Laie and statistics

If you’re applying to BYU-Hawaii, should Dartmouth be your safety school?

The last time I looked at the acceptance rate for BYU, it was around 70%, about what you would expect for a school with a highly self-selecting applicant pool. But as I look at the list of schools with the lowest acceptance rates in the US News 2007 college rankings, BYU-Hawaii comes in at #6, right between Princeton and Stanford. What’s going on? I can understand that a respectable academic ranking (#4 among comprehensive bachelor’s institutions in the West), very modest tuition ($3,040), and a highly desirable location would make BYU-H attractive to a lot of college applicants, but the 89% rejection rate is still surprising. Do the applicants not self-select to the same degree as BYU applicants? Aren’t the other Hawaiian schools also attractive? I wonder if the low acceptance rate is a recent development, or if it’s had an effect on the student body. (Does BYU-H now only accept Ivy League-caliber surfers, or only future mission presidents?) Can someone explain the dynamics of BYU-H applicants?

27 comments for “Laie and statistics

  1. Jonovitch
    June 29, 2007 at 8:11 am

    I thought it would have been funnier (and clearer) to have the title of this article read “Laie, damned Laie, and statistics” but that might have turned off some readers who might not have gotten the joke.

    Anyway, I find it interesting that BYU-Provo (the location with the best academics) is sometimes berated because of its high acceptance rate — the underlying secret being we all know high-schoolers from every ward don’t apply because they think (or someone has “advised” them) that they wouldn’t get in. Ironic that BYU-Hawaii is now apparently turning away more applicants than BYU-P is accepting.

    On a completely different note, I think it would be fun if the Church added a campus in Ontario. That way, faithful high-schoolers could pursue their advanced education at any of the BYU-IHOP locations.

  2. interested
    June 29, 2007 at 8:48 am

    There are probably three main factors shaping this acceptance rate. The first is that the student body number is limited to a little over 2,000. Thus it does not take very many applicants for the open positions to close down. Secondly, several years ago some new policies were developed to help BYUH move away from being a place where mainland students went for a semester or two (Some of these students came to play at the beach, which made it difficult to raise the level of learning. Even the serious short-time students hurt the university in the long-run by dramatically raising the cost-per-graduate and by limiting the ability to build a viable intercultural and intellectual community.) If I understand the current admission policy correctly, students who apply from the mainland are more likely to be accepted if they have already completed their general education and transfer to BYUH to complete their upper division classes. This policy has greatly enhanced the class-room experience and also meant that the resources of the school are more fully directed towards those who intend to graduate from BYUH. The third variable has to do with the mission of the university and its target areas. At this time, BYUH is one of the most international of all undergraduge universities in the United States. Historically (and very roughly), the population of the school has been something like 25 percent mainland, 25 percent local, 25 percent Pacific Islander, and 25 percent Asian.

  3. June 29, 2007 at 8:58 am

    I graduated from BYU-Hawaii in 2004, and know a thing or two about how things work there. It is almost ten times smaller then BYU-Provo with around 3,000 students when I was attending. Also international students apply in huge numbers. The dean of admissions once told the student body that they recieve many, perhaps thousand of more applications then they can possibly accept. Also BYU-H has a full scholarship program called the IWES(International Work Experience Support) program where essentially foreign students work twenty hours a week in exchange for full tuition, full room, and board plus a monthly allotment to spend on whatever.

    Another reason why BYU-H attracts far more students then can possibly be accepted is that it has a wonderful program that will take someone with limited English proficiency, and over the course of a couple of years bring them to the point where they can function at a college level. This is every attractive, especially to students who are members from third world countries and members of the Church who don’t speak english, want to tap into the rapidly globalizing business world and want to attend a Church university.

    Another problem is money. BYUs Provo and Idaho are constantly expanding both physically and academically whereas BYU-H has not had a new building added to its’ campus since the 80’s. Some members of the faculty are very bitter about how much money is spent by the Church at the Universities and how BYU-H often gets the shaft. This has to do with the fact that a vast majority of the students who were international students, returned to their home countries where the economic prospects are not as bright as they are in United States, thus limiting what they can donate to the school.

