Colleges like to say that admissions isn’t a science but an art.
Though admissions officers rely heavily on hard numbers like test scores, class rank, and grade point averages, they also look at other factors, such as academic interests, high school achievements, geography, and socioeconomic status, to try to build a well-balanced class of freshman each year.
For many schools, that includes your gender.
Most colleges aim to maintain as much gender parity on campus as possible, as the ratio of men to women can dramatically affect campus culture. But that also means some colleges have significantly higher acceptance rates for women than for men, or vice versa.
At schools with a strong engineering or hard science bent, men generally apply in much larger numbers than women, for example.
And colleges that went co-ed in recent decades, after spending most of their history as men's or women's schools, may have trouble shaking their old image.
Sometimes, it’s simple demographics. There are more qualified women than men applying to and attending four-year colleges. In fact, women have outnumbered men in college for more than 30 years now.
Admissions officers are quick to qualify the disparate acceptance rates by saying that the men and women who are admitted are equally qualified. And that’s no doubt true at more selective colleges, where several qualified applicants are turned down for every one that’s admitted.
“We are not choosing among qualified and unqualified candidates,” says Thyra L. Briggs, vice president for admission and financial aid at Harvey Mudd College, where women are admitted 2.5 times as often as men. The college, which only offers majors in science, technology, engineering, and math fields, estimates that about 70% of applicants would be strong students there.
At the uber-competitive Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the acceptance rate for women is twice as high as it is for men. But “it’s a false assertion that it is easier to be admitted if you are a woman,” Dean of Admissions Stuart Schmill told us in an email. As evidence that accepted women are no less qualified than the men who get in, Schmill points out that once they’re on campus, women have a higher graduation rate.
Still, students should know if the schools they're applying to swing one way or the other, says Joan Koven, an independent college consultant in Pennsylvania. Koven says she frequently talks with her students about recognizing an institution's needs, including whether the college needs more men or women on campus.
An applicant has to pass the academic bar before any other factors are considered, Koven says. But strictly looking at the numbers, the odds are absolutely in your favor if you’re a woman applying to CalTech or a man applying to Vassar, for example.
"Gender is just another card to play in terms of putting together a well-balanced list," she says.
These are the 10 highest ranked schools in Money's Best Colleges where women are admitted at a higher rate than men. They're ordered based on the proportional size of the gap, from smallest to largest. We reached out to each college on the list, and you'll fill explanations from those that responded.
See our related list of colleges where men are admitted at a higher rate than women.