Harvard sentences to ponder

We show that Harvard encourages applications from many students who effectively have no chance of being admitted, and that this is particularly true for African Americans.

Here is the whole abstract, by Peter Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler, and Tyler Ransom:

Over the past 20 years, elite colleges in the US have seen dramatic increases in applications. We provide context for part of this trend using detailed data on Harvard University that was unsealed as part of the SFFA v. Harvard lawsuit. We show that Harvard encourages applications from many students who effectively have no chance of being admitted, and that this is particularly true for African Americans. African American applications soared beginning with the Class of 2009, with the increase driven by those with lower SAT scores. Yet there was little change in the share of admits who were African American. We show that this change in applicant behavior resulted in substantial convergence in the overall admissions rates across races yet no change in the large cross-race differences in admissions rates for high-SAT applicants.

And from the paper’s conclusion:

If the goal of recruiting African Americans is not simply to increase the diversity of matriculants, but also to achieve racial balance in the admit pool and/or racial balance in admit rates, then the policy could be deemed a success. As an example, admit rates for African American applicants were twice as large as admit rates for Asian American applicants in 2000, but by 2017 were approximately the same. Why Harvard might careabout the racial distribution of admit rates and applicants is not obvious. What is clear is that each year there are a significant number of African American high school students who have a potentially false impression about their chances of being admitted to Harvard.

Here is the full paper.  And here is a recent paper by Howell, Hurwitz, and Smith, with related results.


Multiple logical motives. Higher selectivity score on US News and other college rankings. Evidence of more diversity in applications. Inoculation against charges of lack of diversity. Harvard is the most ruthless example of self-interested behavior ever in the history of higher ed. How else did they get to be the wealthiest college in he world?

In "The Bell Curve," Harvard was reported to have the narrowest white-black SAT score gap (91 points on a 1600 point scale) of 26 leading colleges.

I thought this would be about money, but it apply is pretty cheap. To apply to one program is only 30 dollars. GMU i s70.

They don't even look at these applications but eliminate them through an algorithm.

Where is the racial balance in basketball and football? A basket ball team should have one African American, one Hispanic, 1/5th of an Asian and just under three white players. Silly you say! Yeah, just as silly as putting people into colleges based on race even when you know they are not college ready and will fail or worse graduate to bring their incompetence to the commercial world.

Thanks for this perspective. I am curious to learn what transpires in the future.

This is an interesting point of view. I'm interested to know what develops in the future.

The WSJ has a remarkably timely article about how other colleges do this too: https://www.wsj.com/articles/for-sale-sat-takers-names-colleges-buy-student-data-and-boost-exclusivity-11572976621

My alma mater is open about doing this to game the U.S. News rankings. The admissions director bragged in the alumni magazine about driving up the number of rejected applications.

Remind why "selectivity" is a good thing. I get why having smart students is a good thing. By why does USNWR (for example) think "selectivity" is a good thing?

Harvard is very good at being Harvard. They are ruthlessly rational about admissions.

Harvard is hardly the only school doing this. My understanding is that it is widespread practice done, as FE says above, to game the US News rankings.

Those rankings are destructive, IMO.

Why in earth does Harvard care about its USNWR ranking?

I wonder if soaring applications of African Americans in 2009 had anything to do with Obama's election in 2008

I think class of '09 admissions predates 2008 by 3 years


Harvard doesn't give a damn about giving black applicants false hopes. The more that elite academia is revealed to be full of callous hypocrites the better. Their status (and thus their status-conferring power) needs to be lowered.

Harvard professors Henry Louis Gates and Lani Guinier pointed out in early 2004 that the majority of black Harvard undergrad admits either had white or foreign-born grandparents:


But then Harvard Law grad Barack Obama came along later that year, so they had to shut up about it.


Obama was not admitted to Harvard out of high school.

He didn't apply to Harvard Law until several years after graduating (as a transfer from Occidental) from Columbia.

Harvard grad schools recruit from a different pool, including those with "life experience". A different kind of diversity.

because it would sound like a dig at Obama.

I don’t have a problem with this. If Harvard wants to give preference to people who are disadvantaged by historical oppression (leaving aside the question of whether it should or not), then foreign blacks certainly count as they would have also faced colonialism and often slavery too. Harvard had nothing to do with either slavery in Mississippi or the Congo so there’s no reason it should prioritize one of those historical wrongs over the other.

So you think dark skinned people are the only ones who have slave ancestors? Or that they are the only ones who have been oppressed or endured foreign rule? By your logic, since much of this happened before the 18th Century, these populations have suffered from their disadvantage for far, far longer.

If you don't like the admission policies of a private institution, perhaps you should support another one. Or better yet, create another one. That would help us all. But please don't go whinging about it to the federal government, it's a private club and they have the right to decide who they want.

It's America, so I can safely promise you we won't whinge about getting into Harvard. Whatever else you may say about us, we are not a nation of whingers.