    BYU-Provo and Idaho seem to expand to meet demand, while the demand for education, among a Church population we often don’t think about, is rapidly expanding but not much is being done to accomodate that in terms of expanding BYU-H.

    In some ways I think that BYU-H is more noble because their mission is not only to educate international students, but to send them back to their home countries where it is hoped they will build up their countries and the Church.

    Also other Hawaii schools are very expensive. I was looking into grad school and found that outside of the BYU-H, most schools were going to run into well into the 20k realm for tuition. It is also two to three times more expensive to live in Hawaii then it is to live in Provo or any place else for that matter. Also you have consider getting there. Flying to Provo will run you around $250 or so, while the cheapest deals we ever, going from Atlanta to Honolulu, were between $700 and $800. So when I take thosethings into consideration it becomes apparent to me why someone would want BYU-H over another school in Hawaii. And besides, Hawaii beats freakin Provo any day :-).

  4. Ironic
    June 29, 2007 at 9:26 am

    Interesting about the statistics. I remember the statistics that are always bandied about in Utah that it is harder to get into BYU than it is to get into Harvard undergrad from Utah. I believe one year the stats: 6 applied to Harvard from Utah, 3 got in, whereas the acceptance rate at the Y-Provo for Utah folks was less than 50%, although thousands applied. Therefore, the funny statement developed that it was harder to get into the Y than Harvard from Utah.

  5. June 29, 2007 at 10:35 am

    That way, faithful high-schoolers could pursue their advanced education at any of the BYU-IHOP locations.

    Thanks for the laugh. That was great. (And BYU-Ontario would be really cool — or rather, cold.)

  6. Matt Evans
    June 29, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Julliard, Harvard, Yale, College of the Ozarks?!?

  7. paula
    June 29, 2007 at 11:33 am

    College of the Ozarks is small, and its policy is that most of the students who go there must demonstrate financial need, and it provides a great deal of financial support for those who need it– making it popular. It’s also mentioned a lot in college-recommendation books lately, so has probably gotten a good boost from that.

  8. Jay S
    June 29, 2007 at 11:33 am

    I have heard good things about the IWES Program, but I wonder if this limits the size of the program? Unless the Polynesian Cultural Center is substantially expanded, the number of jobs available in Laie for this program aren’t going to increase dramatically.

    Also Land costs are likely a significant factor. When we were there a few weeks ago, it was amazing how expensive everything was. It was somewhat surprising to see houses in Laie that looked straight out of Utah. One house off the highway looked straight out of the new suburbs in the benches (stucco, basement, mcmansion style) that contrasted greatly with the rest of the homes (end off topic threadjack).

    I wonder if is in the interest of BYU to expand BYU-H tho

  9. June 29, 2007 at 11:37 am

    #8 That house you saw off the highway was probaby double what it would cost on the mainland. A shack in Laie will run you well into mid 400Ks last time I was there.

  10. Rob
    June 29, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    I’ve thought BYU should have a “law of consecration” style education system for a long time, where everyone works for their education which is otherwise free. Cool to hear about the IWES program. College of the Ozarks (a.k.a Hard Work U) has a similar program, hense the popularity. Perhaps we’re selling ourselves short by underestimating the attractiveness of a law of consecration style education?

  11. Margaret Young
    June 29, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Jonathan–I don’t have time at the moment to read all of the comments, but I have heard that students from the Mainland are being turned away more and more so that islanders can be admitted. The school is, after all, really for them. Many of them work at the Polynesian Cultural Center to pay their tuition. Bruce and I taught there for a year and loved it. Some of the students are not terribly fluent in English, but many are the full academic equals of BYU-Provo students (who we know well). (We would meet those less fluent students in English 111, not in the advanced courses.)

    I had thought BYU-H would be a great option for my ocean-loving son (almost 16), but was advised that it would be very hard for him to get in right now because of the actual mandate of the school. I have to say that I support the mandate.

  12. Rob
    June 29, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    A priest from our ward in PA just got accepted to BYU-H and starts in the fall. Its not like he’s a straight A student, so it’s still worth applying there.

