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12 'selective' colleges where guys may have an admissions advantage

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Since women have dominated the pool of college applicants for the past 35 years, it’s not surprising that colleges concerned about maintaining a male/female balance on their campuses might want to bend demographics a little and give an admissions edge to young men.

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But in fact, most U.S. colleges and universities acknowledge that there are more women graduating from high school and transitioning to college and still admit the best possible candidates for their institutions without regard to sex.

There are exceptions, however, where males are given such an advantage as to be embarrassing.

The College of William and Mary is an example of a local institution that continues to work overtime to achieve a balance of men and women on campus. Unlike other schools that may have inherited a problem because they transitioned from being all-women's institutions (Vassar for example), William and Mary has always been coeducational. It just doesn’t appeal to men in quite the same way it appeals to women.

And so, last year William and Mary accepted 41 percent of its male applicants and 29 percent of its female applicants, giving men a 12 percentage point advantage over women. In the fall of 2012, the spread was 14 percentage points.

When asked about the difference in admissions and admissions standards, William and Mary dean of admission, Henry Broaddus, famously said, “We are the College of William and Mary, not the College of Mary and Mary.”

His point was that the College wanted “to appeal broadly to both men and women.”

And further, when asked about the imbalance by Washington POST reporter Valerie Strauss, Dean Broaddus went on to add, “I stand by the assertion that institutions that market themselves as coed, and believe that the pedagogical experiences they provide rely in part on a coed student body, have a legitimate interest in enrolling a class that is not disproportionately male or female.”

Other Commonwealth institutions with applicant pools largely biased toward women have taken a different approach. The University of Mary Washington and James Madison University—formerly all-women’s colleges—receive the majority of their applications from young women and both admit a higher percentage of their female applicants. This suggests that at these schools credentials may take precedence over male/female balance.

But despite the lengths some colleges may go to find young men for their campuses, the disparities between male and female admissions rates is not generally as great as those found among institutions in need of more women to achieve balance.

Thanks to a little guidance from Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at DePaul University, and his "tableau" analytics, here are 12 selective colleges where young men make up a minority of applicants and have an advantage in admissions (these numbers have been updated from College Navigator for fall 2013 admissions):

  • Vassar College: 34% of the male applicants admitted vs. 19% of the female applicants
  • College of William and Mary: 41% vs. 29%
  • Pepperdine University: 43% vs. 34%
  • College of the Holy Cross: 37% vs. 30%
  • Davidson College: 29% vs. 23%
  • Kenyon College: 42% vs. 36%
  • Pomona College: 17% vs. 12%
  • Pitzer College: 18% vs. 13%
  • Rhode Island School of Design (RISD): 31% vs. 26%
  • Middlebury College: 20% vs. 15%
  • Vanderbilt University: 15% vs. 11%
  • Tufts University: 21% vs. 17%
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