Research in Higher Education

, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 430–447 | Cite as

What Role May Admissions Office Diversity and Practices Play in Equitable Decisions?

  • Nicholas A. BowmanEmail author
  • Michael N. Bastedo


Attending a selective college or university has a notable impact on the likelihood of graduation, graduate school attendance, social networks, and career earnings. Given these short-term and long-term benefits, surprisingly little research has directly explored the factors that might promote or detract from equitable admissions decisions at these schools. This study examined a unique national sample of 311 undergraduate admissions officers who work at selective institutions to explore this issue. Among the descriptive findings, more than half of respondents reported that they consider applicants’ demonstrated interest in attending their institution when making a recommendation, about two-thirds review at least 100 applications during busy weeks, and almost half were working at their alma mater. Moreover, in a simulation of admissions scoring, admissions officers from historically underrepresented groups were more likely to admit low-SES applicants, whereas participants with more work experience and who were employed at their alma mater provided less equitable recommendations.


College admissions College access Equity Decision making Socioeconomic status 



This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, Research on Engineering Education (Grant No. F033963). We are grateful for their support. The authors thank Jandi Kelly and Kristen Glasener for their research assistance on this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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