  13. June 29, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    Actually BYU-H is shifting from the Pacific Islands to seek out students from Asia, especially China, southeast Asia and other places where the Church is not strong. The goal is not only to provide students with an education, but to build the Church and gain access to places where the Church is not allowed right now. Insterestingly enough, when I was attending the School was reaching out to mainland China and there were a few students attending on the IWES scholarships.

    The school being for the Polynesians only is a myth. I transfered from BYU-Idaho and lived in the dorms my first year there. There were more Freshman kids from the mainland then you would think. Far more. I think that the “BYU-H is only for the polynesians” is one of those Mormon urban legends that gets passed around, but in the end is ridiculous when you realize what the reality of the situation is.

  14. Joe
    June 29, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Just to elaborate on the statistics (based on comment 2): I\’m ballparking this (by what has been stated here. I have no independent numbers), but if BYU-H has 2000 students, that should be 500 incoming freshman. If the acceptance rate is 11%, approximately 4,000 were rejected. If BYU-P has 20,000 students (help me out here), 5,000 would be incoming freshman. If accepantce is 70%, rejection should be 2,100.

    4,000 applicants turned down from Hawaii doesn\’t seem that remarkable.

  15. Keith
    June 29, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    2,400 is the enrollment now. About half of these are from the mainland and Hawaii. The other half is international. The Pacific islands are still a major factor (and always will be) but there has been a shift to a greater emphasis on Asia. The fifty/fifty arrangement will likely stay that way because there needs to be a solid base of native speakers of English to help the non-native speakers in learning English. The challenge of being a student here, or teaching here, is also the charm — a diverse student body (2,400 from 70+ nations). The average student ward of 100 to 125 will generally have members from 20-25 countries. You become aware very quickly of the international church.

    While there are Freshman admitted, there is a large number of transfer students admitted as well — they start somewhere else, but finish their degrees here. I can’t say how many of the rejections of applicants are those from mainland compared to those from around the world. I’m guessing that it’s about equal.

    “I wonder if is in the interest of BYU to expand BYU-H tho” One thing not widely known is that about three or four years ago, BYU-Hawaii became a separate institution from BYU — no longer BYU-Hawaii campus. Unfortunately, many know BYU-Hawaii simply as the old Church College of Hawaii, whereas it has really become a fine place to get a college degree. Not for everybody, of course — BYU-H can’t come close to doing everything Provo does — but still a good place.

  16. John Williams
    June 29, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    “The last time I looked at the acceptance rate for BYU, it was around 70%, about what you would expect for a school with a highly self-selecting applicant pool.”

    Sorry, Jonathan Green. You can put lipstick on the 70% acceptance rate of BYU-Provo to try to make it look better, but the fact of the matter is that BYU is just not that prestigious. Get over it.

    Getting into Harvard out of high school– now that’s an accomplishment. Getting into BYU out of high school is about as impressive as getting into a local state school.

    “highly self-selecting”? More like mundane Mormons.

  17. Ironic
    June 29, 2007 at 4:50 pm


    “Getting into Harvard out of high school”? How else would you get into Harvard undergrad – I’m sure there are some transfers, but not that many to make it that remarkable…

  18. John Williams
    June 29, 2007 at 5:10 pm


    Notice I didn’t say “Harvard undergrad”… hence the usefulness of the phrase “out of high school.”

    By the way, I think your comment #4 above is pure urban legend.

  19. Jonathan Green
    June 30, 2007 at 2:12 am

    John Williams, you are being annoying. Please check out of this thread.

  20. Ray
    June 30, 2007 at 2:37 am

    Even at Harvard, BYU-Hawaii has an exceptional reputation as an academic institution. I would love it if my daughter who is fixated on attending BYU could get into BYU-Hawaii. She would receive a world-class education, incredible exposure to diversity and absolutely the best bargain in the states. It can’t be modeled, due to the factors already mentioned here by those who know what they are talking about, but members should be proud of what it has accomplished. It truly is a phenomenal institution.

  21. Jonathan Green
    June 30, 2007 at 2:49 am

    Now that that bit of unpleasantness is taken care of, thanks to all of your for your comments, which really help to explain why admission to BYU-H is so competitive.

