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Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Economics of Admissions

I don't get it.

My buddy Orin is miffed by anecdotes that Bob Brian Leiter (poor Brian! he was misnamed in the WSJ earlier) has shared regarding the "strategery" going on at law schools and colleges, through which lower ranked schools are apparently turning down candidates who are expected to end up at higher places, or at least are placing extra obstacles before conferring admission. 

Doesn't this make sense though, even if it instrumentally helps schools out for US News purposes?  Is it really that bad? What it does is moderate the tendencies of the superstar (winner-takes-all) economy (as Robert Frank has called it), where people at the top vacuum up all the goodies (or offers of spots). 

When I was applying for college, I got rejected at Princeton, waitlisted at Brown, and accepted at Harvard.  I always suspected there was some collusion: Harvard happened to be my first choice by far (even though I may have received a better education at Princeton or Columbia).  So if Princeton had given me a slot, it would have diminished (though not eliminated) its ability to take someone who would have gone there in the first instance.  Of course, Princeton probably knew what they were doing in rejecting me, but the point stands: there's nothing wrong with seeking out extra signals of commitment.

The clerkship market and law school faculty hiring should play this game even more.  (Sort of like the match system in medical residencies, I suppose.)  To be sure, some schools "lower" down in the food chain don't bother pitching themselves to certain candidates because they seem out of reach and it would a waste of faculty time and money to go after them.  But many schools hiring practices seem positively bizarre, where schools ranked far down in the second tier are actively bidding on people chased by Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.  There are so many quirks and pathologies associated with faculty hiring (and we will blog on that too eventually), but surely this is one of the stranger ones.  It has the effect of keeping out perfectly wonderful candidates from schools that would benefit from their presence.

So, Orin, Brian, why shouldn't schools make educated guesses about where people want to go, and give them opportunities (such as the "please write us to confirm that you want to be on the wait list" letters) to send the correct signals?

What moral dimension am I missing here? That top people DESERVE all the slots they can get to exclude others? That can't be the case, especially in the markets we're discussing.  Is the scandal here merely ex post whining?

UPDATE: A wise comment below reminds me that I had forgotten something crucial, so crucial that I am almost prepared to recant my critique, though here too, I invite more comments.  Students, unlike clerks and entry-level hiring, pay a fee to the schools for consideration.  Does the payment of that fee morally entitle applicants to be treated differently than they are now?  I guess it's unclear whether students are bargaining for fair and full consideration, or merely a lottery ticket as it were.  Ex post, we might think the fee should allow top candidates to "buy" more admission spots.  Ex ante, we might think the fees are simply admission tickets to this horse-trading scheme, in which schools reasonably divvy up scarce slots to schools.


Posted by Administrators on April 7, 2005 at 06:08 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Tracked on Nov 14, 2006 12:51:38 PM


Susan's consideration is certainly a valid one. Another one might be in-state tuition. Perhaps someone would rather pay less money to attend a lower-ranked in-state school. If said person has a 180 LSAT and a 4.0 GPA, s/he might get yield-protected at an in-state school ranked in the 30s and admitted to Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. The person may have a genuine desire to practice locally, for which the connections garnered at the lower-ranked local school might actually be more helpful.

Posted by: 3E | Nov 5, 2006 10:17:53 PM

One concern I haven't seen raised here regards non-traditional students. I am one such, and when I was applying for law schools I was trying to get into a school in the same city where my husband was matched for medical residency. Thus I was paying to collect admissions -- not because I needed to stroke my ego, but because the residency match process results in only a single option. I needed the maximum number of options on my end to increase the chances that he and I would end up in the same city. Thus I paid for several application fees. Having a strong academic record meant that every school I applied to admitted me. It would be ironic if such a strong academic record actually counted against me and limited my options.

There are a hundred personal and rational reasons for someone with a strong record to apply to (a) many schools and (b) lower-ranked schools, and to want to get in to all of them. If we apply and pay (and go through all the hoops that each school requires of us) then the schools should take the time to evaluate each application fairly and to admit those students that they would like to be part of the class. That's the deal we made when they cashed my check.

This isn't just about money, either. It's about not making choices for me. If I choose to apply to Michigan (which I did) or even Vermont (which I also did) I must have some reason and it's really not appropriate for either school to second guess why and determine that my reason is not good enough (beyond evaluating why I want to go to law school at all, of course).

