Vicki Vasta has a 3.6 (out of a possible 4.0) grade average at Madison High School in Fairfax County. She is a cheerleader, in the National Honor Society, a member of a service club, in the student government and on the student advisory council; was on the track team for two years; models for Woodward & Lothrop's team board, and works part-time after school as a salesgirl.
Her classmate Dave Smith has a 3.1 average, is in the band and the baseball team, and works part-time at a gas station.
Both of them applied to Madison College in Harrisonburg, Va. Dave was accepted, and Vicki was placed in an "applicant's pool" or waiting list, which essentially means she has very little chance of getting accepted.
Getting into college is full of traumas, but this year a new wrinkle is developing in Fairfax County, as numerous young women with good grades are getting the consolation prize "applicant's pool" letter from Madison College, while their male classmates with equal or lesser qualifications are getting accepted.
It has happened often enough that the young women and their parents have started to ask questions and counselors from Lake Braddock and Oakton high schools have asked the school system's equal opportunity officer to look into the issue.
"Here we've been taught about Title IX all this time (the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education) and now all the girls are getting rejected," said Madison High School senior Christine Methven, another high achiever in the applicant's pool. "It looks like sex discrimination to us," she said.
Madison College spokesman Fred Hilton said the school has accepted 1,100 men and 1,100 women for the school year starting in September, but does not have a policy of admitting equal numbers of each sex. "It seems there were 1,100 qualified men and 1,100 qualified women," he said.
Some of the confusion in Fairfax, he said, may stem from uncertainly about admission requirements that place importance on grades and scores first, but include consideration of "potential to contribute to the diversity of the college."
He said that of 6,800 applications for 1,500 places the college received this year, 4,100 were from females and 2,700 from males. Thus, about 1 of every 4 females was admitted, and 2 of every 5 males. Of the 3,000 applicants placed in the pool, 700 are men and 2,100 are women. (Another 200 applications have not been completely processed, said admissions director Francis E. Turner.)
Asked why there are three times as many women as men in the "applicant's poll," Hilton said, "I don't know.
Fifty-five per cent of the college's current enrollment of 7,700 is female, Hilton said, and one-third comes from Northern Virginia. He said he expects these figures to be reflected in the eventual composition of the class of 1981 after those among the 2,200 accepted so far have decided whether to attend Madison.
Meanwhile, at Madison high school the confusion mounts. Vicki, Christine and classmates Lee Sellers, Vivian Woo and Linda Stewart compiled a partial list of fellow students who applied to Madison College.
Of 18 women who were rejected or put in the pool, none had a grade average lower than 3.1, and 12 had 3.3 or above. The lowest college board score among those surveyed was 770 out of a possible 1,600; 10 of 1,000 or above.
If they were also in the top 10 per cent of their class, the 1,000 score should have guaranteed them admission to Madison College, based on the school's admission standards.
Six women were accepted by Madison under this "honors" policy.
Of nine men who were accepted, seven had a grade average of 3.1 or below; only two had averages of 3.4 and 3.5. However, six scored above 1,000 on the college board examinations.