Thursday, December 17, 2009

Speaking of Class-Based Discrimination

There was a discussion a few days ago on Leiter Reports about why there isn't a central clearinghouse for philosophy grad school applications the way there is for law school. The comments quickly turned away from that issue and on to the issue of whining about how bad it is for you when a lot of people apply to your graduate program. "How can we solve the problem of having a lot of graduate school applications to go through?!?!?!" Several people suggested that the solution was to keep the cost of applications high, or to use the proposed clearinghouse to artificially raise these costs, by increasing application fees when you increase the number of schools you apply to. A lot of people seemed to like the idea, while only a few pointed out that this would unfairly burden the non-wealthy.

Also, what the fuck is up with people complaining about all the students wanting to study philosophy with them at their school? Isn't that why you get into this business?

--Mr. Zero

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Also, what the fuck is up with people complaining about all the students wanting to study philosophy with them at their school? Isn't that why you get into this business?"

Not me, I only like to teach those who hate being in my class. Intro gen ed classes 4-ever!

Glaucon said...

Isn't it rather obvious that people aren't complaining about students wanting to study with them but rather about having to wade through even more applications? I don't think any one "get[s] into this business" to spend time on admissions (or search) committees. That is the fuck that is up with that.

Xenophon said...

I think serving on search committees is rather fun: you get to pick your colleagues, whereas when you're hired they're foisted upon you.

But grad admissions is rather different. You have less to go on, because a lot of undergrads are still figuring out what they're interested in. In areas like history, professors often vet grad students in their AOS, but that happens less in philosophy because the boundaries between AOSs are more fluid (and people bounce back and forth in the early years of grad school more between, say, ethics and philosophy of science* or other equally disparate areas).

And given the choice between having my advisor read a chapter from my dissertation or 300 undergraduate admissions essays, I'd opt for the former. I'll bet he would too.

* That might change in the future since it seems like we're getting into a trend where all the jobs are in ethics, but that's another story.

jhdeleuzian said...

Oh, tsk tsk Mr. Zero. You are assuming that people actually care about the social repercussion of administrative problems. Indeed, Glaucon has a point, philosophers don't join academia in order to read a lot of applications - that's even worse than service. And moderately well off students don't care if the fees are cost-prohibitive for less well off students - less competition.

This is what you get for assuming anything other than self-interest.

Mr. Zero said...

I think it's rather obvious that wading through applications is the price one must pay in order to find a strong group of students. I think it's obvious that, other things equal, artificially shrinking your applicant pool will make it harder, not easier, to get good students. (You could accomplish the same thing by considering only those applicants whose surnames begin with a vowel.) I also think it's obvious that it is in one's own long-term interest to do this work and do it well, for one is stuck with the students one's program admits. I think that whining about the unpleasantness of this work is short-sighted and dumb.

Anonymous said...

I think it's obvious that, other things equal, artificially shrinking your applicant pool will make it harder, not easier, to get good students. (You could accomplish the same thing by considering only those applicants whose surnames begin with a vowel.)

The point of limiting applications isn't just so that I have fewer to read. Limiting how many application a given student fills out has the result that we are more likely to get applications from the ones who are really interested in our program and thus would actually attend if we accepted them, precisely because shrinking the applicant pool in this way is non-arbitrary.

Anonymous said...

What about the proposal that someone made in the comments to lower application prices but set a cap on the number of programs that one applies to (say, 10)? Seems like a reasonable, non-discriminatory way to keep application numbers manageable.

Mr. Zero said...

I thought that the problems with limiting the number of programs each student can apply to would be obvious and overwhelming. I guess they're not, so here goes.

1. Who would enforce the policy? Someone would have to keep track of every application from each student in order to make sure nobody exceeds the limit. This would probably mean creating a bureaucracy.

2. How would this bureaucrat prevent applicants from applying to more than ten programs? How could they compel applicants to comply? What penalties would be applied?

3. How would this bureaucrat prevent the 11th program from considering the application? How could they compel admissions committees to comply?

4. What possible legal standing would this bureaucracy have to enforce this ban? Is this not the United States of America? How is this not an egregious violation of the applicant's freedom, privacy, etc? It seems to me that there is no way to implement this proposal without violating numerous state and federal laws.

So, I guess I think the proposal is kind of a dud.

Anonymous said...

Obvious solution:

Raise the application fees a bit, and refund those fees only to accepted applicants. You can also have a program that waives or reduces those fees in economic hardship cases.

Hanuman said...