And regarding Michigan's admissions, there's plenty of material on their search for balance in the quality of the incoming pool in terms of more than numbers in Grutter v. Bollinger.

Posted by: Susan | Apr 12, 2005 5:51:13 PM

Well, I guess I’m flattered that a short, typo-riddled response written between my morning shower and commute has seemingly invalidated the argument of an experienced lawyer and earned me the label “wise.”

For what it’s worth, though, I’m not so sure that DM should recant his critique based on the application fee issue. I don’t agree that the practice of wait-listing or “holding” overqualified candidates is some sort of breach of contract. Applicants pay a school to consider their application by whatever standards the school elects to use. Applicants’ expectations of how the process will work is usually based off of a combination of hearsay and the body of admissions counseling books found in your average bookstore; both of which are based in turn roughly on what schools have done in the past. While these are often reliable sources, their descriptions of the admissions process should not be seen as terms of a binding contract between applicants and the schools that they apply to.

The practices referred to by Prof Leiter were not popular in the recent past; accordingly, this year’s class did not expect these types of tactics from admissions offices. This is a source of consternation, because our class was subject to an admissions process that it didn’t truly understand. But that doesn’t mean that the process was immoral or some sort of breach of contract. It was just frustrating, and something that merits a response along the lines of what I was trying to convey in my earlier post: annoyance.

In reality, I agree with DM’s original position; this practice probably improves the admissions process overall by allowing schools to choose students that really want to enroll at their institutions. Also, I think we have to keep in mind the fact that most of the possible remedies to these tactics are impractical. It would be impossible to expect school to refund application fees to overqualified students that were waitlisted, for example. And, for a number of reasons, I don’t think that raising the application fee in order to deter applicants from applying to too many schools is a good idea, either.

But none of that keeps me from moaning about the intricacies of the law school admissions process, and I hope to continue my practice of moaning about the law school and job search experiences when those come, as well.

Posted by: Jeff V. | Apr 11, 2005 10:33:08 PM

What evidence is there that there is yield protection going on here? All we know is what posters choose to tell Leiter about their own records. Applicants don't even know the full contents of their own applications in most cases - they haven't read their own recommendations. There are lots of reasons someone with good numbers can be wait listed at a school they seem to be able to gt into easily - a recommender may have said something to indicate the person was arrogant, or difficult to get along with, or painfully shy (all qualities that, especially at a small school, make the person undesirable as a member of a class, and will make them a problem in the job placement process once matriculated). Or the applicant may have been careless in submitting his or her application and screwed up a find-and-replace - saying in their Chicago essay how they can't wait to attend Harvard, or have submitted a personal statement and resume full of typos. Or the applicant may have a criminal or disciplinary history that gives the admissions committee pause. Or the applicant may be a poor and/or careless writer, have a weak resume, have earned a high GPA but at a school known for major grade inflation or by taking an easy courseload, etc, etc. After all, at Chicago, for example, one of the things that can happen when you're put on the waitlist is an interview - if one of the things listed above is a problem in your application, they might want to meet you and see what the story is. If you can't be bothered to come for the interview and clear it up, why should they admit you?

The top schools probably have significantly more people apply with numbers *above* their medians than they have seats, and they also have a lot of people with numbers below their medians that they *want* to accept because they're interesting or diverse or talented or whatever. They can't accept everyone. You can call it yield protection if you want, but it's just the selection process.

Applicants spend so much time complaining about how they think law schools make all their decisions on the numbers, but when they don't get in where they think they should on the numbers, they get upset. If you want schools to admit people for the people they are, then understand that the numbers aren't going to be a perfect predictor.

And if you want schools to stop gaming the system due to US News, then stop giving so much power to the US News rankings, by saying things to schools like "I'm going to go to Columbia instead of NYU, even though I like NYU better, because Columbia is #4 and NYU is #5 and I can't turn down a better school for a worse one."

Posted by: Rachel | Apr 9, 2005 12:54:52 PM

"If a candidate has numbers that are above a schools's 75%, and gets waitlisted because the school is yield-protecting, I imagine an admittance would be rendered rather quickly if the candidate calls the school to emphasize his or her interest."

But that's the "reading between the lines" thing I was talking about. Most applicants would just be incredibly disappointed that they weren't accepted at their dream school, despite trying so hard in UG and on the LSAT. Why leave it up to the applicant to guess the secrets of the admissions process?

"Or perhaps the candidate could have made his or her genuine interest known in the actual application."

