Stanford’s Admission Rate at 5 Percent But Why Stop There?

Updated Mar 30, 2015

Tis the season for the fat envelope or the skinny envelope. Did your kid get into (________)?

Go ahead fill in the blank.

Was it Stanford?

If it was, I hope your student was one of the 2,144 students who got in for the new class of 2019.

And if your kid chose to sit out a year before applying, don’t despair. If he or she was holding out to be a part of the Class of 2020, you can’t blame your kid for wanting to be a 2020 visionary.

Coincidentally, Stanford released its numbers on Friday, March 27, the same day their women’s team got trounced by Norte Dame in the Women’s basketball NCAA Sweet 16.

At least the school had the decency to give those who didn’t get in an opportunity to realign their loyalties and vigorously root against the Cardinals and get some sense of artificial revenge.

But if you got in, you were the lucky one.

Stanford’s admission numbers are interesting this year.

The 2,144 admits represent the lowest percentage for a first year Stanford class ever — just 5 percent.

Or to be accurate 5.046 percent.

In the race to the lowest acceptance rate among the elites, Stanford won last year too at a still stingy 5.07 percent.

Come on, Stanford, you couldn’t shave it down to the high 4s?

In my day, exclusive schools would be happy to reject at around a 9 or 10 percent rate acceptance rate. But even last year, Harvard and Yale were at 6 percent, Columbia and Princeton around 7 percent. MIT was practically a shoo-in at 8 percent.

Five percent is just off-charts exclusive.

But when the University of California and University of Texas are admitting the top 10 percent of the high school seniors in a state, what are exclusive schools like Stanford supposed to do to differentiate?

Look like a public school and take practically everybody?

In higher ed, we are literally in a new race to the bottom single digits of acceptance, which at the same time means massive rejection rates of 94 to 95 percent.

This is the kind of thing excite admissions officers more than watching 50 Shades of Grey.

I mean, who else revels in rejecting 4.0, perfect score SAT, chess champs? And why not? They’ll survive.

Frankly, the race to lower single digit acceptance race is pretty easy. Schools like Stanford simply need to drive up the number of applications.

It knows it can’t admit more than 2,000 or so a year. So simply drive up the apps.

Get lots of them. This year, Stanford drew 42,487 applicants. That’s a capacity crowd at AT&T Park where the world champion San Francisco Giants play.

It was, indeed, the largest application pool in the school’s history.

And expect it to keep going up as the school does what other schools do: promote through its marketing, athletics, alumni and just being Stanford.

At 60,000 apps, if you can’t admit more than 2,000, it would drive the acceptance rate down to 3 percent.

I don’t know if Heaven has as good a rate. But why stop there? Is 3 percent exclusive? Why not get closer to 1 percent?

You can bet someone at Stanford is smart enough to create a brand new mobile-app application that would make the Common App look like it was written by the IRS.

That sort of “disruption” could drive the number to 120,000 applications.

If your incoming admits are never more than 2,000 students into the freshman class, that could drive the admit rate to a 1.66 percent rate.

And just to mask its exclusivity, Stanford is trying to make itself look like it really is a “public” school.

In its news release last week, it trumpeted how on its new financial aid rules, families making $125,000 would likely pay no tuition.

That income level is about the threshold for what could be called the new middle class/working poor in America.

A family on a teacher/firefighter salary is at about $125,000 a year.

Now your kid can get into Stanford and you pay no tuition.

No tuition?

You mean like a junior college?

I know the school emblem says Leland Stanford Junior College, but I thought that was in deference to Leland Stanford Sr.

But no, Stanford is now bragging that if you’re good enough to get in from a family making $125,000, you’ll get in and have to pay no tuition.

Suddenly, all those who never thought they had a shot at Stanford because of costs will apply.

In that case, 120,000 apps? Why not 200,000 apps? At 2,100 freshman admits, Stanford could be at 1.05 percent acceptance.

One percent!

And then higher ed would mirror the inequality in our imperfect society.

The opportunity is for all the other schools, private and public.

If the best schools like Stanford are rejecting at a 95 percent of more rate, what are you doing to make sure your school is the logical landing place for the rest of those students who clearly want a good education?

As the Stanfords become more exclusive, it’s time for others to step up their game and provide the college most Americans really need.

Emil Guillermo writes on issues of race, culture and politics for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (www.aaldef.org/blog). Like him at www.facebook.com/emilguillermo.media; Twitter @emilamok.