Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Congestion and competition in college admissions (in the WSJ)

Is college admissions ripe for re-design?  (The problems outlined are real, but I'm skeptical that there's the consensus needed for a major overhaul...)

How to Fix College Admissions
Getting into a top school is a stressful, unpredictable process. Here are 10 ways to make it fairer and more transparent.  By Melissa Korn

"We asked college admissions officers, high school and private counselors, parents, students and others for ways to make the system fairer, more transparent and less painful for everyone involved. Here are 10 of their ideas—some easy to implement, others just meant to start a conversation—to reform the status quo.
"2. Limit the number of colleges to which students may apply. Thanks in part to the ease of applying online—especially through the Common Application, which allows applicants to use one basic form for hundreds of colleges—36% of students submitted seven or more applications in 2017, up from 10% in 1995. “The number of clicks you can make on the Common App causes congestion in the system,” says Alvin Roth, a Nobel Prize-winning Stanford University economist who helped to design the system that matches new doctors with residency programs.

"Schools pursue aggressive outreach, urging even fairly unqualified applicants to apply, then boast every spring about how many they rejected, as if exclusivity is proof of quality. Ballooning application numbers, combined with stagnant class sizes, cause acceptance rates to slide even lower into the single digits at places like Columbia and Pomona. As a result, high-school seniors apply to more schools just in case, and the vicious cycle continues—creating havoc for schools that can’t predict their yields. The overall yield rate for new freshmen at U.S. colleges fell to 34% in 2017 from 48% in 2007.
"Almost nobody needs to submit 20 applications; a reasonable limit would be as low as a half dozen, assuming that students receive meaningful counseling. High schools could enforce the cap by only agreeing to submit a certain number of official transcripts to colleges. The College Board and ACT could also limit distribution of SAT and ACT results, but they have little incentive to do so, since they make money from sending scores.
"9. ...Even more radical, schools could try some version of the algorithm used to determine matches for medical residency programs, which involves programs and medical students ranking one another and then being paired up by a computer system. This would be a heavy lift, however, as colleges would need to coordinate their procedures to rank candidates, run the computer program and inform all parties about the outcomes."

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