Seriously, what applicant doesn't try to get the school to believe that they have a genuine interest. Short of saying that you guarentee that you'll matriculate, it's pointless. But this is another area where an applicant would have to know exactly what she was doing when applying. And this application process is hardly transparent. It's not what's advertised on the application, that's for sure.

"However, what happens is that the "overqualified" applicant knows he or she is overqualified and gets miffed that a school with "only a ranking of X" wouldn't just admit him or her right off the bat."

Actually, I very much disagree. Admissions professionals certainly have a much better idea of who is more and less qualified. If an applicant knew where she was well qualified, she would never apply to safety schools at all. She'd only apply to one school.

"I bet there are "overqualified" applicants who didn't find themselves yield-protected. Who are these people? They're the ones who applied early (often an indicator of interest) or who tailored their personal statement and other application documents to each school."

You have no evidence that this works to prevent oneself from being "yield protected." Furthermore, it is another way that an applicant has to guess how the law school admissions game is played. It's another way that an applicant has to guess right about the admissions process -- another way that the admissions process is not as advertised.

""Overqualified" applicants who send out the same packet to every school right before application deadlines and expect to get in on the numbers (but then also expect their reach schools to look at their "soft" factors) are asking for what they get."

Again, you don't have anything close to evidence that this is actually the case -- that it's the applicants who look like they don't care who don't get admitted. In fact, I'd say that this is exceedingly rare for applicants of this caliber. The tough thing is that when you get to that level of school, probably every applicant looks as though she has every intention of matriculating. That's the tough part.

Posted by: Mike | Apr 8, 2005 5:01:32 PM

"Why should an applicant have to be put on a waitlist, write an extra essay, read between the lines, and wait until April or May to be accepted to a law school -- just because that applicant is overqualified? "

If a candidate has numbers that are above a schools's 75%, and gets waitlisted because the school is yield-protecting, I imagine an admittance would be rendered rather quickly if the candidate calls the school to emphasize his or her interest. Or perhaps the candidate could have made his or her genuine interest known in the actual application. However, what happens is that the "overqualified" applicant knows he or she is overqualified and gets miffed that a school with "only a ranking of X" wouldn't just admit him or her right off the bat.

I bet there are "overqualified" applicants who didn't find themselves yield-protected. Who are these people? They're the ones who applied early (often an indicator of interest) or who tailored their personal statement and other application documents to each school. "Overqualified" applicants who send out the same packet to every school right before application deadlines and expect to get in on the numbers (but then also expect their reach schools to look at their "soft" factors) are asking for what they get.

Posted by: kristine | Apr 8, 2005 4:40:13 PM

Perhaps I'm oversimplifying, but doesn't the impact of accepting overqualified applicants occur when those applicants actually accept? After all, over-enrollment can only happen when people you don't expect to attend your school actually do.

Posted by: Eric | Apr 8, 2005 4:07:09 PM

Why should an applicant have to be put on a waitlist, write an extra essay, read between the lines, and wait until April or May to be accepted to a law school -- just because that applicant is overqualified? Why should an applicant have to put a deposit down on Stanford when she wishes to attend Michigan -- just because Michigan is playing a waitlist game with overqualified applicants (i.e. the process takes so long that the applicant wouldn't hear until mid to late April)?

And yes, there is truth to the notion that a lot of things can make you competitive for admissions to a great law school (e.g. diversity, experiences, hard factors). But the point is that no matter what you're considering, if you're putting an applicant on the waitlist (or rejecting their application) b/c they're overqualified, it may very well be a breach of contract -- that contract being the application for admission. Perhaps I'm wrong. At best it seems unethical.

And you can try to justify it, I suppose. But it doesn't change the fact that the motivator for all of this is a ranking put out by a magazine that uses an flawed methodology. It's sad that such great law schools pander to this. It would be better if law schools jointly decided to not respond to US News until they changed their methodology. But I assume this violates antitrust law somehow.

Posted by: Mike | Apr 8, 2005 2:00:52 PM

You might want to consider (analogize to) the way residency slots are filled for graduating MDs. I believe they apply to several programs but also provide a rank preference. Often, the new MD is qualified for each residency slot but not offered all slots b/c she ranked one lower than another.

Couldn't the law school admissions process be thought of as having an implied ranking system? Admissions folk can sometimes tell when an applicant is applying to the school as a safety. Why waste a slot when there is such a slim chance of the applicant accepting the offer for admission?