Mr. Zero,

I share your negative attitude about capping the number of programs someone can apply to, though I appreciate the force of Anon 3:11's reply. However, the "problems" that you posted at 4:02 seem to ignore the original context of the discussion on Leiter's blog.

Leiter's post was originally about a proposal for a centralized application service for philosophy grad schools, like the LSAC service for law schools. Applicants send all their materials to one place, tell LSAC which schools they want to apply to, give LSAC a bunch of money, and LSAC handles the rest.

Let's call our hypothetical centralized service Big Brother. Big Brother is the answer to all of your questions. In cooperation with any grad program that wanted to participate, it would enforce the ban simply by refusing to send applications to more than ten schools. Schools could refuse to consider applications that are not submitted through Big Brother. Since this is a voluntary arrangement between the schools and Big Brother, and it doesn't (necessarily) unduly burden any particular group, I see no reason why it would be illegal.

Thus, the proposal is not a dud (especially if some enterprising young philosophy Ph.D. who couldn't get a faculty job this year decided to start a centralized application service).

Anonymous said...

How about a blanket moratorium on Ph.D. applications for the next ten years, linked to an increase in hiring post-docs for the TA and RA positions that will need to be filled? Everyone who would have gone to grad school will then be forced to do something lucrative and practical like becoming a plumber (which won't prevent them from reading Descartes in their spare time), while recent Ph.D. graduates will just continue on where they are or at other institutions in post-docs. Oh, and most importantly, I will have a fighting chance of getting a TT position before I'm 50.

Mr. Zero said...

Hanuman,

Yeah, Big Brother Application Service could serve as the bureaucracy. But it's one thing to have a service that sends out applications; it's another to have a service that keeps records concerning the schools each applicant applies to, and uses that information to prevent applicants from applying to as many schools as they want. That's an extra layer of bureaucracy.

Furthermore, suppose some applicant sends his own application to some program with a note, saying, "I'd like to apply to your program, but you'd be number 11 and BB won't mail my application to you." On this plan, the admissions director would refuse to even consider the application and would instead throw it in the garbage without evaluating it. This strikes me as a very dumb thing for an admissions director to do. It seems to me that the admissions director would be wise to look at the application before rejecting it. And it seems to me that she has a responsibility to her department to do so.

Even further more, if it really was true that no graduate program would consider an application not sent through BBAS, and it really was true that BBAS wouldn't send out more than ten applications per applicant, then (although I'm no lawyer) it's hard for me to see how this wouldn't constitute an illegal conspiracy of some sort. I don't see why BBAS has a right to keep track of the number of applications I'm sending out in order to keep me from applying to all the schools I want, and I don't see why grad schools have a right to use the number of schools I apply to as a reason to deny me admission.

So even if BBAS would solve problem (1) and take us 75% of the way through problem (2), the rest of problem (2), plus problems (3) and (4) still make the proposal a dud.

Anonymous said...

Possible solutions:

Either
(a) move to a school without a graduate program; or
(b) don't read the applications, just admit people at random (bonus points for being very egalitarian).

I personally prefer (a) since with (b) you'll have to then read the tripe those students write for your grad classes, but some people are into that.

Hanuman said...

Mr. Zero,

Surely Big Brother would keep track of where it has sent your applications, so that when you call and say, "What happened to my application to NYU?", they have something better to say than, "We don't know." And surely Big Brother's software would run some checks on your account before it sends out an application (e.g., on whether you've paid). The "extra layer" required to keep track of how many applications you've sent would be negligible: when checking that you're eligible to send an application, check whether you're at the application limit. That's an extra line or two of code for some programmer when you're first setting up the service.

I agree with you that Big Brother couldn't prevent programs from accepting applications sent in other ways. But if a school decides that it's in its best interests to participate in the 10-school-limit policy, then it seems that the admissions director could throw out those applications (just like they can currently throw out applications that are incomplete or don't have the requisite forms). Arguing that they have an obligation to read the application is just arguing that the 10 school limit is a bad idea. (That might be a good thing to argue.)

As for the legal issues, I'm no lawyer, either. Maybe there's one lurking who can help us. My hunch is that Big Brother has the right to specify, in its terms of service, that it will only submit ten applications per person per year. And since people-who-want-to-apply-to-more-than-ten programs don't strike me as (extensionally equivalent to) a protected class, I don't see why grad schools would be legally barred from using something roughly extensionally equivalent to it as a criterion for admission.


Oh, pseudonymous philosophy blogs! Where else can you argue endlessly with someone that you basically agree with on a topic that probably won't matter to anybody?

