Thursday, November 12, 2009

Diggin' in the Mudd: Only a 56 percent failure rate!

There was a time when Princeton admissions weren't so strict. In fact, they weren't strict at all. It may be hard to believe but check out this document from the Mudd!

Image copyright the Seely G Mudd Manuscript Library Archives

Published Nov 4, 1908 this article states that recently compiled statistics "vinidicate the position of those who defend raising standards of college entrance requirements". The new requirements were not a "huge deterrent effect on prospective students" and "the new class revealed in the entrance examination, the best scholarship ever shown by Princeton freshman".

Which meant? Of 360 students, 44% didn't fail any subject exams! Another 22% only failed one exam! Yay! The non-failures are now free of conditions upon their entrance to Princeton, whereas the failures will have a certain number of conditions corresponding to the classes they failed.

By contrast, 0% of this year's entering class had below 1500 on the modern equivalent to the entrance exam the SAT.

In case you're confused, Mudd tells us that admissions decisions were based on oral examination until the mid 19th century. The president made decisions and sometimes he gave the exam! Written examinations started gradually and by 1888 could be taken in several locations all over the country. After World War I there was a surge in applications and a selective admission's policy, more difficult than the one discussed in the above article, had to be instituted. In 1922 the Admissions Office was created and through 1950 they created our modern application process. Affirmative action was introduced in the 1960s and women were allowed in in 1969. Until 1922 whoever passed the exams was automatically accepted.

The good old days...


Anonymous said...

The last paragraph has at least three punctuation errors.

Anonymous said...

Wait...1500 out of 2400??

Anonymous said...

Wait....1500 out of 2400???

Anonymous said...

Yeah, 1500 out of 2400 isn't that impressive.

You have to remember that entrance exams for Princeton were still pretty difficult and not multiple choice. They were also in different subjects than today, such as Greek, Latin, and logic since all students at that time took a traditional liberal arts course of study. That was the reason students went to prep school, because those schools prepared them for entrance exams at liberal arts colleges.

Great article, please keep posting this really interesting articles about the school's past.

Anonymous said...

Did Prox bother to look at what was actually in those Admissions Exams? At one point in Princeton's history, students had to be proficient in both Latin and Greek. Wonder how many of the current class can make that claim.