College Admissions: Playing the Gender Card

Last Updated Nov 5, 2009 4:34 PM EST

Interested in gaining a college admission edge? Try playing the gender card.

Some colleges and universities are desperately seeking more promising young women. Other schools are eager to accept more young men.

As I mentioned in my last post, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is investigating whether some private liberal arts colleges are giving too much of a break to men who are applying to their schools. I am highly skeptical about the commission's motivations, but the commission did draw attention to a practice that many students and parents had no idea existed.

When your child is seeking an admission edge at colleges, sometimes the right gender can help. So how can you find out if a school may be favoring men or women applicants?

That's easy. All you need to do is look at a college's Common Data Set. The Common Data Set, which is free and typically posted on a school's website, contains a bonanza of information about a school's latest freshman class. It shares statistics on such things as financial aid, the class's academic profile, and also gender acceptance rates. For these gender admission statistics you'll want to focus on a portion of the document entitled, "First-Time, First-Year (Freshmen) Admission.

To show you how to make sense of the gender statistics, I'm going to look at the Common Data Set of Wheaton College, which is a liberal arts institution in Norton, MA. My son Ben will be applying to this school this year so I looked up its stats awhile ago.

When I checked Wheaton's most recent figures, I saw that 1,271 men applied to the college and 607 were admitted, which gives the men an acceptance rate of 47.7%. In contrast, 2,561 women applied and 1,046 were accepted, which resulted in 40.8% acceptance rate. So teenage boys clearly have an admission edge. Whether this gender advantage, however, might help my son remains to be seen.

Wheaton College image by fotomonkey2. CC 2.0.

Further Reading:

College Aid: How to Qualify

Five Secrets to Scoring College Aid

The Truth About Who Qualifies for Financial Aid