Decision-Making in Graduate Admissions

Nava, Jennifer, Annmarie Cano, Lee Wurm, Farron L. McIntee, and Ambika Mathur

In past studies, meritocracy, has been identified as a means of justifying inequalities that occur during the graduate admissions process. Students view success as a product of merit and do not take into consideration that other factors, such as implicit biases and the groups students are characterized into, also play a role in the admission process. This study, which is currently in the process of data analysis, will be looking into how graduate admissions decisions are made and how they affect the admittance of first-generation college students. Approximately 200 faculty members showing involvement in graduate admissions decisions at Wayne State University will be asked to participate in the study. They will complete a Qualtrics survey that will have them look at vignettes from students hoping to join their graduate programs. Participants will then answer four questions regarding the applicant and proceed to answer a demographic survey along with two additional surveys about their beliefs. It is hypothesized that vignettes of first-generation students, who often receive lower grades than those whose parents did attend college, will be viewed as inferior, and that first-generation faculty raters will have an impact on results. If these hypotheses are proven than interventions may be used to inform raters on how to maintain their biases at bay.