Post Academic

Fuzzy math: The odds of attending college to teaching there

Since we’re on a math kick these days, here’s an attempt to summarize what your odds are for becoming an academic, from the start of the process–getting into college–to a happy ending–getting a tenure-track position or a postdoc.  There are lots of numbers floating around out there, so we’ll try to gather the easier-to-find hard data on undergrad admissions and the more-difficult-to-guesstimate anecdotal numbers on grad school admissions and faculty job searches.  Since we’re English types, we’re just going to focus on our fields, tracing the odds our hypothetical know-it-all high school senior who just decided s/he wanted to become a lit professor faces from being accepted at a university to teaching at one.

Phase 1, Getting into college: We know that the admissions stats vary a lot based on different demographic factors, such as race, sex, family connections, and geography (especially if you’re attending an in-state public school or you happen to be the best student from Wyoming that all the Ivies want to admit so that they can say they have a student from all 50 states).  But let’s say our hypothetical student spreads around her/his applications, from the H-Y-P-S (Harvard-Yale-Princeton-Stanford; too bad there’s also not a E school before the S of Stanford!) pie-in-the-sky tier to some liberal arts schools to good state universities to “safety schools.”  Here are some of the odds for 2010 admissions, compiled in almost real-time by the NY Times:

Harvard: 6.92% acceptance rate

Yale: 7.50%

Princeton: 8.18%

Stanford: 7.18%

The numbers for the H-Y-P-(E)-S are slightly more exclusive than their closest private counterparts, with almost all Ivies hovering around 10%, give or take a few percentage points.

More stats below the fold…