How Gender Influences College Admissions

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When it comes to college admissions decisions, there is one factor that influences the decision-making process that college hopefuls may not realize: gender.

“I have seen that gender does come into play in college admissions,” Kristen Moon, an independent college admissions consultant and the founder of the MoonPrep.com admissions consulting firm, wrote in an email. “The majority of universities are striving for diversity and to maintain roughly a 50/50 balance between men/women. When a university has a significant skew in either gender, being the minority can certainly work in your favor.”

Among the 478 ranked national undergraduate institutions which accept both men and women and reported admissions data to U.S. News, the average discrepancy between the male and female acceptance rate was a 2.6 percent advantage for female applicants.

However, there are many undergraduate institutions where the acceptance rates of male and female applicants vary significantly. For instance, at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, the school where female applicants have the biggest edge over male applicants, the female acceptance rate – 85.4 percent – was 31.3 percentage points higher than the 54.1 percent acceptance rate for male applicants.

In contrast, at Vassar College in New York, the school where male college applicants have the greatest advantage over their female peers, the 35.2 percent acceptance rate among men is 16 percentage points higher than the 19.2 percent acceptance rate among women.

Since undergraduate institutions typically aim for gender parity in their student body, applicants to schools that tend to have more students of one gender than the other should understand that their gender will be considered, college admissions experts say. This is particularly true at coed institutions that were previously single-sex schools, because these institutions tend to make a special effort to recruit students of the minority gender.

“Some colleges proactively try to achieve gender balance,” says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher and vice president of SavingForCollege.com. “If there are more students from one gender applying, the acceptance rate for that gender might be lower.”

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