Rice Admissions

It’s been about a week since I’ve had to do any data analysis, so I thought I’d throw some in for kicks.

Undergrads at Rice like to say they don’t care much about rankings, or hold much credence in them; this is true until we’re #1 quality of life or #1 happiest students, at which point my facebook feed blows up with links to Kiplinger or Princeton Review. I’ve never tried to lie about it – I think Rice is beyond excellent, and I love seeing that validated numerically by whoever’s putting together the stats. Anyway, we’ve spent the past few years tied with Vanderbilt at #17 in US News (and behind Brown and Cornell, seriously?), and I think this is the year we’ll jump up to top 15.

This is where it started: numbers for Early Decision applicants came out last week. And…well, damn.

Here are some numbers from 2007 onward, with 2012 projections in red (all of these are from press releases the school puts out during each admissions cycle – feel free to go to the main site and search away).

Class size is the key. Though our acceptance rates have declined as our applicant pool has grown, Rice has also been undergoing a period of undergraduate population expansion – my class of 2008 is about 200 students smaller than the class that just matriculated (yes, I hate expansion, thanks for asking). This growth has done a lot to mask the increase in competitiveness. Last year, for example, admissions failed to anticipate the increased yield, and we had to kick off upperclassmen to make room for 51 extra freshmen. We’re aiming for a total undergrad population of 3,800, so I’m guessing they’ll drop back down to a goal class size of 950.

Acceptance rate is where it gets tricky. 17.5% acceptance is what you get if you follow the acceptance rate trendline, but we go all the way down to 15.6% if you follow the applicant trendline and calculate backwards using expected yield (which I think is the more valid method).

None of this is good for those vying for a spot in the class of 2016, but I’m calling a huge jump in rankings and looking forward to seeing Prez Leebz’s efforts pay off.

Rice Admissions

Boquillas and Big Bend

Here’s a thing I have feelings about!: the opening of a border crossing in Big Bend National Park.

Last time I was in the area, my boyfriend and I were driven from camping in the highlands by terror (harmless mountain lion encounter – but still! Not 20 feet away!). At some absurd hour of barely-morning, we set up in the nearly abandoned Cottonwood campground – and woke up not an hour later to footsteps outside our tent.

One swinging MagLite later, whoever had been around was running into the brush and we were piled into the car, headlights blazing, back to the mountains to sleep crushed vertically onto car seats. The decision to camp by the Rio Grande may, of course, have been a skosh bit of idiocy (albeit as a side effect of sheer exhaustion) – but I had camped on the border before, and felt a perhaps false sense of reassurance. Truth is, there’s not much to it:

And I’d be a liar if I said my only venture outside of these United States didn’t involve some wading.

In any case, there’s no doubt that the residents of Boquillas – a town just across the border that, from what I could tell, survived on tourism and providing beer to the 18-to-21 crowd – has suffered tremendously since the existing crossing closed after 9/11.  Trinkets appear by landmarks overnight, with requests for compensation.

Some of the comments on the article I linked to (and in other places, though generally not on sites frequented by BBNP visitors) are vicious: allegations that the potential border opening will do nothing but expand drug trade, criticism of the Mexican government for “relying on tourism” and the United States for reviving a scant population, and cries that opening the town to park visitors would destroy the sense of wilderness.

As someone who never ceases singing the praises of Big Bend, who would rather be nowhere but the middle of nowhere  – and as a potential crime victim with an interest in national security – here are my counterarguments:

1) Information is better than no information, and open communication with Boquillas residents helps Border Patrol to do the job effectively. There’s no cell service in that region of the park, and with the border closed residents can’t alert patrol members of strangers, crime, unusual activity – anything they would do and have ordinarily done in order to maintain stable relations and protect their economy.

2) Anyone who thinks the growth of a 19-family town across the river will be enough to tame or temper 800,000 acres of desert is insane.

3) The town isn’t a drain on the region – it enhances it. You can’t spend a day hiking and not want to drive down to the river, enter a makeshift gondola run by Singing Victor, and re-hydrate with cervezas. Impossible.

4) Victor himself: “I don’t think the terrorists want to cross here on a burro.”

Boquillas and Big Bend