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the gatekeepers
College Admissions Debates Miss the Mark
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  • DiaKrieg

    “a standardized or semi-standardized testing regime for college seniors would help ambitious graduates of the Nebraska state system, for example, compete on equal footing with Yalies.”

    Um, that already exists. It’s called GRE, LSAT and MCAT. By the way, making a standardized college exit exam a requirement for all seniors would ratchet stress levels up. And the College Board would be laughing all the way to the bank.

    • jeburke

      Anyway, it’s a really nutty idea. In theory, a standardized test can tell you that high school seniors are prepared for college because high school curricula are largely the same. What test could possibly be broadly applicable enough to help an Omaha ad agency, a Bronx school, a Florida bank, a Chicago engineering firm, and an LA-based charitable group distinguish among job applicants. Or in any case, ad anything meaningful to applicant resumes.

      • Jim__L

        Each of those organizations should be able to conduct their own tests to see if their candidates had the background that the individual company is looking for.

  • jeburke

    I fail to see why intensive academic competiveness among high school students in pursuit of slots at the Ivies and other top colleges is a problem. We are treated to endless moaning and complaining about how our schools stink and other nations’ kids are way ahead of ours, but then we see at least some kids knocking themselves out to suceed, there is something wrong with that.

    I suspect that a lot of this is about something more sinister than genuine worry about the “rat race.” Changing admissions standards away from GPAs and SAT scores is the one way Harvard and Yale can be sure their classes won’t become 60% Asian, and to hold onto their desired 10% Blacks, come what may.

  • dave schutz

    Yale could start the parade by moving to Florida, as invited by Governor Scott, and leaving a branch campus on its land in New Haven. This would focus the thoughts of the Connecticut state legislature on living within their means, instead of raiding Yale’s endowment, which would be a bonus.

    • Fat_Man

      Just what Florida needs. Social Justice Warriors cussing out their professors about Halloween costumes.

      • Jim__L

        Just what Yale needs — getting resettled in the middle of Florida. =)

        While we’re at it, let’s move the Federal government from DC to Omaha. The Beltway and K-street types who are just in DC for the world-class restaurants can stay there.

  • Andrew Allison

    TAI is making this way too complicated. The problem is that merit is not the only criterion for admission to Ivy League schools (who are sorely in need of an application of Round-Up). The problem here is a lack of understanding on the part of the vast majority of would-be graduates (and their parents) that outside the club, the Ivy League prinmatuer is not worht its cost.

    • Fat_Man

      Depends. If you want to get ahead based on who you know, the Ivy League is just the place to be. If you want to get ahead based on what you know, a good engineering program at one of the many fine public universities in this country will serve you very well.

    • Beauceron

      An Ivy league degree, while not a requirement for employment in the top businesses, is de rigueur, and it is important in government work as well. The people who run the country come from Ivy League (or one of the “New Ivies”).
      We, as a country, have become more of a “who you know not what you know” society than we ever were– what you need to learn at top universities is the habits and frames of reference of the ruling elite, not the core subject area of your major.

      • Jim__L

        … Hence Trump.

        I don’t expect what you describe to continue.

  • Fat_Man

    “The report, which goes on to make the case for a more ‘holistic’ admissions system, is clearly well-intentioned”

    Rubbish. The purpose of the report is to permit the schools to focus on the upper class kids they want and to keep out the greasy grade grubbing Asian kids. Middle class white people need not worry, they have as much chance of getting in as they do of getting into a fancy club in Southampton.

    At the risk of repeating myself, they only way of making Ivy League admissions fair, in a way that no one can say is unfairfair, is to use a lottery. Yes, any dummy could get in, but requiring calculus and general chemistry in the first year will control that problem.

    • Jim__L

      You’d also have to insist that only oral exams were allowed for first-year classes, or cheating would be incredibly common. On the other hand, demand (and pay rates) for tutors would be astronomical in the Boston area. Hey, maybe they could finally employ all of those PhDs they’re pumping out.

      And the pressure would be grueling, as almost no student would be properly prepared. I’m not sure the professors would be either — for those who had always lazily graded on a curve, how would they calibrate the weeder classes properly? In the exams, you would likely end up with a sudden-death situation, as second chances would increase the costs of such weeders significantly.

      And how many students would you put in the top of the funnel with this lottery? If you’re trying to discover the real top 0.0x% of the student population, you basically have to admit everybody. Otherwise, if you admit 10 freshmen for every seat at graduation, you’re only going to get the top 10% of students. Do you admit 100 freshmen per graduation seat, to get the top 1%? Are any of these Ivy Leagues equipped to handle that logistically? And I’m sure the IQ-obsessive GS will weigh in here eventually to say that anything else would be pearls before swine. I’m sure many at Harvard would agree with him.