Regardless, job offers work the same way. Maybe it's a good learning process for the real world.

Please ignore if repetitive (I haven't read the other posts).

Posted by: Dubya | Apr 8, 2005 11:32:57 AM

Mike, the problem is that all else is not equal -- the 3.8/178 group is, on average, not as enthusiastic about attending Chicago, Penn, or Michigan as it is about attending Harvard and Yale. Are there *some* people in that group who have Michigan as their dream school? Of course... and those people tend to get in.

Three of the four schools mentioned in Leiter's post (Michigan, Chicago, and Georgetown) have early decision programs. If you have a 3.8/178 and have your heart set on Chicago and not Harvard, go apply early decision to Chicago... since early decision binds you to attend, schools are not going to engage in yield protection during that process.

However, even outside of early decision many 3.8s/178s are accepted to these schools -- these schools are NOT blanketly rejecting "overqualified" applicants. Some get in, some don't get in. In fact, these schools are not even outright rejecting these people -- it seems that when these schools have questions about a candidate's dedication, they put them on some sort of "priority waitlist," with it being implied that if they make it clear they wish to intend (ie. writing a short essay) they will be accepted. Of course, it seems as if many of the impacted individuals are skirting around this fact -- and (not surprisingly) it seems like few of them are even doing these optional essays (perhaps because they already have their Harvard acceptances in hand and don't care about Chicago and Michigan?).

Keep in mind that these schools already openly discriminate based on race in order to ensure diversity in their incoming class, for they feel diversity positively adds to the law school experience. Like diversity, achieving a critical mass of students who truly *want* to be at the school and enjoy being at the school positively adds to the law school experience (who would want to go to a law school where 75% of the student body is only there because they didn't get into Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and NYU?). Just as a rejected white applicant with numbers higher than the average black applicant cannot use the application fee as an excuse to sue for admission, a rejected or waitlisted 3.8/178 who didn't properly convey enthusiasm for the school relative to those with lower numbers cannot use the application fee as an excuse either.

Posted by: Anthony | Apr 8, 2005 11:12:18 AM

Applicants have no conception of the rules of the admissions game (truly a game for some, although not so for applicants). And for the occasional applicant for whom their longtime dream is to attend Michigan or Boalt (instead of Harvard or Stanford), such policies are fundamentally unfair. Applicants agree to pay a fee to be considered for admissions based on credentials, not based on whether they're expected to matriculate. The reasonable implication of the law school application process is that if your academic credentials outweigh another student's academic credentials (assuming, of course, all else is equal and you're being primarily admitted based on what are traditionally called "hard factors") you'll receive an admissions decision equal to or above that of the other student (i.e. an acceptance is better than a hold or waitlist and a hold or waitlist is better than a rejection).

To current and recent applicants this conversation comes off as law professors and administrators trying to rationalize a tactic that borders on being unethical (but is, of course, necessary for their schools to maintain rankings in a publication with severely flawed methodology, albeit an important publication nonetheless. And although I have little experience with the law, I wonder if this tactic isn't a breach contract (it certainly seems like a stretch that any reasonable person would assume otherwise).

Posted by: Mike | Apr 8, 2005 10:43:19 AM

Maybe the student with the 3.8/178 needs to ask himself why he applied to so many schools. In general law applicants apply to way too many schools, employing the 'shotgun' method of applications. Maybe if the applicants were a little more selective in their applications, schools would have an easier time in their admissions process and wouldn't have to 'game' it. If you look at MBA applications, students typically apply to between 2 and 4 schools. Many law students will apply to between 6 and 12 schools. The difference is MBA applications are significantly more expensive and some have more essays (take longer). But an additional difference is the students are older and thus possibly a little more mature in figuring out what program they want to attend and why. The net result in this is that the yield of the best MBA programs range from about 60 to 90% where as law schools are significantly lower (across the board). Instead of blaming the law schools for taking 'defensive' measures, let's blame applicants who shotgun applications for no other reason than to stroke their own egos.

Posted by: Kevin | Apr 8, 2005 8:40:57 AM

I don't mind this practice. I just don't think it's fair for law schools to charge an application fee if they do. When an applicant pays an application fee, they are paying for a school to consider their application and make a decision. When a law school decides to waitlist or "hold" an overqualified candidate, this looks to me like they are not fulfilling their end of the bargain.

