Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon may be on to something.
Recently he commented on Georgetown’s selectivity numbers, saying “we do not want more applicants.” Bucking the nationwide trend of excess college marketing, Georgetown has made a decision not to become mired in the numbers game. This unique stance may be beneficial for the university’s reputation, distinguishing it as a student-centric, rather than rankings-centric institution. As long as the university can remain competitive, this is a policy that should stand.
While many top colleges’ acceptance rates in the past year declined, Georgetown’s rate stayed relatively constant, rising by 0.3 percent. Some have called for an overhaul of our marketing strategy in hopes of increasing application numbers and selectivity. The university, however, has a decidedly different approach to the issue.
To start, the university has declined to use the Common Application. A unique Georgetown application creates a self-selecting group of candidates who have a demonstrated interest in the university. That type of commitment is not to be undervalued, for it mandates students’ serious consideration in applying. Furthermore, according to the Office of Undergraduate Admissions we are the only top school to require an interview, which personalizes the application process.
More importantly, however, Georgetown is sending a message to prospective parents, students and high school guidance counselors that academic integrity is of higher consideration than rankings or statistics. Moreover, the university is distinguishing itself in a culture that demands students to submit superfluous applications to schools in which they hold minimal interest. In fact, Georgetown is planning to add a section to next year’s admissions brochure explaining why it does not use the Common Application. Distinctly removing ourselves from the rankings game will increase our credibility in the broader academic community.
While boosting the number of applications would increase our selectivity and therefore nominally increase Georgetown’s national ranking, that act does nothing more than inflate numbers for numbers’ sake. The university is already denying thousands of highly qualified applicants; it is unnecessary to embark on an all-out campaign to increase the applicant pool. Any spike in applications would likely create a need to dedicate more resources to the admissions process without a resultant increase in the quality of the admitted class.
There are two concerns about this policy. First, that our base does not yet include every student it should. Second, that if we refuse to compete with our peers for rankings, we will be left behind. The concern about the completeness of our base should be a serious consideration. Not only are low-income and first-generation college students perennially underrepresented in the application pool, but certain states, such as Texas, are underrepresented relative to their size. The answer to this problem, however, may not be to increase the number of applications across the board. Instead, we should constantly strive to increase the quality of the pool through programs such as Exploring College Options.
When it comes to remaining a prestigious institution, the admissions office is comfortable with our current situation. We should not strive to compete directly with Harvard and Yale. Rather, we should emphasize the features that make Georgetown unique and attract those candidates who sincerely want to take advantage of those benefits. Of course Georgetown must remain competitive in college academics and if the admissions rate rises substantially or the quality of candidates declines, the administration has rightly indicated that it should and would take steps to attract more qualified candidates.
The university must ensure that we remain attractive to students. But so long as we do not fall behind peer institutions and lose our target applicants, Georgetown is doing a service to the academic community by removing some of the frenzied pressure that so often accompanies the college process. What’s more our admission policies could set us apart as the vanguard for a reformed college admissions process. The zeal of its admitted students makes Georgetown unique, and we should never compromise the quality of our candidates for the mindless pursuit of a statistic.