      It’s an idea worth engaging with, certainly, and I’m not saying there aren’t possible solutions. A lottery of the top x% of high school seniors might be made to work. Could you provide some more details for your plan?

      • CapitalHawk

        The plan is to make Harvard “look like America”. Unless, that is, Harvard is so racist that it expels minority students at a higher rate than Whites and Asians. Because, as everyone knows, if that happened the only possible explanation would be that Harvard is racist.

      • Fat_Man

        You seem to be under the illusion that the highly rated colleges in this country have very smart students and they teach those students something. Nothing could be further from the truth.

        The students are a very mixed bag.

        First, the schools, even the Ivy League, recruit a lot of athletes. They need to field a lot of teams, not just football and basketball, but soccer, lacrosse, track, and rowing, I have been told by reliable sources that upwards of 40% of the incoming class at some ivy league schools are recruited athletes. Now, those kids are not dummies, but most of them are ordinarily bright kids with decent grades and board scores. The real secret here is that like the colleges, the high schools have been inflating grades like Macy’s inflates balloons for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. It is very common to hear about ordinary suburban high schools where 15% of the kids are “valedictorians”. And the College Board has been dumbing down the SAT to fit the crappy educations the high schools are giving the kids for years.

        Second, legacies. The schools know that Alumni whose children are rejected don’t donate. So they follow the golden rule: “money talks”. Again, the legacies are not dummies, but, see above about what their grades and board scores mean.

        Third, affirmative action. Ideally the schools would like one eighth of the incoming class to be black and one eight Mexican. They can’t do that even when they count the basketball players and football players. So they need some ringers, like African immigrant kids who work like Asian immigrant kids, and the children of white upper class Mexicans from Mexico.

        Fourth, miscellaneous gets. Children of powerful politicians. Kids who have starred in Hollywood motion pictures. Children of really rich people who are not alums, but who will fork over now.

        The bottom line is that about a quarter of the class is left for kids who will raise the average SAT score. Just make sure that less than half of them are Asian. So that is about ten percent of the class for smart white kids — just make sure they don’t need scholarship money. That goes to the A categories.

        The teaching is, if anything, even less to write home about, Ivy League professors are hired because of their research production. Teaching is, as far as they are concerned, a distraction. The really famous ones only teach a couple of graduate classes, which are focused on their research interests. The classroom experience for undergraduates is no better at Harvard than it is at Kent State. Which is just fine as far as the students are concerned because class is just a distraction from their real interests which are binge drinking and fornicating.

        So what would the impact of an admissions lottery be on this system. The biggest one I can see is on the rowing teams. Do you have any idea how few rowers there are outside of New England prep schools.

        As for the general intellectual level of the colleges. Meh. Yes, there would be a few non A category kids who were too stupid to get by. As I said they can be pushed out pretty quickly, if the schools care, and I am not sure they do.

  • qet

    Solution: Require each Ivy, on pain of seeing its accrued endowment subjected to a very large, immediate excise tax, spend down the endowment by expanding its enrollment by a factor of 5 and purchasing/constructing the necessary facilities and hiring the necessary faculty. Voila! the number of coveted Ivy spots are no longer “vanishingly small.” Not only that, but pulling in more kids who otherwise would be going to second tier colleges, which are still excellent, will open up more spots there, which will draw more kinds up into the third tier colleges (very good), and all the way down the line.

    • Jim__L

      If the Ivies weren’t such indoctrination centers, I’d support that.

  • Beauceron

    “de-emphasize academic achievement and instead emphasize character traits like kindness and generosity”

    That’s not what they’re emphasizing and you damn well know it.

    It’s identity, not character or kindness, that the schools are really looking at. That is what’s important these days, not character or intelligence or drive or hard work.

    Saying you “emphasize character traits like kindness and generosity” just sounds a lot better than “what color are you?”

  • dwpittelli

    There is indeed a “reason why the quality of education offered by Stanford or Princeton [is not] scalable.” And that is that the students’ aptitudes are not scalable. If Stanford and the average mid-tier college swapped student bodies next September, the professors of the mid-level college would be able to provide quality teaching to the ex-Harvard students.

    Also, a lot of the function of colleges is precisely to sort people, by aptitude and work ethic, for professional training and higher-level employment. If you run a law school, Wall Street or consulting firm looking to select college graduates from, say, the top 2% of students, you look to schools where top-2% students are commonly found. A graduate school also has the option of looking at GRE/LSAT/MCAT scores, which largely do put “graduates of the Nebraska state system… on equal footing with Yalies,” but an employer is going to face legal action from the federal government if he uses an aptitude or intelligence test, because all such tests have a disparate impact by race.

