Tag Archives: admissions

Legacy Admissions: a handout to the already haves.

Legacy admissions are not a leg up, they are a hand out to the already haves.

Data shows that the number one predictor of the likely education level a child will receive is the level of education the parents have already attained. This is not due to some sort of amniotic intelligence transfer but rather the tendency of most teachers (parents) to teach others, to simply do what they did.IMG_9436

People who have gone to elite colleges are more likely to know the application process, understand the school’s expectations, and better yet, they often know the people making the admissions decisions.IMG_9508

If you look at those who attend elite schools you will find that most of them had parents who went to elite schools, or at least good schools, and as one might guess, these parents also have a good amount of money. Whether the schooling or the money came first doesn’t really matter, but there is surely a solid correlation. In addition, you will find that most of those who are accepted into elite schools had tutors and took test prep classes during grade and high school. These kids being tutored are the A students, not the ones at risk of athletic ineligibility. On top of that, you will also find that most who gain entry into elite colleges attended high schools that have previously sent other students to elite colleges. Turns out that following well-traveled paths is more likely to get you there than forging new trails.

There are few, if any, immaculately conceived scholars who rise from nowhere with potential so obvious that Harvard can see it.crew guys

Most people who haven’t been to Harvard don’t know many others who have. Most who never attended Princeton, don’t really know what Princeton is looking for in an applicant. Most at mediocre high schools, are unaware that most at great high schools are taking extra SAT prep classes. Some, who never went to Yale but still managed to accumulate wealth, spend some of that wealth to send their kids to schools where the children of Yale grads go.IMG_9500

That is how people get in.

If you want to investigate potential unfairness in admissions to elite schools, maybe we should look first, I repeat first (not as an afterthought), at the practice of giving preference to those who are already advantaged in the application process.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under style, Uncategorized

College Admissions: how it works

In light of the Department of Justice’s announced intentions to investigate colleges that enact affirmative action policies in admissions decisions, it might be helpful for the public (and the Whitehouse) to understand a few things about college admissions.

IMG_4465

First, you need to know that college admissions is not like the NBA draft. Schools do not collect a pile of applicants and then rank them all starting at their number one draft pick and then start moving their way down the board until they run out of spots. It does not, nor has it ever, worked that way.

While most all colleges are a little different and policies and ideologies vary, the basic standard is that rather than starting at a ranking and working their way down, what admissions boards do is start by setting a floor, or basic cutoff at the bottom, below which the school doubts the applicant’s ability to handle the course of study. This normally consists of a minimum GPA or SAT/ACT score. Once the minimum is set, everyone above that cutoff is “qualified” and fair game for admission. Past that, whatever policy, practice, or magical spell the school wishes to employ to fill up their freshman class, is up to them.

IMG_5173

This gets tricky when the school has more qualified applicants than openings, or in some cases, more openings than qualified applicants. In both cases, there are fights, arguments, exceptions, and shenanigans all around in every direction. But however these dust ups get settled, and in all cases, what you need to know is that there are no draft style leader boards with applicants ranked 1-2,000 and consequentially it is impossible for one applicant to take another “more qualified” applicant’s spot.

Why this is important to know, is to help you avoid the mistake of thinking that there are regular, or even rare, scenarios where candidate A loses their spot to a less qualified candidate B. This does not happen because, in almost all cases, the only students being reviewed are above the predetermined floor and consequentially they are all “qualified”, and if they are all qualified, it is up to the committee to decide who they want to let in, or who is “most” qualified. Consequentially, determining who is more qualified than another is so subjective that it is impossible for you, or I, or anyone outside of that closed-door room, to be able to make that determination. Some schools (public) decide that within the pool of qualified applicants they will privilege kids from in-state. Some (private) may decide they want a sampling of students from all over the globe. Some schools work hard to recruit students to specific programs, like math or science, others may value racial and ethnic representation and the experience diversity brings to a campus, but in all cases, remember that the admissions committees are assembling these classes from a pool of candidates who have already been deemed qualified.

But of course there are always exceptions, or things that look like exceptions. Folk lore holds that these exceptions normally come in the cases of athletes and racial minorities. In addressing this lore, allow me to be a little crass for a moment.

What colleges care about most, are rankings and money. While rankings are nice for bragging rights, they are mostly relevant in how they can translate into more donations and applications, which ultimately means more money. So really, what colleges care about most, is just money.