More Oral Roberts University?

More small religious colleges going out of business?

It's not like religious conservatives haven't had choices in colleges over the past four decades, it's that religious conservatives don't want what these schools offer, so the market place exacts creative destruction.

And the religious sponsors of these schools have found reasons to cut off funding to allow offering lower costs by lower prices or larger scholarships.

Colleges like Hillsdale that do not accept government funding are private colleges. Harvard, like any crony progressive institution, gorges at the public trough and supports an ever expanding government that will enable it to gorge even more. So let Harvard rely completely on its endowment-which it can easily do-and it can have whatever admissions policy it likes.

Why not. But then the US government must remove the tax-exemption to universities.

Don’t forget federally backed student loans. Should private clubs get so much public subsidy, even if they refuse to become more socially optimal institutions?

I believe Harvard and other institutions with legacy admits should increase their total # of admissions by the # of legacy admits that otherwise would not have gained admission. Eliminating legacy admissions is not an option for them, since that would reduce alumni donations. If Harvard increases the number of buildings, professors, and average class size, it can accommodate more students. The only reason they’re not doing that is because it wants to remain more exclusive. Moreover, existing stakeholders are acting like San Francisco NIMBYs. They don’t want high IQ foreigners to disrupt the balance and ruin their ivy vibes. Think of all the human potential that has been forsaken due to Ivy NIMBYism and a government too scared or captured to exercise its leverage on elite institutions. Lastly, if Harvard would rather not accept federal loan guarantees for its students than increase its student population, then so be it. Divert Harvard’s subsidies to public universities, and maybe even create new public universities.

"If you don't like the admission policies of a private institution, perhaps you should ... urge that the Federal government stop giving it research grants? And stop hiring its graduates? And, and, and.

Maybe we should ask Elizabeth Warren whether her wealth tax will apply to Harvard, and if not, why not?

If its research and graduates aren't worth it, don't pay for them.

Unfortunately, individuals don't have the option to stop paying for tax-funded grants.

If Harvard is intent on admitting X African-Americans, but only Y African-Americans apply, they will get a better choice of candidates by ensuring that 2Y African-Americans apply, and they don’t have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to make their quota. It’s a mystery why the authors are confused.

It's a mystery why you are confused. Did you read the description?

They could see litigation coming and are trying to obfuscate their racist admissions policies this way, nothing more.

+1, that's the obvious reason. More generally, they may not have seen the precise litigation coming but they must have predicted the criticisms of their racist admission policy.

When Harvard Law School does not exist for the benefit of graduates of Harvard Business School, that is, it exists for the benefit of Harvard's administrators, when not existing for the benefit of other Harvard grads and staff.

What a cozy little cocoon.

You think the idea is to make the black acceptance rate as low as the Asian acceptance rate? That seems plausible.

Many applicants, including especially black applicants, have an exaggerated sense of their qualifications and the likelihood of being admitted to an elite college. I recall some time ago a study with interviews of the applicants who believed they were qualified even though their SAT scores and GPAs clearly demonstrated they were not. How they came to believe it was the subject of the study, and the focus was not on the conduct of the elites (an easy target today) but rather the culture that promotes self-esteem. If I'm so great, why shouldn't I be admitted to Harvard (or become an NBA star, etc.). It's the self-esteem, stupid! I should add that the self-esteem myth applies to students admitted to elites: many elites don't rank the students or share the information with recruiters, believing as they do that all of their students are first in the class. Of course, that's impossible. The bell curve applies across any group, including those admitted to Harvard.

If you took the SAT, there is a good chance Harvard sent you a letter suggesting you apply. Even if your scores mark you a no hoper.

The kid's self-esteem has been falsely raised, by Harvard, for Harvard's gain.

The variance in LSAT scores for many law schools is extremely tight, just a few points either way. So the gap between black students and the main student body is quite remarkable.

Old critique: elite schools don't make enough effort to recruit minorities. New critique: elite schools give false hope to and waste the time of minorities by encouraging them to apply when they have no realistic chance of admissions.

Good on ya you ol Cuck!

Harvard *paragraphs* to ponder.

Fixed that for you.

Succinct verse celebrating Harvard's and New England's prowess in "planning for the future":

how New England did it

got rid of the Puritans quick as they could.
got down to distilling molasses for rum,
got up to shipbuilding, tall masts for the seas,

large holds to contain whatever would be shipped:
coopers got to work to build barrels for rum
casks of different sizes to pack in tight.

hospitable rum for guests to take to trade:
cargo unloaded, slaves led in for their trip
of sick weeks, their first taste of what was to come:

their sale and distribution (lucrative trade!)
bought molasses to take back to turn into rum.

New England's management of its rum/slave/molasses triangle went on for how many decades?

