The Wilson School will end its selective admission process beginning with the Class of 2015, the University announced on Thursday. The Wilson School, which has depended on an admission process since its founding in 1930, is currently the only selective major at the University.
“The widespread support among the faculty for open admissions to the undergraduate major reflected the view that all students should have equal opportunity to major in public and international affairs,” the University statement said. “This belief outweighed a concern, expressed by some alumni and current students, that open admissions might diminish the program’s reputation.”
The changes follow a year-long review of the Wilson School, commissioned by Wilson School dean Christina Paxson last spring, that was headed by University President Emeritus Harold Shapiro GS ’64 and Wilson School Associate Dean Nolan McCarty. The Wilson School faculty voted to approve the changes on Tuesday and the full report of the review committee is due to be released sometime next week.
Other planned changes, based on the committee’s recommendations, include the creation of multidisciplinary “clusters” — or tracks — within the Wilson School and the replacement of one of the task forces that students are required to take to fulfill the department’s junior independent work requirement with a research seminar.
McCarty said there had long been a debate about the importance of the selective admission process to the Wilson School’s prestige but that the faculty ultimately decided that the concentration should be available to all students.
“The main thing is that ... [the changes are] consistent with our view, as a faculty, that undergraduate students who want to study public policy and international affairs at Princeton should have the option of doing so,” he explained.
Instead of the admission process, students interested in the major will be required to take four prerequisite courses including ECO 100: Introduction to Microeconomics, one statistics course, one history course and one course in politics, psychology or sociology, according to McCarty.
One major consideration in the decision to open up the Wilson School was the effect that the change in selectivity would have on the size of the incoming departmental class in two years, said Wilson School professor Brandice Canes-Wrone, the chair of the Wilson School undergraduate program.
Faculty members in the department had a range of views on the subject, Canes-Wrone said, but she agreed with the majority of her colleagues that the enrollment of the department would not decrease.
The department has also been guaranteed additional resources and support by the University in the case that enrollment dramatically increases, McCarty noted.
“There’s always been this fear that some students apply just because it’s selective,” Canes-Wrone explained. “But I don’t believe that half of the applicant pool was applying just because it was selective.”
In recent years, the Wilson School has accepted around 50 percent of prospective concentrators, or roughly 90 students.
Wilson School officials said that the opinions of both current students and alumni who graduated with Wilson School concentrations within the past seven years were surveyed by the committee and taken into account when the decision was made.
“Some ... [alumni] favored the current policy [of selective admission], but many people were uncomfortable with it based on normative grounds and thought that it didn’t really add much to the educational experience that they had,” McCarty explained.
Several current students said that they supported the move to a non-selective Wilson School admission process.
“Maybe the selective component is a consideration for some people, but I think for the most part people who join the program have a genuine interest in policy and international affairs,” said John Monagle ’12, a member of the Wilson School’s undergraduate advisory committee, which was consulted by the review committee during the admission process.
“I came to Princeton knowing that I wanted to come to the Wilson School and not knowing for the first two years whether I would be able to study what I was interested in was sort of frustrating,” David Asker ’13, who was accepted to the department this semester, said of the current application process. “It adds a lot of uncertainty to students’ academic lives.”