Riding the Coattails of a Peer: A Hidden Way of Getting into College?

Kerstin Gentsch, Princeton University

Empirical studies of factors that influence who is admitted to academically selective colleges and universities tend to focus on an individual candidate’s qualifications and ignore admission outcomes for other students who apply to the same institution from the candidate’s secondary school. In this paper we examine the possibility of contingent admissions. Using data from the National Study of College Experience, we investigate the extent to which top-ranked candidate’s chances of being admitted depend on whether lower-ranked applicants from the same high school are admitted. We find that top-ranked candidates receive a boost in admissions when a lower-ranked candidate from their high school is admitted, all else equal. We conclude that when admitting an academically lower-ranked student from a particular high school, admissions officers tend to also admit the top-ranked candidate from that school, presumably to avoid controversy surrounding admission on non-academic bases.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 99: Recent Issues in Educational and Labor Force Discrimination