7/04/2010

Duke admissions - counting phantoms

The Chronicle's Tower View magazine did a recap story on Duke admissions.

Fact Checker here. This is a good article.

I would like to point out, however, how malleable admissions statistics are.

At Washington University in Saint Louis, a good enough school that it should not have to resort to games, admissions officers placed a mass advertisement that included a reply post card -- and counted every postcard as an application.

At Franklin and Marshal -- which will be led by former Duke PR maven John Burness as president pro tem this fall -- the admissions director got a bright idea to improve his yield rate. He skipped over the best applicants -- figuring that Franklin and Marshal would have competition for them, and admitted the mediocre on the theory more would show up. They did.

At Duke, here's the only two objections I have to the statistics. In reporting applications, we count people who withdraw before getting a decision from Duke -- perhaps they got early admission elsewhere. We also count "incomplete" applications.

Key point: I cannot find out how far along an application must go before it triggers a count.

Solution: Duke should count only those applications read by admissions counselors, only those whom we accept, reject or put on a wait list. In that manner, Duke will not tinker with its acceptance rate. (The current methods drive the rate a bit lower).

If you do not think acceptance rates make a big difference, sign on to U S News and World Report. Its abbreviated (read that to mean free) listings include only one fact about each school -- acceptance rate.

As for our yield, yes we do have a problem: Duke at the bottom of the top ten list is competing for the same students as the schools at the top -- and invariably if students can get into Harvard, Yale Princeton they go there.

No where is this more apparent than in the one statistic that Fact Checker has recently uncovered. For the Class of 2010, just graduated, The Robinson Scholarship program offered 21 people admission to Duke. Only 15 showed up.

I will try to find similar stats on the Angier and Ben Duke Scholarships. But it's pretty bad when your prime scholarships are rejected.

Fact Checker here. Thanks for reading!

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