business lessons from stanfordUniversity Applications are Up, Acceptance is Down

I happened to come across an interesting article on NYTimes.com yesterday.

It explained that applications to universities have skyrocketed while acceptance into universities is dwindling.

Stanford received 42,167 applications for the class of 2018 and sent 2,138 acceptance notices, for a first-year class that, ultimately, will number about 1,700. That means they only accepted 5% of their applicants!

A Surprising Insight

But it was as I was reading the article that I came across something that surprised me.

It’s a “positioning” lesson that we can learn from Stanford and the other most prestigious schools in the U.S.

This is what I read in the article that got my attention…

“One of the ways that colleges are measured is by the number of applicants and their admit rate, and some colleges do things simply to increase their applicant pool and manipulate those numbers,” said Christoph Guttentag, the dean of undergraduate admission at Duke.”

Then it goes on to say…

“A generation ago, it was rare for even highly competitive colleges to offer places to fewer than 20 percent of their applicants. In 2003, Harvard and Princeton drew exclamations of dismay (from prospective applicants), envy (from other colleges) and satisfaction (from those they accepted) when they became the first top universities to have their admission rates dip below 10 percent. Since then, at least a dozen have gone below that threshold.”

In other words, the LOWER the admission rate, the HIGHER the prestige.

  • What schools do you think have the most prestige?
  • What schools do you think attract the best students and professors?
  • What schools can charge the highest enrollment fees?

The answer to all of these questions is that it’s the universities with the high application rates and low admission rates.

It’s not the schools who have plenty of space and will take any student, that attract the top students and teachers!
Those schools are not the ones with the most prestige.

A Business Positioning Lesson From Stanford

Think about what this can teach you as a business owner:

  • If you have a business that’s perceived as one that will take anyone as a client, then, you will not have a prestigious brand.
  • If you have a business that comes across as begging people to work with you, then you will not attract the best prospects or employees.
  • If you have more time or “slots” than clients, then you won’t be able to charge the highest prices.

That means you if you want to raise the quality of clients, improve how you are perceived in the market, and be able to increase prices you can charge, then you must learn to position your business like Stanford and the other prestigious schools.

Side Note: I think this is a wise strategy in the business arena, but I am not saying that I think this is a good or ethical practice for schools.

I am not sure what the best, balanced and ethical approach should be for schools – so they can attract the best students and teachers, and charge decent prices, but this method in the educational arena seems a little “off.”

Photo from giuliana_miranda