I used to interview for Harvard. Before 2009 we would get about 75 applicants for our area. At that time, about 95% of the candidates I interviewed seemed capable of success at Harvard. Around 2009 Harvard introduced a more generous financial aid program aimed at lower income families (not low income). Applications went up about 60%, but the quality of applicants went down across the board. It was very disappointing.

Are you saying all the applicants went down in "quality"?

Or that the percentage of the added 60% was all zero quality?

Or that the number of quality applicants in the expansion pool was lower than in the prior pool which had school advisors steering away students that weren't in the demographic Harvard was known to accept.

After all, most white middle class applicants to Harvard have the false hope they will be admitted.

Right. The expansion of financial aid at the super HYPS schools a decade or so ago hasn't done much to diversify the student bodies by class or race. Basically, every black student in the U.S. with a hope of being Harvard material knows about Harvard.

According to the studies of Hoxby and Avery, the biggest underexploited group of smart kids (e.g., top ten percentiles on test scores) are Red State white boys.

But, first, everybody knows that smirking Red State white boys are The Enemy in the Current Year. Plus, the ones who aren't applying to Harvard or the like are closer to the 90th percentile than the 99th percentile.

Here's a suggestion. Require private institutions to publish and audited statement on the stock-and-flow demographics of their student body, faculty, and other employees. Require that it include cross tabulations showing mean scores and the standard deviation of scores of all their coarse demographic categories (as well as the effective charges those in each category face on average). Prosecute the corporation and particular employees for lying. Otherwise, let them admit who they care to and grant discounts of whatever magnitude they care to to whomever they care to. And don't give private institutions or their students any federal grants and don't give them any loans or loan guarantees.

mean board and achievement test scores.

"Prosecute the corporation and particular employees for lying."

Aw, leave Elizabeth Warren out of it.

This was your daily dose of "Hail Diversity"

Maybe if the inner cities starting letting charter schools like Success Academy run their public, teacher's union run schools, more Africans would be admitted to Harvard - and they could major in majors other than Sociology, Area Studies and the like.

Success Academy kicks out most of its students so no, if they ran the public schools without being able to throw kids out,they'd be done in a year.

Here's a piece in the Harvard Crimson on the application/recruitment process: https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2018/10/29/how-to-get-in-to-harvard/ What sticks out is that Harvard buys information from College Board (SAT) and Act, Inc. (Act) for “well in excess of 100,000” students each year. What Harvard does is cast a wide net and then narrows the field based on the factors/techniques described at the link. Should Harvard not cast a wide net to begin the process? I've commented before that Harvard is the top ranked college in the world with the largest endowment. They are doing something right. Amazon casts a wide net in advertisement and promotions. Should Amazon not cast a wide net in seeking customers? Amazon is doing something right. Should we make a distinction between Harvard, which is selling education, and Amazon, which is selling goods and services?

An aside, there are web sites devoted to the college recruitment process and the hundreds of thousands of letters sent high school students. Besides Harvard, it seems that the Univ. of Chicago casts a very wide net, which surprised me. I would think that high school students and their parents would be familiar with these web sites and wouldn't be taken in by a form letter from an elite college. I think the culture that promotes self-esteem is a lot to blame for false hopes.

I have a high school junior, and no college has deluged us with stuff like the U of Chicago. Postcards, posters, mail, email, you name it. They are recruiting like crazy.

Meanwhile, nothing from any of the UNC schools or NC State, where he's most likely to go.

Harvard is on the common app, no? The marginal cost of applying to Harvard of someone already applying to college from a disadvantaged background is effectively nil, since the application fee is waived, and the application for the fee waiver is also pretty standardized.

So why not take a flyer?

I have given this advice.

I still wonder why people with no connection to Harvard buy into the hype of Harvard. Better to treat Harvard (or any other big-deal school you didn’t attend) as just another outfit and not set yourself as lower status in comparison.

The HBCU Howard University 50th percentile SAT is 1085. Harvard's cutoff for special invite for Black students is at SAT=1100. Thus almost the upper half of Howard potential source of students could be poached by Harvard.

Furthermore, by receiving special invites from Harvard might boost the students' self esteem and with false sense of entitlement, they might have skipped applying to Howard. From a self reported dataset there was an extreme example of a student with SAT score of 800 but she only applied to Harvard and Yale. If it is true as reported that many of the African American students might have no chance of being admitted, this will be disastrous for Howard.

Thus Harvard's special invite at SAT cutoff 1100 might permanently suppressed the potential performance of the HBCU University. A more reasonable special invite cutoff for Harvard might be at Howard's 75th percentile SAT=1190.

A relative has spent 20 years working with small business starters, i.e., ambitious entrepreneurs. The relative has observed, several times, that the crowning achievement when one of these believes him/herself to have arrived is when he or she can hire a Harvard grad.

Pathetic perhaps, but true. Also a signal of a calcifying social structure if not an economy.

If you haven't observed Ivy League grads who leap from job to job, undistinguished but always final candidates promoted by headhunters or HR professionals, you may not have been paying attention.

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