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The mess that is elite college admissions, explained by a former dean

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Replies to: The mess that is elite college admissions, explained by a former dean

  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger Registered User Posts: 2,626 Senior Member
    @DeepBlue86
    This is, I believe, one thing you can conclude from the well-known study by Dale and Krueger that showed that people who turned down elite college admissions ultimately did as well financially as people who accepted them: if you’re the sort of person who has the skills, drive and sophistication about the process to get into elite schools, you’re probably going to be successful in many aspects of life.

    This isn’t right. Their research showed anyone who applied to an elite did as well as those who went. Whether they were admitted or rejected was irrelevant.
  • anon145anon145 Registered User Posts: 571 Member
    edited May 15
    the biggest beneficiaries of HYPMS education are low income folks, particularly non-white non-males. Women who go to elite colleges are making more money 10 years later, but only because they are more likely to delay having children. decently off kids who's parents went to college have the least difference in going to elite vs public flagship for making money
  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 Registered User Posts: 1,027 Senior Member
    edited May 15
    This isn’t right. Their research showed anyone who applied to an elite did as well as those who went. Whether they were admitted or rejected was irrelevant.
    You're correct, but the paper's conclusions still support the point I was making: that your success in life is much more about you than where you went to school. Here's a paragraph from the NBER's summary of the paper (emphasis added):
    They find that school selectivity, measured by the average SAT score of the students at a school, doesn't pay off in a higher income over time. "Students who attended more selective colleges do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended less selective colleges," the researchers write. They also find that the average SAT score of the schools students applied to but did not attend is a much stronger predictor of students' subsequent income than the average SAT score of the school students actually attended. They call this finding the "Spielberg Model" because the famed movie producer applied to USC and UCLA film schools only to be rejected, and attended Cal State Long Beach. Evidently, students' motivation, ambition, and desire to learn have a much stronger effect on their subsequent success than the average academic ability of their classmates.
    As I said:
    Essentially, if you’ve got the right attributes, you’re not a lot more likely to be successful if you went to Harvard than if you went to your state flagship.
  • epiphanyepiphany Registered User Posts: 8,570 Senior Member
    @RockySoil
    @theloniusmonk One of the best posts I've read on CC. Many of the things the top schools say they look for are more "brain age" appropriate for 22 year-olds, not 17 year-olds. Which is why admissions consultants, with their developed brains focused on one thing, can be so valuable in "steering" the kids. Which is another in a long line of reasons why the system is broken.

    Whoa there. A does not necessarily lead to B, unless you believe that an adult's help in articulating to a 17-year-old what his or her probable direction is in life = "a broken system." This is mentoring another person. Involved teachers do this just as much; maybe you just don't realize it. Actually, out of adult sight, many teenagers do this with each other. The more mature and perceptive ones, perhaps also the more intuitively guided ones, often help shape their peers -- sometimes intentionally, sometimes indirectly or unknowingly. They help with the process of narrowing interests and considering long-term goals (college & career). All admissions consultants do is to help further refine the student's own decision-making about his direction. They do it with a little more knowledge and experience than a classmate would. If it does not genuinely and organically proceed from the student's background and personality, it won't be effectively translated in an essay but will come across to the committee as artificial. Nevertheless, I don't see any of that as unethical, let alone "broken."

    By the time a student has a conversation with an admissions consultant, he has had far more conversations with far more people, of many ages, probably including at least some with his own parents. The effective and honest consultant helps synthesize those conversations and plays the role of a sounding board to the student. I see nothing unethical about that.
  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 Registered User Posts: 1,043 Senior Member
    Let's not kid ourselves, most high schools are in the business of preparing students for college. The AP curriculum is managed by the College Board, not the "HIgh School" Board and are designed around college-level type of classes. You know what the ACT is an acronym for: American College Testing.

    So to say that "the prize for all of the hard work in high school is a successful graduation from high school" really is misguided in so many ways.

    Colleges expect high school students to challenge themselves with the most rigorous curriculum possible WHILE IN HS to make sure they are prepared for the rigors of taking college classes. APs/IBs and standardized testing has very little to do with successfully graduating from high school and everything to do with getting an acceptance into top colleges.
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 12,608 Senior Member
    @theloniusmonk:

    "These are kids, 14-18 years old, they're not going to have that kind of perspective for greater goals yet. It will be at least a few years, according to the latest research on the teenage and adult brains. It's all about comparing to peers and if the peers are focused on elite colleges, they will be too, even if adults say do something to make the world better."

    Very true of most teenagers.

    Doesn't make it any less misguided.