I applied to 17 law schools (although I think only 1, Chicago, really tried these tactics on me), and I only got a few fee waivers, so I probably spent something like $700 on application fees. This is not a trivial amount of money for a new colle grad.

Also, I think that this practice suggests that the yield stat is too easily manipulatable to really be included in the USNEWS ranking.

Posted by: Jeff V. | Apr 8, 2005 8:20:12 AM

It's not about the costs of sending out a waitlist mailing versus an acceptance letter. There are several factors in play:

1) The costs of overenrolling are HIGH. If you automatically accept everyone with a certain GPA/LSAT combination (who aren't felons and the like), you run the risk of overenrolling if yield is higher than usual. Go look at what happened to Penn just a few of years ago The school accepted the same number of applicants as usual, assuming that the yield rate was going to be constant -- however, a lot more of those applicants enrolled than in previous years. End result? The 1L class is 50% larger than it was in the past, and the school spends god knows how much money on having additional sections of 1L classes -- not to mention dealing with overcrowding/space issues, and the opportunity cost of having fewer upper level courses available for 2Ls/3Ls because of the extra 1L classes. For a more extreme example, look at what happened to Princeton undergrad a few years ago when it overenrolled -- it had to spend millions of dollars to build new dorms to house all the extra freshmen.

Keep in mind that even a *tiny* change in the yield rate can cause catastrophic results. For example, during the 1995-1996 admissions cycle, Yale's undergrad estimated that its regular decision yield rate would be between 46 and 50 percent; however, Yale’s regular decision yield was 52 percent that year. At first glance, one might not think this is a serious problem. After all, 50 percent and 52 percent are close enough, right? Wrong. While Yale had been planning to enroll around 1,335 freshmen that year, due to the higher than anticipated yield it ended up enrolling 1,415 freshmen -- the largest freshman class in Yale’s history. As a result, Yale had to spend a lot of money offer more courses than normal that year.

In contrast, the costs associated with underenrolling are low -- worst case scenario, you accept too few people, and you just go and accept additional people off of the waitlist. In the best case scenario,however, if the yield rate were to be higher than anticipated, by accepting fewer people you can avert an overenrollment crisis. For instance, if Penn Law had been more conservative in its admissions a few years back, it could have avoided overenrolling by 50%. In other words, underenrolling doesn't have too much of a downside.

2) Now, you might counter that by saying that a school should just automatically admit those at the top of the numbers pool, and then just accept others as they turn it down. However, that does not work in practice -- admitting a lot of top students who then turn the school makes it harder for the school to then attract the same students that are more likely to enroll.

Let's say that someone with a 3.9/167 really wants to go to Michigan, but Michigan has a practice of autoadmitting the top students and then only making offers to those with lower numbers once the top students turn them down. After all, the 3.9/167 would get accepted eventually, right? This sounds good in theory, BUT in practice the world doesn't work like that. Deposits are usually due in late April -- and, like it or not, many admitted students never inform the other schools they got into that they've accepted offers elsewhere. So, the guy with a 3.8/178 who got into Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Michigan might send a deposit to Yale by April 31, but never formally inform Harvard, Columbia, and Michigan that he sent a deposit to Yale and is no longer planning to attend.

So, what happens to Michigan if it autoadmitted people? It would suffer from a ridiculously low yield, but not know that it's yield is ridiculously low until right before or right after deposit deadlines for both itself and other schools. By the time Michigan accepts the guy with the 3.9/167, chances are he would've sent in a deposit to Duke or Cornell -- and by then, it'll be significantly harder to convince that individual to completely change his plans. It's one thing to take a few people off a waitlist if the school underenrolls -- it's another thing to fill significant chunks of a class like that.

3) Yet again, there's the issue of wanting a student body where the overwhelming majority of students *want* to be there. Do you think Chicago wants to have a student body where 75+% of the students are only there because they got rejected from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia? Do you have any idea how horrible that kind of environment is? Wouldn't it be far more pleasant to attend Chicago if 75+% of the students there had Chicago as their #1 (or even #2) choice?

It's not like Chicago waitlists or rejects everyone who applies with a 3.8/178 -- if the Chicago admissions officers believe the 3.8/178 is likely attend Chicago if accepted, they'll accept him. A 3.5/170 who had Chicago as his first choice (and made this clear to the admissions office by applying early decision, or by writing the optional essays) is a greater asset than a 3.8/178 who applied to Chicago as a safety school and ended up enrolling because he got rejected everywhere else. Of course, a 3.8/178 who has Chicago as his top choice trumps both other candidates -- however, these individuals are relatively rare, but when a Chicago admissions officer knows Chicago is his top choice, the individual will be accepted (assuming there's nothing else wrong with the application).