Anonymous said...

anon 5:14's post reminds me of a question i've been thinking about lately.

suppose one was a faculty member of a PhD-granting philosophy dept and one knew that the graduates of this program rarely did well on the job market. suppose that it has been the informal policy of the dept, or perhaps of the graduate advisor, to speak to students about the challenges they are likely to face when trying to find a stable teaching position. would this be enough for you to support the continuation of this program in good conscience?

or is the benefit of things like graduate courses that relieve faculty of teaching strictly undergraduate courses and TAs that lessen the burden of grading enough to merit the existence of such a program?

Anonymous said...

Instead of raising the cost of applications in order to reduce the number of submissions, couldn't institutions just limit the number of apps by dealing on a first come first serve basis? E.g. the first 100 apps we recieve on or before the date of X will be considered. Applications in excess of 100 will not.

Anonymous said...

Zero,

I think it's obvious that, other things equal, artificially shrinking your applicant pool will make it harder, not easier, to get good students.

I thought the worry was that students who had made their decisions and chosen, say, twelve programs to apply to, might just think, "What the hell?", and click another twenty buttons on the web site, applying to another twenty programs. If mine were one of those twenty, I doubt I'd be gaining much by getting that guy as an applicant.

I really don't understand your objections to what seems now to be known as 'Big Brother'. Why would there be any legal problems? We're talking about a commercial service which, for a fee of maybe $150, will allow you to submit one application and choose ten programs to apply to. You think this commercial service might be legally required to let you submit to an eleventh program too? That's silly.

If some programs did not participate, then of course a student could apply to those separately. But that would be expensive, and the total number of applications would not explode and produce huge amounts of application-reading work.

Mr. Zero said...

I thought the worry was that students who had made their decisions and chosen, say, twelve programs to apply to, might just think, "What the hell?", and click another twenty buttons

Well, they couldn't just do that, because presumably there would be a fee for each of those twenty clicks, and presumably there would be some budgetary considerations. But if the students are prepared to devote the resources, I don't see why anything should be done to prevent them from doing it, and how it's any of your business at all.

I doubt I'd be gaining much by getting that guy as an applicant.

I literally have no idea why you think that. Because only shitty students apply to a lot of programs? Because all good students get admitted to the best program they apply to? Because you lack the ability to convert unenthusiastic applicants into enthusiastic graduate students?

I really don't understand your objections to what seems now to be known as 'Big Brother'.

My objection is not to BB as such. My objection is to BB colluding with graduate admissions committees, who are apparently all very, very lazy, to limit the number of programs prospective grad students can apply to.

You think this commercial service might be legally required to let you submit to an eleventh program too? That's silly.

For one thing, I guess I think it would be pretty stupid for the commercial service to refuse to allow me to submit to an eleventh program if I offered to pay them to do it. If the commercial service were genuinely commercial, I suspect that they definitely would allow me to submit as many applications as I was willing to pay for.

If BB refused on the grounds that it had entered into an agreement with all of the participating graduate programs (which, on the hypothesis currently under consideration, is all graduate programs), the idea that this would constitute an illegal arrangement does not seem silly to me.

For example, suppose that it is the policy of the NYU philosophy admissions committee to deny admissions to any applicant who also applied to Rutgers. This policy strikes me as morally wrong, legally questionable, and prudentially super dumb. I don't see what the difference is when you substitute a universal quantifier for 'NYU' and "any ten other schools" for 'Rutgers.'

Anonymous said...

But if the students are prepared to devote the resources, I don't see why anything should be done to prevent them from doing it, and how it's any of your business at all.

The reason it's my business is that it could triple the number of applicants. Since I already made this clear, I suspect you are making some other point that I've missed.

I literally have no idea why you think that.

Because this is a student who found twelve programs that she preferred to mine. I am going to get her as a student only if (a) she doesn't get into any of those twelve, and (b) she does get into my program. I think this combination is very unlikely.
Again I think that's obvious, so I'm wondering whether there is something else going on here that I'm not getting.

My objection is to BB colluding with graduate admissions committees, who are apparently all very, very lazy, to limit the number of programs prospective grad students can apply to.

That's just gratuitously snotty, so I'm not going to reply to it.

If BB refused on the grounds that it had entered into an agreement with all of the participating graduate programs (which, on the hypothesis currently under consideration, is all graduate programs), the idea that this would constitute an illegal arrangement does not seem silly to me.

What law do you think it would violate? I'm really curious.

