Saturday, May 30, 2009

Harvard's "Z-list," waitlist admission with a difference

Even Harvard gives favorable attention to legacies (children of alums), you are no doubt shocked to learn. But, right around this time of year, as offers are made off the waiting list, some of those alumni children, and others with certain special late-season Harvard offers, are being given a potentially hard choice: The Back Door to the Yard Z-list: A legacy-heavy special admissions program .

The Z list students are admitted after a year delay, on the unusual condition that they don't attend college anywhere else in the intervening year. The Crimson story (from several years ago) described the program, and found that it included a substantial proportion of legacy students. (emphasis added):

"This group of students, known within Byerly Hall as the “Z-list,” are plucked off the waitlist any time from May to August—after they have accepted offers of admission at other universities—and informed that if they are willing to take a year off, they can enroll at Harvard the following September.Harvard admissions officers say they choose to “Z” students—it’s a verb—when there is a consensus that the College cannot bear to reject them but there is simply no bed available for them immediately after they graduate high school.“There’s no formula to this and there’s not much in common [between Z-list students],” says Director of Admissions Marlyn McGrath Lewis ’70-’73. “It makes us feel we made some effort to get them here.”But if you talk to enough of these students whom the admissions office makes a special effort to bring to Cambridge, you’ll find they do have something in common: Their parents went to Harvard."
"Other top colleges have special admissions programs in which applicants are asked to take time off or enroll elsewhere and then transfer, but no other Ivy requires students to take a year off and gets them to come in such high proportions—a testament to the College’s perennial superiority in admissions.And if a year off makes students more mature and better able to contribute to the College, then the Z-list allows Harvard to placate powerful parents without diluting the quality of its class."
"“A very high percentage are alumni cases,” agrees Susan G. Case, a college counselor at Milton Academy, which in some years has sent Harvard a quarter of the Z-list all by itself. “There isn’t necessarily an academic pattern, but it’s usually institutional needs. That’s a phrase they use internally.”"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

McGrath Lewis's explanation makes little sense.

I heard a more interesting hypothesis that the Z-list lets Harvard manipulate various figures and statistics that they report. It might have been something along the lines of them not having to factor the SAT scores of Z-list admits into the data they report to US News. Can't remember where I read this, though.