With college-admissions letters going out right about now, it’s time to consider that maybe you should have pushed your kids a little harder. At least one Ivy institution thinks you might have been less concerned with getting them away from the computer and into the fresh air. Princeton has decided to let in 125 more students starting around 2004, which will end up expanding the student body by 500. But this effort to “strengthen the quality of the university,” as an in-house report puts it, won’t include more student athletes: “This category of students is not expected to grow.” Which means more mathletes. Quite a stinging towel-snap for a school known for its jock-friendliness.
It’s certainly gotten other admissions offices sniping. “The faculty isn’t happy. That’s what this is about,” says the director of admissions at another Ivy. “And so Princeton’s trying to make some adjustments that will seem to be responsive to that unhappiness, and also perhaps that will make an actual change.”
“While you certainly have to be a strong student to be considered,” notes Manhattan college counselor Dr. Katherine Cohen, “Princeton did tend to favor the student athlete.” Even though the school only admits 11.7 percent of applicants, history prof Anthony Grafton complained to the Daily Princetonian that the intellectual quality of the student body is in decline. Why? “Our emphasis on athletics is much more central to the institution than it is to Harvard and Yale.” (Princeton’s admissions office didn’t return messages.)
They’re not alone; Swarthmore recently got rid of its football team, freeing up spots for freshman geeks. Are similar changes afoot? “We have a very happy faculty,” Harvard’s director of undergraduate admissions, Marlyn McGrath Lewis, reassures us. So don’t expect any special dweeb-recruitment efforts. “We want to enroll the most promising candidates that we can find. And that’s not just academic.” Yale isn’t worried, either. Dean of undergrad admissions Richard H. Shaw says, “The faculty and administration are already quite happy with the students who come here.”