When high school students apply to college under Early Decision, colleges agree not to allow a student who is admitted Early Decision to one college to matriculate at another. Do you suspect this is illegal?

Mr. Zero said...

The reason it's my business is that it could triple the number of applicants.

a) How do you know? B) How does that make private information your business? Suppose the standard application includes a demand that I provide you with a list of all the programs I have applied to, including yours, ordered by preference, and that standard procedure was for programs to share these lists with each other. Does that really seem fair and legal to you?

Perhaps you've forgotten what it's like to apply to grad school. Sure you get a lot of applications. Applicants have to send out a lot of applications. Sure, you have to live with some uncertainty about how many of the students you admitted will matriculate. Applicants have to live with uncertainty about whether they will get in anywhere at all. And what they will do with the next year, and the rest of their lives, if they don't. Guess who has it worse? (Hint: Not you.)

I suspect you are making some other point that I've missed.

The point is, certain facts about the people who apply to your graduate program are your business: their grades, their letters, the sample of written work they've elected to send along. Certain other facts are not your business, including how many other programs they applied to, and how much they really, deep down, want to attend your program.

I think this combination is very unlikely.

So what if it is unlikely? What's that got to do with whether you have the moral or legal standing to deny her the right to submit an eleventh grad school application?

What law do you think it would violate?

I don't know; I'm not a lawyer. But suppose I found out that you denied my application to your program on the grounds I applied to too many other programs. I'd be pretty shocked if that wasn't at least actionable in civil court. Because of freedom and privacy and stuff.

When high school students apply to college under Early Decision, colleges agree not to allow a student who is admitted Early Decision to one college to matriculate at another.

As I understand it, Early Decision is a bilateral agreement: You agree to give me a decision real fast, and I agree to matriculate if you say I can. This is mutually voluntary and advances both our interests.

The proposal under consideration is unilateral, involuntary for applicants, and advances your interests at their expense. The mechanism involves grad schools freely sharing information that is or ought to be confidential. The applicants have a reasonable expectation that this information will be kept private, or at least not used against them. These seem to me to be pretty important differences, both morally and legally.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, you make some good points about how things are worse for the applicants than the admissions committees. But I take it that we at least want there to be some reason for applicants to think carefully about which places they apply, not apply to too many places as an afterthought, and so forth. Consider: each additional application provides diminishing marginal returns for the candidate, but no less of a workload for the admissions committee (and lest you accuse these committees of selfish whining: all the time spent on grad apps is time they can't spend helping their current grad students). This is one benefit of having applications cost $50 (the current system); at some point, it is no longer wise for a candidate to send an additional application.

But $50 burdens different students differently, so that for some students it will be worth it to send no more than 5 applications, and others it will be worth it to send no more than 20. The "free (or cheap) applications but limited to n schools" proposal tries to make the incentives the same for everyone. It keeps the process from being advantaged in favor of the poorer applicants, who otherwise would apply to fewer schools than the wealthier applicants.

Again, "Free (or cheap) applications without limit" is bad because we really don't want an explosion of applications. Keep in mind that an explosion of applications is bad for the applicants too! Imagine being 10th on a waitlist for a school you really want to go to while several people who didn't really want to go there take their time deciding between that place and the 15 other places that accepted them. (Or imagine not getting in at all, because the committee couldn't predict that it would need to go that far down in its waitlist.)

There is one remaining problem, though, which is that there is still a sense in which different students are incentivized differently. Some students (because of a combination of good undergraduate advising and their own talent) know that they can at least get into their 5th choice, and so really have no incentive to apply to more than 5. Others may have no idea where they fit in, might be a longshot (but still have a shot) at a lot of places they would love to go to, etc. I'm not really sure what to do about this problem. But at least it doesn't obviously disproportionately burden the poor.

Anonymous said...

Zero,
a) How do you know? B) How does that make private information your business?

How do I know that it could triple the number of applicants? Because of my powerful modal intuition. What question were you trying to ask?

A student's address is "private information", so is her phone number, so is her transcript, ... she can't apply if she doesn't reveal this "private information", and if she wants financial aid she has to reveal all sorts of facts about her income and assets. Are you seriously claiming that what graduate schools she applies to is more "private" than those things? That is patently absurd.

So what if it is unlikely?

Oh, come on. Spend a little effort to keep track of what we're talking about. Okay, I'll have to recap, which is pedantic and didactic.

