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Harder to Get Job at Walmart Than Admitted to Ivy League School?

walmart-logo

A silly Wonkblog post with the title “Wal-Mart has a lower acceptance rate than Harvard” is rightly drawing some eye-rolling.

This year’s Ivy League admissions totals are in. The 8.9 percent acceptance rate is impressively exclusive, but compared to landing a job at Wal-Mart, getting into the Ivy Leagues is a cakewalk.

Last year when Wal-Mart came to D.C. there were over 23,000 applications for 600 jobs. That’s an acceptance rate of 2.6%, twice as selective as Harvard’s and over five times as choosy as Cornell.

This isn’t an anomaly – last year a Wegman’s in Pennsylvania boasted an acceptance rate of 5%, while Google only has room for one half of one percent of its job applicants.

As commenters rightly point out, neither Walmart nor Wegman’s have an “acceptance rate”–they simply have jobs and applicants. Further, not noted by the commenters but nonetheless true, the Ivies’ applicant pool is self-limiting. Because they schools are notoriously difficult to get into and the high resource investment required just to apply, relatively few bother to compete. Conversely, since Walmart is seen as a gateway for very-low-skill people to get into the workforce and applying is cheap and easy, there’s a massive applicant pool, especially in this economy.

The barriers to entry to the Ivy Leagues are simply much, much higher and the applicant pool is much, much more elite. So, no, it’s not harder to get hired at Walmart than it is to get into Cornell.

For that matter, aside from the weird comparative statistics, the conclusion makes no sense:

Parents and students – particularly those from a certain socio-economic background – tend to obsess a lot over the college admissions process. The danger, of course, is that this single-minded focus on preparing kids for college – the extra-curriculars, test prep, admissions coaching, and the like – is coming at the expense of prepping them for the job market hurdles that come after.

They’re trying to get their kids into an elite school. If successful, they’re virtually punching their ticket to the upper end of the job market! That’s a pretty good preparation for “the job market hurdles that come after.” And, in the likely event Junior doesn’t get into Harvard, this “single-minded focus” will almost certainly land him at a decent state university.

Is graduating college a guarantee of a good job thereafter? No. But it massively increases the odds. And it virtually assures that they won’t be competing with tens of thousands of low- or no-skill workers for a relative handful of low-pay, low-ceiling jobs. That’s not nothing.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Eric Florack says:

    Two points….

    1: If it’s really that hard to get it, perhaps they’re paying enough… Supply and demand.
    2: If it’s really that tough, there’s one place the blame goes… Democrats, whose policies have created an economic disaster. But for that, more people would be in employment and not looking to Wal-Mart for a job.

    Bonus…

    Wegmans really is a great place to work. I live about three miles from their corporate office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 12

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Eric Florack:

    If it’s really that tough, there’s one place the blame goes… Democrats, whose policies have created an economic disaster. But for that, more people would be in employment and not looking to Wal-Mart for a job.

    You do realize the economic collapse came in 2008, before Obama’s election, right?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 0

  3. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Eric Florack: It must be nice living in your world, where whenever the Republicans were in charge we had a rapidly growing economy, full employment, and no deficits. And nothing ever went wrong.

    I ask, do you have any understanding of reality at all?!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  4. Mikey says:

    Further, not noted by the commenters but nonetheless true, the Ivies’ applicant pool is self-limiting. Because they schools are notoriously difficult to get into and the high resource investment required just to apply, relatively few bother to compete.

    That was the first thought that came to my mind. The viable applicant pool for the Ivies is pretty much the top 5% of SAT scorers, and more than 10% of applicants in 2012 were at the very top of their high school class.

    The viable applicant pool for Walmart is pretty much “everyone with a pulse,” although based on my relative experiences at both stores, I’m certain it’s higher than that for Wegman’s. They’re very different kinds of stores, though.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. walt moffett says:

    Oh well, the article looks like sold a few ad impressions, which is what for-profit journalism is all about.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Yay, Erick’s back to bring the stooopid!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Just Me says:

    I think you can make the point that it’s tough to find a job right now because there are far more people looking than jobs available.

    You can easily make the case that it’s hard to get into an Ivy League school.

    I don’t think the two scenarios are comparable though.

    And a degree from an Ivy is pretty much a ticket to a good job that pays well-the benefit of an Ivy League education isn’t so much the content taught in the class but the name on the diploma and the connections it provides when looking for a job.

    What would be more interesting to me would be how many applicants come from low socko economic backgrounds. Wealthy parents can get junior into test prep classes and make sure they have a large variety of extracurricular activities. Parents from the lower end of income can’t afford many of these things.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. bk says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Wegmans really is a great place to work. I live about three miles from their corporate office.

    Non, meet sequitur.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @James Joyner: @Grumpy Realist: Um…. no, he doesn’t. Why do you keep asking?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. John Peabody says:

    In other news: Drinking milk kills you! Everyone who drinks a glass of milk WILL DIE (hey, this makes as much sense as acceptance rates)!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. Tillman says:

    @Mikey:

    That was the first thought that came to my mind.

    Your first thought was more complex than mine, which was “bullsh!t!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0