    Joe, absolute numbers don’t tell us much about an acceptance rate; if you look at other schools on the list, a good number have fairly limited undergraduate populations. I haven’t looked up the numbers, but I would guess that BYU-H isn’t the smallest school in its selectivity neighborhood. Pointing out the overall number does help keep things in perspective, though.

    Paula and Rob, thanks for explaining College of the Ozarks. That one confused me too, but I didn’t know anything about the school.

    Others too numerous too mention: One thing that all your comments have made clear is that BYU-H is a school with a mission that is specific and focused in a way I hadn’t understood before. (As for the financial situation, I’m pretty sure the traditional solution is to strategically admit the children of fabulously wealthy people. There’s at least one college whose campus boasts a carbon copy of a building from Very Prestigious University, built at the expense of the father of someone admitted to the college but not to VPU.) I assume that BYU-H deals with applications from each of its four target groups somewhat differently, with TOEFL scores weighing heavily for some and ACT scores for others, or something like that. Is the competitive application process changing the student body, or the Hawaiian/mainlander component of it, in any noticeable way?

  22. mrs
    July 2, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Re #4)

    6 people applied from Utah to Harvard? My parents interview for Harvard undergrad in Utah, and the number is more like 50-70 applicants each year, depending on the year, with somewhere between 3-8 getting in each year. We’re talking more about 10-15% getting in from Utah. And it’s a very self-selected pool, obviously, with only that many applying.

  23. Gavin Guillaume
    July 3, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    My in-laws formerly did all of the Utah applicant interviews for Harvard. There are more than 6 applicants a year. mrs’ characterization of the number of applicants and accepted are in line with what I’ve been told.

  24. Gavin Guillaume
    July 3, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Based on my observations of family and stories I’ve heard, the single biggest thing you can do to ensure yourself a place into Harvard as an undergrad (outside the grades, activities, and SAT scores) is to be a legacy kid. Double legacy would be even better.

    Just hope that your kids plan on that… ;)

  25. Ray
    July 3, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Sorry, Gavin, but the teacher in me had to laugh when I read that the “single biggest thing” came in 4th on the list.

    My wife worked in the Harvard Undergraduate Admissions Office, so I know of whence I speak. The legacy kid gets priority when all else is seen as equal (and it definitely is an advantage for the ultra rich legacy kid), but the geographic location of your high school actually plays a bigger role than legacy – as long as that location is a rural place nobody in the admissions office recognizes. If you apply from Podunk, UT or Podunk, ID and your academics are equal to applicants from SLC or Boise, you have an elevated chance of being admitted. One admissions officer makes it a habit of sending applications to students who make the National Merit Semi-Finalist list from high schools nobody recognizes. He figures they won’t think to apply on their own.

  26. Ray
    July 3, 2007 at 8:41 pm

    Yes, but they favor New England heavily, in general. The percentages are different, but it’s much like the geographic distribution at BYU-Hawaii – at least conceptually.

    FWIW, You don’t have to be a perfect student to be admitted. There are general minimums, but those aren’t as high as many think. (high, but not as high as perceived to be) They have more valedictorians apply than there are available slots, and when you add the 1600 SAT scorers . . . In the end, the non-valedictorians and non-1600 SAT scorers outnumber the “perfect” students every year – by a wide margin.

    This creates a situation where strong academics are assumed – meaning that the “tie-breakers” tend to be much more subjective. (truly unique and compelling essays that don’t reek of preparation, deep and passionate extra-curricular involvement in one or two areas, overcoming adversity, being from Podunk, being state- or national-best at something, etc.) Legacy fits that category, but it really isn’t an automatic – and being a current sibling “legacy” candidate actually is more advantageous than being a child legacy, as long as that current sibling is doing well.

  27. Jonathan Green
    July 4, 2007 at 2:42 am

    John Williams, I encourage your efforts to be a well-behaved guest–and I emphasize ‘guest’–on other threads. Not here. In comments, disagreement is welcome, disagreeableness is not. Go agree, or disagree, as pleasantly as you please, but not here. You should think very, very carefully before attempting to post on this thread again.

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