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.

When a College is Historically White, Then Black, Then White Again: Black History Month

The University of South Carolina was founded by a state charter in 1801 and was the 23rd college founded in the United States. It was only for white people. When South Carolina started the Civil War, the students went off to fight for the South and the school closed, then it was occupied by Northern forces. After the war (1865) it was reopened under South Carolina’s reconstruction government.library reading room

They, the reconstructionists, made the school open to Black people. And it wasn’t just the students. One of the new professors they hired after the war ended was Richard Theodore Greener, America’s first Black professor at any state run flagship university (he was also the first Black person to graduate from Harvard). By 1875 ninety percent of the student body were Black.

When reconstruction was abandoned and democrats retook the state government (1876), they quickly closed the school down. Then in 1880 they reopened the school, but only to White people. After the passing of Brown vs. the Board of Education, which outlawed segregation, USC became the nation’s first college to require an entrance exam. That was 1954. The school did not admit any Black students till 1963.museum

Mind you, Professor Greener (who left the school when the democrats closed it down) graduated Harvard back in 1870, almost 100 years earlier.

History is not a straight line ascending up and up eternally. It weaves a drunkards path, back and forth, forward and back. Forward progress is not, and has never been, natural or inevitable.

Cal Poly Pomona: don’t eat your Wheaties

Cal Poly Pomona has more than 22,000 students. More than 1,000 are international. I’m not sure how many people from Pomona they have, but I do know they have about 85 purebred Arabian horses.

front doorI’ll get to the horse in a minute.

The school was officially founded in 1938, but the ball had been rolling for some years before that.  The Voorhis school for boys started in 1928. It had some hard times during the depression, almost made it out the other end, but come 1938 the place was broke and gave control over to The California Polytechnic School in San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly Pomona was born.palmtreesandpointythingToday the school offers 94 different bachelor’s degrees, and boasts the largest civil engineering program in the United States. The University is part of the California State University system, claims Forest Whitaker as an alumni, and has a strange connection to breakfast.libraryIn a strange twist regarding Mr. Whitaker, Cal Poly Pomona almost gave Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe’s dictator) an honorary doctorate back in 1998. Students protested and the honor was never awarded. Skip ahead to 2006 and alum Forest Whitaker portrays that same Mugabe in a movie and won the academy award for best actor. Not sure all of that connection is something they boast about over there but “Go Broncos!”

kellogsThe breakfast connection goes back to 1925 when founder of the Kellogg company (the ones who make Cornflakes) started a horse ranch in Pomona. In 1949 Mr. Kellogg donated the ranch, along with its herd of Arabian horses, to the state of California. The State of California gave the ranch to Cal Poly Pomona. The old stables, and the horses are still there. Strangely enough the horses now have new stables and the old ones now house the offices of the student clubs. When I was there I strolled past the open stable door of the Greek Life organization and chuckled at an “Animal House” joke I thankfully never said out loud.

IMG_2461The school, like most California public schools today, is officially “impacted”. This means it is full. No room for any more students. No Mas! But they still accept applicants. You can get accepted but then you have to wait your turn for classes. This is what happens when your yearly tuition is $6,350. So while waiting to get your class, you will have both the time and money to go shopping.usedclothes



University of Redlands: Och Tamale

Back in 1906 there was a big earthquake in San Francisco. It caused enough damage that those in charge of California College in SF decided to pack up shop and start another school down south, in Southern California.

They set their sights on the orange groves of Redlands.

Today the school is still somewhat small, less than 5,000 students overall, and it is for the most part focused on a liberal arts education.


They are the bulldogs. They also have a bulldog. A real one. He lives on campus and students can take him for walks. And they do.
They also have a school song unlike any other… and they sing it.

Och Tamale

Gazolly Gazump

Deyump Deyatty Yahoo

Ink Damink

Deyatty Gazink

Deyump Deray Yahoo

Wing Wang

Tricky Trackey

Poo Foo

Joozy Woozy

Skizzle Wazzle

Wang Tang

Orky Porky Dominorky


Rah rah Redlands!


The song is the result of an imaginative undergrad back in the 20’s. The school does not lack imagination.
Part of that imagination included starting a business school for people who already have jobs, which all sorts of schools have now, but they started it way back before the internet existed. It isn’t just a business school for grown ups, it is also a business school that focuses on critical thinking… cuz they are a liberal arts school… thats what they do.


Rah Rah Redlands!

Providence College

Providence Rhode Island may be the coolest town you never hear about.  At least I never hear anything about it.  I visited Providence College having never heard a thing about it before. that was some time ago and I haven’t heard a thing about it since.
walking campus

Our modern TMZ society would assume that this lack of buzz means there is nothing there worth knowing about. I would just ask that anyone who may think this way should please explain to me the details about how the internet actually works.

How does what I clickety-clack on my keyboard wherever I am, get to your eyes in wherever you are? I never hear anything about that but I am glad someone knows how to make it happen.

Such is Providence College… kind-of.
angel statue

You probably haven’t heard of the “Friars”, because the student body is mostly local. They are so local in fact that the Princeton Review deemed Providence the most homogeneous student body in the country. What this means is that unless you fit a specific description, you likely don’t know anyone who went there.

Though you may have at least heard of some of them: Chris Dodd, Pat Kennedy, or Richard Daley.glass building

Providence College requires all students to take an expanded program in the development of western civilization. This is two years, 5 days a week, and everyone takes it. The courses are all taught by full professors and the program has its own dedicated building.