If you have money, or the ability to bring in money, a college will let you in. Period. This is why the NCAA gets very finicky about minimum academic requirements. This independent third party has set some minimum academic standards for all schools to follow and then deems any applicants below those standards ineligible to play, and thereby unable to bring the college more money. So those kids don’t get in. This is also why some rankings, like US News & World Report, put certain metrics like graduation rates, incoming class GPA, and SAT scores, into their formula. If a college compromises on their admission standards, they get a lower ranking. Colleges do not like to drop in rankings.stadium (2)

Please keep in mind that normally the NCAA minimum standard is way below the average college’s admissibility floor, and that the desirable US News reported averages are way above the normal college’s admissibility floor. With this in mind, when and why would a college violate its own standards to let in an unqualified or less qualified student?

For money.

The two biggest, or most frequent, instances of compromised college standards are for athletes and legacies. Most Americans are familiar with the reasoning of the athlete exception, you might even be able to name their names, but in case you are less familiar with what a legacy is, this is an applicant who is the child of an alum. Legacies get preference because they are more likely to not only translate into future tuition dollars via children and grandchildren, but they are more likely to become donors. Every University and college wants to become a part of your family. More specifically, they want to become that charming, lovable, member of your family that shows up to every family function, but is probably broke and will definitely pull you into a side room and ask for a small loan. This family member will let Junior in, despite Junior’s C- average. Colleges will take Junior because he brings along extra money.

Racial minorities do not naturally bring along extra money. Diversity is indeed a metric considered in most rankings, but it is only one of many and henceforth far outweighed by GPAs and SATs. Because of this, colleges are not likely to let in any applicant who is below their admissibility floor simply because they are a minority… unless they have money.

So to review, let us say the floor is a 3.5 GPA and the college in question only has one spot left.

Scenario 1: Applicant A is a white male with a 3.4 and applicant B is a black female with a 3.4 and a very sad story. Neither are admissible, neither get in.

Scenario 2: Applicant A is a white male with a 3.6 and Applicant B is a black female with a 3.5 and no sad story. Both are admissible, I probably take B.

Scenario 3: Applicant A is a white male with a 1.7 and a huge trust fund and applicant B is a black female with a 3.9 who conquered poverty to get a great SAT score. A gets in.

Scenario 4: Applicant A is a white male with a 3.9 and great SAT while Applicant B is a black female with a 3.6 and a moderate SAT. A gets in.

One last scenario just to make a point: Applicant A is a white male with a 1.7 and a rich alum parent and Applicant B is a black male who runs the 40 in 4 seconds flat and can bench press 400 pounds. A gets in.

A gets in because A already has money and B might break his leg.

College admissions is a high stakes, high stress, poker game for sure, but let one thing be clear. If you are a qualified candidate, you will not lose your spot to an unqualified competitor simply because they aren’t white.

Unless they are rich.

3 Comments

Filed under history, Uncategorized

UC Irvine: the Anteaters lose an imaginary game, why not.

Orange County has long prided itself as one of the birthplaces of “cool”. Irvine is in Orange County. The “OC”.anteaterdoors

You have to be comfortable with yourself and your position in the world to call yourself the Anteaters. UC Irvine are the Anteaters.pennant

The name doesn’t draw from some storied past, the school was only founded in 1965, but rather from a student body vote in which the runner -up was “none of the above”. But California is known for being new and bucking convention.bridgepath

Walking around campus I never saw the school’s three Nobel prize winners, they were likely busy in labs somewhere, but I did see lots of students. They milled about on lawns, on paths, and brutalist styled libraries and commons. It is easy to notice students at UC Irvine, there are almost 30,000 of them.library

But on this fall day what made these students stand out was what they were doing.

I have never read a single Harry Potter book. I am OK with this.quiddich

After watching what was obviously a game of Quidditch (there was no announcer or stadium to help me realize this) and understanding that I am of a different generation than these students, I rushed home to share my experience with someone who is more in tune with today’s college kids; my 9 year old daughter.

I came in the door, pulled the picture up on my phone and said, “Hey 9 year old daughter, look what I saw today!”

“What is that?”

“What do you mean what is this? It’s kids playing quidditch!”

Without a smile or even a nod of appreciation she stated as fact, “That is not how you play quidditch.”

“Come on, I know they have to pretend a little, but this is real life. Look they figured out how to play it in real life. You don’t think that’s cool?”