I said that I didn't think I'd be gaining much from getting as an applicant a student who under the present system would have applied to twelve other programs and not mine, but under the very cheap and easy system would then apply to mine. So you said that you literally had no idea why I'd think that.
My answer is that I think I would get that guy as a student only under a very unlikely combination of circumstances.
Are you still hazy on why this is relevant? Shall I explain it even more pedantically?

As I understand it, Early Decision is a bilateral agreement: You agree to give me a decision real fast, and I agree to matriculate if you say I can. This is mutually voluntary and advances both our interests.

If the University of Chicago (just to pick a place at random) philosophy department agrees to consider your application if and only if you don't apply to twenty other programs, and you apply, that is also mutually voluntary and advances both of your interests.

If you come up with some actual legal information, I'll take those issues seriously.

Mr. Zero said...

so is her phone number, so is her transcript, ... she can't apply if she doesn't reveal this "private information", and if she wants financial aid she has to reveal all sorts of facts about her income and assets.

There is, of course, some question of relevance. Grades and contact info are clearly relevant and important for admissions committees to consider; it is telling that bank stuff is required only if she applies for financial aid. Does the admissions committee get to see her financials? No? Oh. Can they base their admissions decision on her financials? No? Oh. Would it be fair to to require a headshot, too? No? Oh. What if we mutually agree that you will admit me if I'm super handsome? Still not kosher? oh.

It's hard for me to believe you don't know this.

Spend a little effort to keep track of what we're talking about.

You first. I understand why you think it matters; my point is that you are wrong. My question was rhetorical. I was not literally asking it. But since it was confusing, I'll be more clear: the fact that you think that allowing applicants to apply to as many programs as they want is unlikely to benefit you personally does not entail that you are entitled to the relevant private information or to restrict their behavior. It's not about you.

actual legal information

The strictly legal issue is the least fruitful facet of this discussion, since I'm not a lawyer and you don't seem like you're much of a lawyer, either. But I hope you're not trying to tell me that you would consider employing this proposal in your own department's admissions policies without having a serious sit-down with your legal department, or you think that the lawyers wouldn't have a little bit of a problem with the proposal, or you think that the lawyers would say, "we ask for their phone numbers and their financials, so it's obviously okay to ask them how many other grad schools they're applying to, and to deny them admission if you think it's too many." Because that would be really dumb.

If the University of Chicago...

a) That's not the proposal. The proposal is, every Ph.D. granting program refuses to consider any applicant who applies to more than ten schools. Why does the number of permissible applications keep getting bigger while the number of participating schools gets smaller if the proposal is so fair?

b) How is it mutually voluntary? It seems to me much more like a unilateral insistence. Does the applicant have a meaningful alternative, other than just not applying to Chicago? If one party says, "take it or leave it," that is a sign that the deal is not mutually voluntary.

c) It's especially not mutually voluntary if every program does it, leaving the applicant with no alternative but to not apply to grad school at all.

d) How does the deal advance the applicant's interests? It seems to me that the department is unfairly using its leverage as an employer in an employer's market to force the applicant to apply to fewer programs than she would like while giving her nothing in exchange. This is obviously not in her interest.

Anonymous said...

Zero,

It's hard for me to believe you don't know this.

Right, I knew those things.
So what? What does that have to do with the issue? It's fine to ask for some private information, not fine to ask for private information if it would likely be used to make bigoted choices. I hope we now agree that this is obvious.

Unless you're claiming that wanting to keep the number of applications down is in some important way like wanting to keep ugly people or poor people out of your program, you've failed to establish the relevance of your analogy.

I'll be more clear: the fact that you think that allowing applicants to apply to as many programs as they want is unlikely to benefit you personally does not entail that you are entitled to the relevant private information or to restrict their behavior. It's not about you.

I don't have any interest in that information; I only have an interest in keeping the number of applicants down. If the BB can simply offer a dozen applications for a fixed price, and a bigger fee for any over a dozen, that's fine with me.

But earlier you said you literally have no idea why I think that my program would be gaining much by getting the extra applicants. I think I've explained why. Do you still have no idea why, or do you now understand why?

I think it's charming that you're giving me advice about consulting my legal department, by the way. Very helpful, thanks!

The proposal is, every Ph.D. granting program refuses to consider any applicant who applies to more than ten schools.

I don't know what "the proposal" is. I think different people have proposed different things. The first thing I said about it was December 18, 2009 5:58 AM. (I should have picked a name for myself then, but I didn't know I would be posting repeatedly.)

How is it mutually voluntary? It seems to me much more like a unilateral insistence. Does the applicant have a meaningful alternative, other than just not applying to Chicago? If one party says, "take it or leave it," that is a sign that the deal is not mutually voluntary.