    The apparent increase in selectivity over the last 30+ years is also in large part an artefact of two differences in student behavior. First, students apply to more schools now; the acceptance rate has to come down or else colleges will have no idea who and how many people will enroll. Second, students and colleges pay more attention to U.S. News rankings, which rate a college more highly for rejecting more applicants, and downgrade a college when accepted students choose to go elsewhere. Colleges will reject an applicant who is too strong, thinking that if they accept such a student, he will likely go elsewhere, and the college’s statistics will be doubly weakened.

  • PostLiberal

    Instead of focusing on getting admitted to a “good school,” high school seniors are better served by doing some self-evaluation. What are their academic strengths and weaknesses, their academic likes and dislikes? How could these strengths and weaknesses, these likes and dislikes, be translated into college majors and career choices?

    While I was greatly disappointed in having to settle for an Ivy League cover school, and wasted much time focusing on that disappointment, I left high school with an idea of my strengths and weaknesses, my likes and dislikes. Math was fun and easy for me, especially proofs. At the beginning of high school I thought I would become a historian or a political scientist. By the end of high school I discovered that I hated writing papers. While BS-ing and pulling rank played a substantial role in winning discussions in history classes, BS-ing and pulling rank counted for little in math or science classes.Those self-evaluations were much more useful for my subsequent career path than where I attended school.

    If you want to apply to an Ivy League school or its equivalent, fine. But don’t jump through hoops to get admitted, and don’t be perturbed if you don’t get admitted. What you do in college is much more important than where you do it. As far as I can tell, my Thermo classes at State U were more useful to me than Victims Studies or any such Politically Correct classes would have been at an Ivy League school.

  • wfjag

    It should be called the “Turning Away the Tide” campaign. The idea is to ensure that their kids and their friends’ kids are admitted, but kids like I was, won’t be. I graduated HS from a rural Southern HS — was always integrated, even in “seperate but equal” days. We were seperate and we were equal, because we were all poor. My parents were divorced, raised in a single mother home, and my father was a drug and alcohol abuser. In my HS class, at least a third were the first kids in their families to graduate HS. College — a dream for rich folks’ kids. Yes, I had an A+ GPA — but, with no AP or Honors classes, that wasn’t a mark of distinction. However, I did very well on the ACT and SAT (significantly higher than the average for the Ivy League college I went to), but, I only took each of them once and didn’t have any coaches for taking the tests or writing my essays. Being a straight, white, male, I didn’t have any “diversity” points in my favor. But, I did have good extracurriculars — sports letterman, various clubs (with offices, including one at a state level) and student gov’t. I certainly wouldn’t make the “compassion and caring” cut. I paid for college with a ROTC scholarship — because, as Willy Sutton said: “That’s where the money is.” I had decided on a way out and got what I went for: I was admitted to a Tier 1 law school (graduated with honors), and a LLM from another Tier 1 school (honors grad), and also picked up along the way a MBA and MPA (tier one schools, honors grad). However, in college, I always knew I was an outsider — since, I was poor. The sons and daughters of Tuxado Park marry each other, and not hustlers from some podunk Southern town. Having come from separate but equal, I already knew the drill, and didn’t let it bother me. But, as I said, I got what I wanted. I became part of the white, upper middle class. My sons have done alright. One went to state U, got a nursing degree — Nurses make good salaries, and he can work anywhere. Mainly, he wants to be a bohemian, have time and money to party, and write plays. He’s enjoying himself. Other son decided to go a much better college than I did — the US Military Academy at West Point. He’s a logistics specialist. He’s getting to that decision point of stay or go — live the dream and do the type of job you can brag to your grandkids about someday, or, make double what I make his first year of civilian life. However, the admissions officers at the elite schools are concerned about folks like me — and, there were quite a few like me in college, following the same strategy I did — because we and our kids and grandkids, who aren’t afraid to work and succeed, will edge out their off-spring. So, they want to keep Turn the Tide Away, and keep those colleges for themselves. Guess what guys ? — It won’t work. We’re smarter than your spawn, and we work harder, and we don’t expect to be given anything. When the trust funds your ancestors set up run out, your off-spring will be working for mine.

  • Joe Giles

    Does this viewpoint neglect the idea of certain colleges serving as luxury goods? If that is so, they must remain selective, as the point of admission is not solely that of getting an education.

    I don’t agree with this, but certainly many people choose an education as a type of brand.

  • PennsylvaniaPry

    Forgive me, but when I see the word “veritas” in the mottoes of Ivy League schools, I vomit.

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