Gender Gap

Gender Gap

Colleges see demand for qualified male applicants grow as young women excel in high school.

By David Treadwell


It has fast become the status quo: applicant pools for selective colleges include more females than males. Entering classes at colleges like Colby typically include more women than men—57 percent to 43 percent in the Colby Class of 2011.

“As a co-ed institution, we want to be somewhere near parity, if possible, because of the academic and social dynamics,” said Dean of Admissions Parker Beverage. “We probably can’t get down to fifty-fifty, but we don’t want to get as high as sixty-forty. It’s tough to right the ship if the numbers get too imbalanced.”

But in a trend seen across the country, the numbers for top high school seniors are just that. Girls tend to get better grades in high school than boys (for reasons still open to speculation), making it harder for the most selective colleges to enroll classes with equal numbers of both.

The disparity in college admissions starts long before hopeful prospects submit their applications. Long before high school, even. According to Colby professors who are experts on this, it’s a result of the way boys are socialized, negative media messages directed at boys, and the fact that women now have more opportunities.

“There’s something happening out there, and we’re trying to figure out what it is,” said Professor Mark Tappan, chair of the Education Program and a scholar who teaches and writes about children and adolescents in schools and society.

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