Climbing up those ivory towers may be a lot tougher for obese applicants. Or, at least, this is according to a study done at Bowling Green State University. The study, which followed the applications of 97 students, suggests the admissions process depends on BMI as well as GPA.
These 97 applicants applied to over 950 schools combined. The study found that the obese candidates were less likely to be accepted after being interviewed in-person. Even when letters of recommendation, test scores, and GPA were held equal the heavier of the academic heavyweights were less likely to receive admission.
“The success rate for people who had had no interview or a phone interview was pretty much equal,” says Ph.D. candidate, Jacob Burmeister, “but when in-person interviews were involved, there was quite a bit of difference, even when applicants started out on equal footing with their grades, test scores and letters of recommendation.”
The results also suggest that weight bias is slightly stronger for female applicants.
The research team was not surprised by these findings. They conducted the study in the first place to look for this correlation.
The matter most salient to the study is whether weight discrimination is permissible. To the extent that obesity is a choice, one may argue that such discrimination is acceptable. A university can justify its discrimination on the basis that since it can legally discriminate on the basis of athletic ability, intelligence, and moral character, why not obesity. To the extent that obesity is not a choice, applicants may charge that weight discrimination is as bad as racial discrimination. The matter really comes down to whether obesity is more like a disease or more like a lifestyle.