Preps Move West, But What Does it Mean?

September 09, 2008 01:12 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
Some Midwestern colleges have seen an influx of East Coast prep-school students, but does the trend indicate a reemergence of Middle America, or just a competitive college admissions season?

Midwest Entices Students

As a result of this year’s highly competitive college admissions process, some Midwestern colleges are seeing an influx of East Coast prep-school students who would typically have attended Ivy League institutions. The East-meets-Midwest trend has also been attributed to the efforts of admissions recruiters, but new insight into selecting a college, as well as a general reemergence of the Midwest could be contributing factors.

At Indiana University, more than 250 freshmen came from the New York City area, a 12.5 percent increase from 2007, according to The Wall Street Journal. High school seniors from New Jersey and Connecticut have also begun flocking to the Big 10 school.

Indiana’s admissions director Mary Ellen Anderson has won over private school students on the East Coast by visiting with administrators and placing advertisements in The New York Times, for example. Anderson, who has been working in admissions for 30 years and “seen similar waves” of students from different parts of the country before, said, “You get one or two of the right types of students coming and it’s the pied piper effect.”

Emerging insight into the college selection process and a fresh wave of advice on the topic could also be causing more East Coast students to look outside the box and consider the Midwest.

An article from Ascribe Newsfeed discussed the message of an organization called Colleges That Change Lives (CTCL), which says that searching for a college should be “a thoughtful and enjoyable process,” rather than a “high stakes race to the finish line.” CTCL is touring the country to encourage college-bound students to look beyond rankings and ratings to find a school that fits their personality and individual goals.

Likewise, an August 2008 column in U.S. News & World Report encouraged students to “think broadly about the types of schools where you could do well—large urban campuses, perhaps, or small religious schools in the Midwest—rather than limiting yourself to a few ‘dream’ spots.”

In addition, a general reemergence of the Midwest as a desirable place to live and an athletic stronghold could perhaps be aiding the East Coast influx at the University of Indiana.

For example, an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune said that the 2008 men’s Olympic eight rowing team included four men “born, raised and educated in the Midwest.” Rowing has long been “an Ivy school thing, an elite sport filled with men from East Coast prep schools,” according to the article, which references 1964 Olympic rower Bill Stowe.

On a related note, Midwestern cities are enticing East Coast professionals looking for a slower, friendlier atmosphere. The New York Times interviewed Will Hopkins and Mary K. Baumann, a couple that successfully relocated from Manhattan to a converted flour mill in Minneapolis. The graphic designers said they easily assembled a new social circle, finding friends among the city’s “creative community.”

Bauman said, “In New York, you say hi to your neighbor, but it wasn’t the same sense of camaraderie.”

Background: Competitive admissions year

Related: Prep schools recruiting outside the box


Most Recent Beyond The Headlines