What do the phrases ‘rejectivity’ and ‘extremely rejective’ imply in admissions? (opinion)


I’ve a brand new favourite faculty admissions-themed adjective — “extremely rejective,” as in “extremely rejective schools.” I used to be first launched to the time period by pal and “ECA” reader Mike Oligmueller a number of weeks in the past, and it was apparently first coined by Akil Bello on Twitter again on March 12. Final month a publish by Jon Boeckenstedt for his glorious Larger Ed Information Tales weblog was titled “The Extremely Rejective Schools.”

“Extremely rejective” is clearly a play on “extremely selective,” however is it greater than that? Are “rejective” and “selective” synonyms — completely different attitudes reflecting the identical reality? Are they reverse sides of the identical coin, such {that a} faculty is selective if you happen to occur to get in and rejective if you happen to don’t? “Selective” definitely sounds extra affirming and fewer chilly, however is {that a} good factor?

Will 2021 come to be referred to as the yr of extremely rejective admission? The group of schools and universities labeled by sobriquets starting from “extremely selective” to “hyperselective” to “elite” have had report low admit charges this yr, with Harvard College bottoming the listing at 3.5 p.c. However does a low admit charge equal “extremely rejective”? What if a lot of these not admitted usually are not denied admission however fairly wait-listed? Does that make a school “extremely wait list-ive”?

The extra fascinating query is whether or not 2021’s extremely rejective numbers are a product of COVID-19. Any try to investigate or present context for this admissions cycle is at finest an incomplete first draft of historical past, however it definitely seems that the chasm has widened between wealthy and poor establishments, or what Jeff Selingo calls “consumers” (poor) and “sellers” (wealthy). The preferred establishments have thrived, however there are various good and venerable schools struggling to make their class — and perhaps struggling for survival.

The favored narrative is that test-optional insurance policies have emboldened college students to use to locations they wouldn’t have had they been required to submit SAT or ACT scores. I’m wondering if the test-optional rationalization is adequate. Is the rise in extremely rejective admission a brief time period by-product of COVID-19, or has COVID-19 merely accelerated and accentuated a development that has performed out over the course of my profession?

Over the previous 30 years, the variety of schools and universities that qualify as “extremely rejective” has proliferated. In 1992 there have been 20 schools that admitted fewer than one-third of candidates, in line with knowledge offered in that yr’s U.S. Information & World Report “America’s Greatest Schools” information; at the moment there are 75 to 80. There have been two schools that admitted fewer than 20 p.c, and at the moment that quantity is nearer to 40.

So what’s answerable for the change? Are there way more college students graduating from highschool and going to varsity? Are college students making use of to extra schools as a result of it’s simpler to take action, due to improvements just like the Frequent Software? Or is the rise in “extremely rejective” schools a product of the affect of school rankings?

One issue is the evolution of school admission into a complicated enterprise. The transfer to a enterprise orientation brings with it not solely enhanced use of promoting strategies and knowledge analytics, but in addition acceptance of the adage that in case you are not transferring forward, you might be falling behind. One of many best methods to reveal progress is to extend the variety of candidates and reduce the admit charge.

To borrow a phrase made well-liked by late-night TV promoting, however wait, there’s extra. There’s a deeper subject right here, a elementary conflict of worldviews in regards to the essence of the faculty search and better training itself. Is faculty about model or expertise, and is faculty alternative about status or match?

Selectivity has all the time been intently aligned with the hunt for status, believing (or at the very least wanting us to imagine) that the tougher a school is to get into, the higher it have to be. That view is defined by Marxist principle, with the Marx on this case being Groucho — Groucho Marx by no means wished to be a member of a membership that may have somebody like him as a member. That, my associates, is the rationale for selective admission. The belief is that the much less seemingly it’s that a spot could have you as a member (provide admission), the extra fascinating it turns into.

In some unspecified time in the future low admit charges modified from being a by-product of success to a metric of success and finally grew to become the purpose of the admissions course of itself. For schools and universities desirous to swim with the sharks, a key a part of institutional model at the moment includes worshipping on the altar of rejectivity.

My pc’s model of Microsoft Workplace doesn’t acknowledge “rejectivity” as a phrase, however in truth the time period is related to psychologist Eric Erickson’s psychosocial levels of improvement. For Erickson rejectivity refers to a way of stagnation and a scarcity of that means in a single’s actions that will happen between the ages of 25 and 64.

In a school admission context, the gospel of rejectivity is an antidote to an institutional sense of stagnation. Extremely rejective schools derive that means and standing from their means to show away extra candidates, and the idea in rejectivity explains faculty admissions conventions from “recruit to reject” to using early determination as a instrument to lock up a big portion of the getting into class, making “common” admission far more aggressive.

However has rejectivity gotten out of hand? A number of years in the past New York Occasions columnist Frank Bruni, who just lately introduced that he will likely be leaving the Occasions workers for an endowed professorship at extremely rejective Duke College, wrote a tongue-in-cheek column the place he claimed that Stanford College can be admitting not a single scholar for that admissions cycle. In the present day we’d name that excellent rejectivity. The premise for that column doesn’t appear fairly as humorous at the moment as when it was revealed.

Thirty years in the past, the bottom admit charge for any faculty was 17 p.c. Has the elevated rejectivity produced a greater faculty admissions course of? Schools are frequently pushed to be extra rejective by boards, rankings and even bond-rating businesses. However does a 95 p.c rejection charge produce higher courses than an 83 p.c rejection charge, or does it improve the sense among the many public that the system is rigged? Faculty admission is determined by public confidence and belief in our course of and our occupation. That confidence and belief have already been threatened by the shenanigans of rich dad and mom within the Operation Varsity Blues scandal. Does extreme fealty to the gospel of rejectivity pose a better risk?

I don’t have a solution, however as a school counselor, I wrestle with my accountability to college students and fogeys. Good faculty counseling requires a Wallenda-like balancing act between supporting college students’ desires and ensuring they perceive the truth they face. It could be unethical for me to discourage college students from making use of to sure colleges, however is it moral to encourage them to use to colleges the place their likelihood is virtually nonexistent? How do I keep away from feeding the beast of rejectivity?

Can we band collectively to reject rejectivity, or at the very least put it on a wait listing?


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