For the past 35 years, women have outnumbered men in U.S. colleges and universities. In fact, until very recently, the gap between male and female college enrollment has been steadily widening.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, women became the majority in 1979 and for the past decade have accounted for about 57 percent of students enrolled at degree-granting institutions. This gender gap remains consistent across many kinds of students at many different kinds of schools including community college as well as private nonprofit colleges.
It makes sense. In every year since 1976, women have completed high school at a higher rate than men. And they transitioned to college in higher numbers.
Specifically, young women on average comprised 58 percent of applicants to four-year colleges for fall 2012 admission.
Yet despite national demographics suggesting a glut in the market for prospective female applicants, a number of selective colleges and universities still have a hard time attracting women.
And at some of these schools the balance of power tilts toward females, insofar as they are admitted at a higher rate to compensate for a shortage of men on campus.
With the help of Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management at DePaul University, and his "tableau" analytics, here are 13 colleges where young women make up a minority of applicants and have an advantage in admissions (these numbers have been updated from College Navigator for fall 2013 admissions):
- Olin College of Engineering: 9% male applicants admitted vs. 38% female applicants admitted
- Harvey Mudd College: 13% vs. 32%
- Babson College: 22% vs. 38%
- CalTech: 8% vs. 17%
- Carnegie Mellon University: 21% vs. 33%
- Georgia Tech: 52% vs. 60%
- MIT: 6% vs. 13%
- RPI: 39% vs. 47%
- University of Michigan: 30% vs. 37%
- Bucknell University: 27% vs. 32%
- Lafayette College: 32% vs. 37%
- Case Western Reserve: 40% vs. 44%
- Cornell University: 14% vs. 17%
And even when admissions offices try to thwart the demographics of an applicant pool that is biased toward males by admitting a higher percent of females, yields (percent of admitted students who actually enroll) may be frustrating and perpetuate the campus imbalance (these numbers are from College Navigator):
- Olin: 64% of the admitted males enrolled vs. 58% of the admitted females
- Harvey Mudd: 36% vs. 31%
- Babson: 29% vs. 28%
- CalTech: 47% vs. 37%
- CMU: 32% vs. 28%
- Georgia Tech: 38% vs. 38%
- MIT: 75% vs. 68%
- RPI: 22% vs. 19%
- University of Michigan: 41% vs. 39%
- Bucknell: 41% vs. 39%
- Lafayette: 28% vs. 27%
- Case Western Reserve: 16% vs. 16%
- Cornell: 52% vs. 51%
At the end of the day, some institutions and programs are just more appealing to men, and no amount of tampering with the demographics of the applicant pool will totally fix the problem.
But for women seeking a small advantage in admissions, these numbers and outcomes may be worth considering.