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College Recruitment as a Market

The entire process of college recruitment is extremely complex with hundreds of variables. Ultimately it can be generalized as a market where students allocate their tuition and presence to institutions that allocate their education and reputation. Universities give out acceptance letters based on students who meet certain criteria and are deemed acceptable. On the other side, students pick which university they would like to attend through preferences that are (usually) non-strict and characterized by a categorical ranking – ‘Safety Schools’ <= ‘Target Schools’ <= ‘Reach Schools’.

There is an exchange of monetary currency only from the students towards the universities however there is also the currency of reputation that the university offers in the form of a diploma as well as quality of education, both of which are large factors for students deciding where they want to go. The topic of ‘currency’ in this market is very interesting with both sides holding different forms and each party valuing that currency different based on their needs and wants. For example, take a star basketball point guard that gets a full athletic scholarship from UNC and Harvard University, and must now choose which school to attend. Harvard has arguably the better alumni connection, reputation, education, and endowment, yet the student could very likely choose UNC as they were the 2017 NCAA basketball champions and he sees himself getting the best chance of being drafted into the NBA at UNC. In the end, where a student decides to go may not be as easily quantifiable as simple college rankings but could rather be dependent on their intrinsic values and goals.

A design feature in this market is the acceptance rate which is often times manipulated to some degree by universities. In this market, apart from gaining tuition as a currency, universities also see students as a currency, with students that excel in their respective programs being of higher value. Stronger students lead to higher chances of success rate upon graduation which usually benefits the university either through donations or simple improvements in reputation. Strong students are often times influenced by university rankings which is in turn is influenced by acceptance rates. Thus, you see top tier universities like Harvard, Stanford, and Yale battling over who has the lowest acceptance rate in order to claim that top accolade of being the most selective university in the world. This has come to a point where normal schools have caught on and have purposefully rejected students that they believe are ‘too good’ to attend in order to lower their acceptance rates.


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