Monday, August 16, 2010

Extracurriculars and College Admissions

In a string of posts reacting to the Espenshade, et al. finding that elite universities discriminate against white middle and working class applicants, Half Sigma asserted that they have it coming because they don’t participate sufficiently in extracurricular activities.  As I commented, this assertion struck me as implausible based on my own experience as a middle-class college applicant back in the mid-80’s.

As it turns out, Espenshade draws from the ETS’s Student Descriptive Questionnaire to address this issue.  It turns out that while there is not much difference between SES groupings in athletic and academic extracurricular participation among elite college applicants (as measured by the National Study of College Experience), there is a difference in three other categories of extra curricular participation:

Performing Arts
Lower 28
Working 47
Middle 68
Upper-Middle 65
Upper 48
Community Service
Lower 39
Working 81
Middle 83
Upper-Middle 76
Upper 74
Part-time Job
Lower 16
Working 45
Middle 41
Upper-Middle 33
Upper 13

The generalization appears to be that extracurricular activity peaks among middle-class applicants to elite colleges.  A similar pattern emerges when looking at leadership positions and awards in extracurricular activities.

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