Asee peer logo

A Study Of The Admissions Criteria Into The Sc.B. Engineering Program At An Ivy League School

Download Paper |


1997 Annual Conference


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Publication Date

June 15, 1997

Start Date

June 15, 1997

End Date

June 18, 1997



Page Count


Page Numbers

2.44.1 - 2.44.6



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Sumit Ghosh

author page

Raymond Kuo

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2532

A Study of the Admissions Criteria into the Sc.B. Engineering Program at an Ivy League School Sumit Ghosh Department of Computer Science & Engg Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 85287

Raymond Kuo Cambridge Technology Partners 304 Vassar Street Cambridge, MA 02139


Applicants to undergraduate programs at the Ivy league schools along with their parents find, from time to time, the admission process as secretive, unpredictable, confusing, and arbitrary. In general, applicants submit scores of standardized test results, write essays, fill out lengthy application forms, including information on parental background, parental marital status, and siblings, turn in their high school GPA, class ranking, and teacher recommendations. These, referred to as applicant profiles, are carefully examined and analyzed by a team of admissions officers and they arrive at their decisions, utilizing a host of criteria. However, at the end, for those who are denied admission, the reasons for denial or the lack thereof leave them utterly confused and frustrated. Moreover, rumors such as Ivy league schools such as Brown University routinely denies admission to half of the valedictorians who apply, irrespective of whether such rumors represent statistical truths, only contribute to the confusion. Furthermore, the literature on the details of the admissions process is sparse and there appears to be little consensus relative to the criteria utilized by the admissions officers.

This paper presents a model of the admission process in terms of the applications that encapsulate the characteristics of the applicants and the admissions officers who represent the educational philosophy of the university or college. It describes a correlation-based, scientific study to evaluate the proposed model, wherein the parameter design reflects the knowledge and experience acquired during the second author's tenure as an advisor to the undergraduate admissions office for the Sc.B. engineering program at Brown University between 1989 and 1992. During this period, the second author examined over 900 randomly- selected applicants from diverse cultural and socio economic backgrounds and geographical regions in the US and international applicants and his assessments were treated as ``first reads,'' or key evaluations. The paper develops key non-financial aid related criteria -- academic and non-academic, based on those actually used in the selection of applicants into the Sc.B. (Bachelor of Science) program in engineering at Brown University. It models the biases of the admissions officers that stem from their beliefs of student profiles that would best succeed in the engineering environment at Brown, and proposes representative admission officers for this study. The paper then synthesizes hypothetical applicants with stochastic, i.e. random, yet representative profiles, develops a computer model of the proposed admission process that encapsulates the interaction between the beliefs of the admission officers and the applicant profiles, and simulates the admissions process for 10,000 engineering applicants. The admission decision results -- positive or negative, are then correlated with the respective applicant profile. Analysis of the correlations reveal that (1) admission officer biases play a strong role in determining the admission decision outcomes, (2) applicants with strong math ability, indicated through high math achievement test score, high physics achievement test score, strong parental educational background, high grade point average, and outstanding teacher recommendations, are favored by the representative type of admissions officers who evaluate Sc.B.

Ghosh, S., & Kuo, R. (1997, June), A Study Of The Admissions Criteria Into The Sc.B. Engineering Program At An Ivy League School Paper presented at 1997 Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 10.18260/1-2--6802

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 1997 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015