    But yes, peer groups are so important. Managing that would be the biggest challenge of parents.
    Possibly send kids on gap years abroad even in HS?
  • Trixy34Trixy34 Registered User Posts: 1,155 Senior Member
    @RockySoil - bingo. We've heard it here - most kids end up "shooting themselves in the foot" on their college applications. Yes, because they are 17. They have not yet had careers in marketing, consulting, communications, etc. I would probably be inclined to think that a perfectly presented applicant had a lot of adult help and would prefer a student that demonstrated more independence, even if it meant the application was a bit disjointed. But that's just me.
  • epiphanyepiphany Registered User Posts: 8,570 Senior Member
    Yes, I acknowledge, @socaldad2002 , that even the administrators and teachers in poorly performing high schools want those students to matriculate to some kind of college -- better if that's a 4-year college. I agree that it would be naive to think otherwise. However, I think the point earlier posters were making was that, even though there may be an intended level of college within the sights of the h.s., enrollment at that h.s. does not come with an implicit assumption that all will become serious candidates for the highest ("most elite") college possible. The goal is to prepare the students maximally for what each student can maximally attain, and frankly, an aspect of that goal is to increase or maintain a high profile for the high school among their consumership. But in a narrow sense, the only legal and practical guarantee the high school can offer is completion of their own requirements toward a diploma, and the diploma is the proximate "prize."
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 12,608 Senior Member
    @anon145:
    "the biggest beneficiaries of HYPMS education are low income folks, particularly non-white non-males. Women who go to elite colleges are making more money 10 years later, but only because they are more likely to delay having children. decently off kids who's parents went to college have the least difference in going to elite vs public flagship for making money"

    Very true.

    Some Vandy prof tried to show that where you went to undergrad still matters among grads of elite grad/professional programs when it comes to earnings even if they got the same shiny grad degree, but it turns out that the effect was concentrated solely among the women. Among the men, there was zero difference in earnings regardless of where they went for undergrad.
  • RockySoilRockySoil Registered User Posts: 107 Junior Member
    @epiphany "Whoa there. A does not necessarily lead to B, unless you believe that an adult's help in articulating to a 17-year-old what his or her probable direction is in life = "a broken system." This is mentoring another person. Involved teachers do this just as much; maybe you just don't realize it. Actually, out of adult sight, many teenagers do this with each other. The more mature and perceptive ones, perhaps also the more intuitively guided ones, often help shape their peers -- sometimes intentionally, sometimes indirectly or unknowingly. They help with the process of narrowing interests and considering long-term goals (college & career). All admissions consultants do is to help further refine the student's own decision-making about his direction. They do it with a little more knowledge and experience than a classmate would. If it does not genuinely and organically proceed from the student's background and personality, it won't be effectively translated in an essay but will come across to the committee as artificial. Nevertheless, I don't see any of that as unethical, let alone "broken.""

    Unethical is your word, not mine. That comment was not a criticism of your business model as an academic consultant.

    Things that cost thousands of dollars usually have some worth to them. So, I think it is not controversial to assume that hiring an admissions consultant helps with admissions. So this part of the system is tilted toward the wealthy, like many other parts of the system (Legacy, minor sports, internship opportunities, etc.), while lower income applicants need to depend on free advice from students, teachers, parents etc which may or may not be good advice. Hence, the "broken" comment.

  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 Registered User Posts: 1,043 Senior Member
    "Some Vandy prof tried to show that where you went to undergrad still matters among grads of elite grad/professional programs when it comes to earnings even if they got the same shiny grad degree, but it turns out that the effect was concentrated solely among the women. Among the men, there was zero difference in earnings regardless of where they went for undergrad."

    It's interesting that some only focus on money or earning potential when talking about an "elite" education but I think it's much more than money. It's the actual 4 year experience that will stay with you the rest of your life. If it was only about ROI or money, the smart high school kid would forgo college altogether, get his/her real estate license in a large metropolitan area, work hard and invest most of their earnings along with the money they would have used for college and by the time they were 40 years of age, will have earned more and have more assets than the average "elite" college student.

    IMO, an "elite" education isn't all about the money....
  • anon145anon145 Registered User Posts: 571 Member
    edited May 15
    ^^ it more complicated than that @socaldad2002 it really also depends on your major. Someone who has a CS degree and graduated within the last 10 years will almost certainly have an ROI > greater than a high school grad who sells real estate probably from every state in the union. (In reality most realtors I know DO have college degrees too, so that experiment is not as common as you think). However, people who study RoI say if your goal is to be a K-12 teacher (for example) you absolutely should go the lowest cost college as possible. One of my kids best teachers went to Harvard undergrad but she makes the same salary as every other teacher. I don't get the impression her "experience" was worth 200,000$ more than her peers who went to state schools
  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan Registered User Posts: 12,608 Senior Member
    @socaldad2002, you're the one who said
    "In addition, college success (just like high school success) gives you the opportunity to be placed in a good graduate program or find a good job after college."

    Now when people point out that various characteristics and effort can get you to those goals perfectly well without going to an elite college, you change the justifications.

    When it comes to experiences, IMO, traveling the world (literally circumnavigating the globe) will also stay with you for the rest of your life.

    And if you save enough money on college, you could graduate from college in 3 years, spend a year circumnavigating the globe, and still come out ahead financially.

    Anyway, my takeaway is that people can justify anything.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered User Posts: 27,507 Senior Member
    I cannot come up with a better way to do college admissions. The very best schools HYPMSC ( I get the order wrong half the time ) by popular opinion are private schools. They can and have and still do take whoever they want. Things change do that the ideal composition of the college community changes too. When you get waaaaay more applications than space, you have to come up with a selection process. Unlike some other systems, the schools don’t go on a pure numbers basis because a lot of our colleges are more than just academic institutions.



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