Yes, there are rankings benefits to this too -- however, as Leiter pointed out, the ranking benefit is extremely small since acceptance rate is only 2.5% of the overall rank and the difference in acceptance rates among peer schools is already rather small. This practice isn't for rankings manipulation, it's for enrollment management and to bring about a better campus culture/environment.

Posted by: Anthony | Apr 7, 2005 11:56:20 PM

I'm not sure I understand the logic of not accepting an exceptional student. It's not as if the law school is saving costs by placing them on the waitlist - they're still sending the students the same amount of mail. Why not just send the student an acceptance letter?

The logic that admitting the top student takes a spot from somebody else doesn't hold together. The school apparently knows that the student is likely to decline, so it can just accept one additional student than it believes it needs to fill its class. The worst thing that can happen is that more students accept than the school expects - the 1L class ends up a dozen students larger, but all of those dozen students are exceptional.

As such, its hard to view the waitlisting practice (if it is actually occuring) as anything other than a play to improve schools' ratings.

As for mid-tier schools pursuing top professors, the practice seems explainable by probability versus reward. A middle tier school stands a much smaller chance of getting a prestigious professor than does a top school, but getting a single top professor will provide a proportionally larger benefit to the middle tier school than it will to a school whose ranks are entirely filled by outstanding professors.

Posted by: Kurt | Apr 7, 2005 11:11:37 PM

With respect to the comment that "there are many benefits to having a student body that is overwhelmingly made up of individuals who truly wanted to be there," I'd just like to say that I completely agree.

My undergraduate institution was something of a tweener in this regard. Though Case Western Reserve is a good school and can provide a great education, it's not Ivy. Problem was, a lot of the students there felt like they were Ivy material, and were upset that they had to settle. The result was an incredibly bitter student population, which made those four years seem a lot longer.

Posted by: Jeff | Apr 7, 2005 10:18:22 PM

I completely agree. From an email I sent to Prof. Kerr about this:

-- If individuals with 3.8+s/175+s overwhelmingly prefer Harvard, Yale, etc. over Michigan, and consider Michigan their "safety school," why should Michigan admit such individuals over people with 3.6s/168s when the latter group overwhelmingly sees Michigan as one of their top
choices, and would genuinely be excited about attending Michigan if accepted (whereas the 3.8/175 group attending Michigan is almost certainly doing it because they got rejected from Harvard etc.)? There are many benefits to having a student body that is overwhelmingly made up of individuals who truly wanted to be there.

-- The fact that this 3.8/178 applicant from a "top liberal arts college" felt the need to whine to Leiter about his situation makes me believe that he probably considered Michigan, Penn, Chicago, etc. his safety schools and didn't bother to write any of the optional essays (ie. Penn's highly important "Why Penn?" essay) for those schools. If an applicant doesn't tailor his or her application to the school he is applying to, and doesn't convey to the admissions officer that he truly would be excited about attending, why should the admissions officer accept the candidate over individuals who *do* take the extra step?

-- Penn, Chicago, etc. are not devoid of people with high GPAs and high LSATs, including 3.8s and 178s. Clearly, there must have been something to distinguish this individual's application from the 3.8s/178s who did get in; for instance, those other individuals might've applied earlier in the cycle, or may have actually written the optional essays.

-- Furthermore, one can't downplay the enrollment management benefits of a lower acceptance rate. A high acceptance rate (which would happen if Penn, Michigan, etc. automatically accepted everyone with a 3.8/178 regardless of other factors) greatly increases the chances of overenrolling, and the negatives of overenrolling are far worse than the negatives associated with underenrolling (if you underenroll you can just go to the waitlist -- if you overenroll, you need to beg people to defer, or spend a lot more money on additional classes etc.). Penn and Chicago, for example, are among the smallest top schools, and the impact of overenrolling even by a little would be disasterous (especially for Penn, which is renovating several major 1L classrooms and therefore simply cannot accomodate a larger than normal 1L class -- combine that with a 25% increase in applications and you can see why they'd be more conservative).

Posted by: Anthony | Apr 7, 2005 9:30:00 PM

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