No, on the contrary. If the second party is free to leave it, then plainly the deal is mutually voluntary. My employment contract, for instance, is mutually voluntary. My employer offers the contract, I can take it or leave it. That's voluntary.

It's especially not mutually voluntary if every program does it, leaving the applicant with no alternative but to not apply to grad school at all.

Of course it's voluntary.
If you demand that your employer provide you with a five room apartment in addition to salary, and your employer declines, that doesn't make your employment contract involuntary, and if all employers likewise decline to provide you with an apartment it is still an entirely voluntary arrangement.
You are confusing "not what I wanted" with "involuntary".

How does the deal advance the applicant's interests?

It depends on what you mean by "the deal". The overall change in the admissions process advances the applicant's interest by reducing the price.
If you mean by "the deal" just the part of the process that restricts the number of programs the applicant may apply to, then it doesn't advance her interest. But it isn't reasonable to expect that each element of a new "deal" should be to the applicant's advantage. It's reasonable to expect that on the whole the new "deal" is to the applicant's advantage.

Mr. Zero said...

Unless you're claiming that wanting to keep the number of applications down is in some important way like wanting to keep ugly people or poor people out of your program

If you want to keep the number of applicants down, that is your business. My main claim is that the number of other graduate schools I am applying to, or where you stand in my ordinal ranking of schools I'd like to attend, is in an important way like what I look like or how much money I have. It is none of your business, and it is unfair to base admissions decisions on it.

I also claim that reducing the applicant pool should not be such a priority. But if you're going to do it, you should find a fair way. Whatever benefit you may gain on this proposal is clearly and obviously outweighed by the egregious imposition on the freedom and autonomy of the applicant.

It's fine to ask for some private information, not fine to ask for private information if it would likely be used to make bigoted choices.

You missed the point, or something. The point is, it's fair to ask for private information if and only if it is relevant to assessing the applicant's qualifications. The problem with all these pieces of information is that they are not relevant.

you literally have no idea why I think that my program would be gaining much by getting the extra applicants.

No, I said I don't know why you think that getting extra applicants is unlikely to be good for your department. It seems to me that you would want a larger group of applicants to choose from, so as to maximize your chances of getting good students.

If the second party is free to leave it, then plainly the deal is mutually voluntary.

Of course I realize that there is a clear sense in which "take it or leave it" deals are voluntary, since the applicant has the option to leave it. But you compared the proposal to Early Decision application arrangements, but they are clearly mutually voluntary in a way your proposed arrangement is not. On this arrangement, if the applicant wants to apply, she can apply in the normal way or in the ED way. On your proposal, if the applicant wants to apply, she can apply to just 10 schools or can go jump in the lake.

It depends on what you mean by "the deal".

I mean the proposal I initially criticized as a dud, and which you have been defending. How sure are you that I'm the one who needs a lecture on keeping track of what we're talking about?

If you mean by "the deal" just the part of the process that restricts the number of programs the applicant may apply to, then it doesn't advance her interest.

I know that. That was my point.

But it isn't reasonable to expect that each element of a new "deal" should be to the applicant's advantage.

The reason I mentioned it is because you said that the deal would be mutually beneficial when you compared it to the clearly mutually beneficial Early Decision application arrangement. "[the deal]... advances both of your interests," you said. But this is plainly false. As you now admit.

Anonymous said...

It isn't clear to me that keeping the number of applicants down by some means or another is going to enhance the quality of programs or waste the applications committees time (and I think that Zero's original point was to question such a limitation).

I teach at a small college that has little to no name recognition outside of our part of the country. We have had some stellar students who have made their way, through MA and then PhD programs, to high quality t-t positions. However, many of these students limited their applications because of cost. And they limited them in the direction of being risk-adverse and applied, primarily, to schools we thought they had a very good chance of getting into.

However, if they could have applied more freely there are other, higher ranked, places they may have applied that may have ended up being a better fit for them and to the benefit of the admitting program.

The presumption appears to be that if students could apply to as many places as possible that they would be applying to places that were clearly out of their reach, merely taking a gamble and, thus, wasting committees' time. I don't think this is a justified presumption.

I agree that it's time consuming to go through applications (we go through 100s when we are filling positions) but we do it to find the best person for the job. When I served on the admission committee in grad school, we were doing the same thing, trying to build the best cohort & the best department.

Would the folks who are arguing for limiting the number of places an undergraduate can apply be willing to also limit the number of places people can apply for jobs?