Her reply came immediately and at a rapid fire pace:

“No. For quidditch in real life you need a stage. The brooms are connected to a series of ropes and pullies that allow them to move both up and down as well as slide across to the other side of the stage. Bludgers are hung from ropes in different places so they can swing around hitting people or getting hit by players with clubs….” She kept going for a minute or so more without breathing and in an indignant tone. I had no idea what she was talking about but it was obvious she had thought this through in detail.

I have learned that when in conversation with someone who knows a lot more about a subject than you do, it is best to just shake your head and listen.

Hey anteaters, get ready to shake your heads and listen because someone in your neighborhood has a bone to pick.statues

Leave a comment

Filed under places

Scripps: not a sister but it should be.

By 1926 all seven women’s colleges that made up the prestigious “seven sisters”, had been established, along with the ivy league schools with which they were affiliated.

Sometimes when affiliations are being established, the affiliaters miss out on things.

In this case the sisters missed out on Scripps.

scrippsThe school was founded as an all girls school joining the newly formed Claremont University Consortium. The consortium at that time consisted of Pomona College, the Claremont Graduate University, and then Scripps.

 

They weren’t trying to be the sisters, or even the ivies, they were modelling themselves after Oxford.

scripps tree courtyard

This modelling was referring to the academics of course, as the architecture is much more Mexico than England. When you go there today it is much more California than it is New England.

scripps mission arches

Too often the little sister, the one who didn’t get picked to join the sorority, the one who wasn’t first, is thought to be a little less. In this case that would be a mistake.

Scripps is the #24 best liberal arts college in the country and the third best all-women’s school. This means it outranks Bryn Mawr, Barnard, and Mt. Holyoke.

And at Scripps, it never snows.scripps stairs

2 Comments

Filed under places

Claremont McKenna College

If you are a college without a long storied history, if you don’t have churchlike stone buildings, this is what you build instead:

mckennamodernbuilding

Claremont McKenna was founded in 1946, about an hour East of Los Angeles, as a men’s college. Back then there were a lot of men coming back from a war with tuition dollars to spend. In 1976 they went coed.

It is a good school. US News &  World Report ranked it the #9 liberal arts college in all America.

But theres a little twist.

mckenna cube

In 2012 one of the deans admitted to lying to US News & World Report about applicant’s SAT scores. They lied to get a better ranking. It is a shame really. They acadmeics are still top notch.
They have a new president now.
Not only do they have a new president but they have what is called “need blind admissions.” That means they have no idea how much money an applicant’s family has. This becomes significant once you consider they also have no loans, needs met guarantee.
This means if you get in, which is still very hard to do, and you happen to be broke, they cover your tution bill.
No seriously they do.

But you have to get in first.

mckennaskater

 

1 Comment

Filed under places

NYU: A big apple for the teacher

Who needs a campus when you are in Manhattan?

nyu viewWho needs a quad when you have Washington Square?

As you wander around trying to get a feel for the student body, culture, climate and whatnot, all you get is New York.

That isn’t a bad thing.

ampitheatreI had lunch with a colleague who works in admissions at Stern. “How is New York?” I asked.

She smiled, looking far off into the distance, and gave a sing-songy recounting of a chick flick worthy summer. I’m not sure she has ever walked the sidewalks of the city, she has been ten feet off the ground the entire time.

She deserves to be there.

flatironThe school is private. There are almost 39,000 students but that is a drop in the bucket for New York. $1,200 per credit is not. But hey, this is New York!

girlThey give out Nobel prizes like candy around here. Go to Hollywood to make some shoot ’em up action movie. Go to NYU to make a smart movie… while wearing black and sleeping on a cot stuffed in a closet.

dormsIf none of this sounds good to you, you don’t deserve to live here.

goofy face

3 Comments

Filed under places

Villanova

Founded 1842. Roman Catholic. 10,842 students.

Image

 

There is a movie about the Maine Line. Its called the Philadelphia story, but really, its the Maine Line. Villanova is the Main Line.

 

Image

 

I’ve driven through. It gets it’s name from the rail line that once took old money from their city homes to their country, now suburban, ones. I’ve been to the schools, gawked at the homes, sat at a lot of red lights. I would rather ride the maine line than drive to it.

Image

 

Academics are strong, basketball is strong, area ties-even stronger. I know a few grads, a few current administrators, all top notch. But as I was walking through the football stadium, being nosey watching lacrosse practice, I looked up on the football wall of fame.

Sandusky.

 

Sorry.

6 Comments

Filed under places