I like that. Or rather I would have liked that had I known about it when I was a potential undergrad.clock

What I may not have liked is the school’s national number one ranking in consumption of hard liquor.

So the school, unlike the city, is not for everyone, but if you are the right specific someone, it is fantastic.


I should admit up front that Littlehammas 2.0 was born at Drexel’s medical school hospital. I can still remain unbiased, but who cares about bias when it comes to college?city

Drexel might care. I can’t really blame a school whose campus butts right up against an Ivy League school ranked in the top ten nationwide. You can be a great school, which it is, but top 100 doesn’t look as hot in such company. It is rather unfair.dragon

Drexel is above all else, urban. It is most known historically for it’s co-op style education, mixing classes and internships, but if you come visit, you mostly get Philadelphia.subway

It was founded in 1891, has grown to 25,000 students, and costs approximately $56,000 per year. That about sums it up, just like Philly, old and expensive. You get what you pay for.boathouse

I have always thought their boathouse on boathouse row was better than Penn’s. But the competition is on the water not the shore. I have no idea if that saying is true, I just made it up.

But I didn’t make up the fact that one of my classmates did her undergrad at Drexel and she loves the place. I can attest that this classmate of mine was and is much smarter than me. I think we can trust her.student center

Another one of my former classmates works there, actually, quite a few of my former classmates work there. If the folks running the place mean anything this might just be the best school ever.

Except for the school I work for of course.

quadThere is this kid I know. In our house he is referred too as “Boy Genius”. Boy genius entered undergraduate studies at the age of 13 out west. He turned 18 this September and has just wrapped up his second year of PhD studies in neuroscience at Drexel.

1 out of 1 boy geniuses pick Drexel.old main

If you scroll down on the blog a little ways you will see a picture of a guy holding a knife making sandwiches. You will also see a picture of this same guy shouting “I defy you,” while standing on a mountaintop.

He also picked Drexel.

But don’t hold that against the school.

Skidmore College

Skidmore is one of those places you have heard of, but can’t exactly remember when or why.sign out front

It is located in Saratoga Springs New York, where most of us have never been, and it only has 2,500 students, so most of us do not know a Skidmore graduate. Yet we have still heard of it.quad

It began in the early 1900’s as a women’s school. Men were first admitted in the 70’s. Around that time they also admitted Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s fame.sculpture

When I visited the place was quiet. It was Spring break so I assume the few kids still hanging around were either extra smart (the kind I was looking for) or had no social life. I am in no position to judge anyone’s social life.skateboard

The campus is pretty in that woodsy, Adirondack, sort of way. Trees, hills, and preppies. Well, more like preppy with a dash of hippy. Sperry topsiders with tye dye.adirondacks

William Peace University: Peace College

Those prone to puns would begin here with some description of the downtown Raleigh campus and its lack of jarring noises and troubles. But I won’t do that (wink wink).peace sign

Perhaps the peaceful days are over anyhow as this women’s college founded in 1857, has just begun admitting men.

rocking chair

Perhaps, but not just yet.


The school is small, 700 students give or take a couple. My high school wasn’t much bigger. They offer just 10 majors. But as I watched the Sr. class prepare for the graduation ceremony it was obvious that they loved this place. When I graduated I was loving the idea of being done, these kids, these young women, and a couple of young men, looked as if they loved this place.library

And I have learned that loving your school matters. You can learn almost anywhere. MOOCs are all the educational rage these days but while walking around this leafy campus watching kids under a giant white canopy prepare to graduate, I could tell there was a little bit extra something other than “school” going on here.wearing sashes

Sometimes a little extra something is worth it.

A “Townie” At Swarthmore

I once conducted an interview with a student leader at Swarthmore. “We are a small and tight student body. I mean, sometimes we might have trouble a with a townie but mostly we feel safe here.”campustower

I had never heard that word used in real life before. I thought it was purely the stuff of affected preppy movies where Matt Damon is a supporting actor. I thought it the second cousin of the phrase “daddy-o”. I smirked a little when he said it. He did not.obervatory

But as I looked around the room, and the campus, I realized I was an extra in that preppy movie. Lacrosse warm up jacketed kids mingled with scrawny girls wearing over sized knitted caps and thick glasses. A stone bell tower stands off to the side of a palatial main building, and there, off to the side, is a cottage topped with the dome of an observatory. I just imagine that inside is a grey haired fellow surrounded by plaid skirted girls and rep stripe tie wearing boys, all oohing and aaahing as the old man shows them the stars while quoting Plato.

pianoOur interview was put on hold as we were drowned out by a piano. A passing student had decided to sit down and play something classical, I would not be the one to tell you what it was, but I will tell you it was flawless. It appeared I was the only one in the common area that thought this was in any way impressive as most never looked up from their laptops or term papers.

quillAfter the interview was over I left the building and stepped out onto the tree lined quad. I walked down a path past the small train station with its scalloped wooden rails. I walked through the parking lot where I was parked next to an old Volvo that had an Occidental sticker in the back window. I pulled the car out of the lot and pointed north toward real life. I looked back in my mirror just to see if there were credits rolling down my back window, or perhaps an added scene of Robin Williams reciting poetry standing atop a school desk.

Nope. Just a waving kid who thought nothing of his use of the word “townie.”