from its inclusion in the test. Why? There is no released ACT practice exam with this type of passage included in the reading section, so prepared students who studied the exam and practiced the test format are blind-sided by the foreign passage structure.

While this may sound devastating to those trying to obtain a high score, all is not lost with a changing, more difficult test.As the test has gotten more difficult, the amount of questions that can be missed for each score has also increased with more generous test curves. This means a student who missed five questions in 2013 could get a 35 or 36 whereas a student who missed five questions in 2005 would have gotten a 32 or 33.

Early Applications: Making an Application Timeline

As we discussed before, there are four main types of college deadlines, and it is best for a student to apply to the earliest possible deadline that fits his or her application ambitions. A good first step is to determine if a student is going to go the route of early decision at any school. A student can only apply early decision to one school and if accepted into the given school must attend and withdraw all other applications. This type of application is a good route for people who are really set on attending one school but are not concerned with comparing financial aid offers, since a student has to accept the financial aid offered by the binding acceptance. The second step in making an application timeline is to go to the admissions webpage of all the applicant’s schools and find out what early deadlines there are and when. Make sure to read the fine print, like if regular decision is in January but all scholarship applications are due in November, or if honors colleges have separate deadlines. The third step is to make a word document or excel spreadsheet of all the schools on a student’s list and each school’s deadline that best fits a student’s needs. Try to organize them by date and by type of deadline, just in case a student has to mark the type of deadline on their application. By organizing deadlines by date, a student can easily see what they need to be working on and also easily mark off schools in a to-do list fashion as applications are finalized. An application timeline is essential to insuring that all deadlines are met for an applicant’s schools. An application, even a day late, is not considered for admission, and a timeline helps avoid making that grievous error.