President Eisgruber ’83’s comments represent a good start toward explaining how the University selects candidates for admission.
The published comments say: “We seek students who have the exceptional academic ability necessary to benefit fully from a Princeton education, who will contribute to the education of their peers while they are here, and who will use their education to make a difference for the better in the world. And every one of our admitted students meets this rigorous and high bar.”
Congratulations to the group for making the difficult choices. However, the Princeton family deserves to also understand the basis on which applicants are rejected. In particular, what factors were used to select out the 18,000 who were deemed to be “so good that you could substitute one of them for an admitted student without any loss of quality to the entering class”?
Without transparent access to the selection criteria, the community of students, applicants, parents, and alumni are left to speculate. They may conclude that the process of narrowing the field is arbitrary: We decide, using our own criteria, which we deem to be fair. Arbitrariness would indicate an unfortunate lack of accountability.
All well governed systems include controls and audit processes to ensure accountability. Surely Princeton has such an infrastructure to maintain the integrity of a process as sensitive as admissions.
To give all interested parties a consistent starting point for reflection, and to provide a basis for constructive debate, the administration should publish a clear statement of Princeton’s admissions criteria (for both acceptance and denial), including how the criteria are applied, and how the process is audited by a disinterested party accountable to the Board of Trustees.