Posted on February 22nd, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
This week's Chronicle of Higher Education offers a special section examining college admissions. One essay is rather peculiar. In it, the author, a Swarthmore psychology professor, suggests that elite colleges should randomly select "qualified" applicants to fill their classes. Here's an excerpt:
There is a simple step that selective institutions can take that will sharply reduce competition and thus change the distorted adolescence that many of our most talented students now experience. All that is required is this: When Harvard, Stanford, Yale, and Swarthmore get their applications, they can scrutinize them—using the same high standards they currently use—and identify students good enough to be admitted. Let's assume that would cut the pool by half or two-thirds. Then the names of all the "good enough" applicants could be placed in a metaphorical hat, and the "winners" drawn at random. While high-school students might have to distort their lives to be the "best" to gain admission to Harvard, they won't have to distort their lives nearly so much to be "good enough." The only reason that would remain for participating in all those enrichment programs and attending high-powered pre-schools would be interest, not competitive advantage.Crazy? Maybe. Remotely possible? No way. As the author concedes, this would work only if all (or most) selective institutions agreed to adopt the system. But colleges don't seem to concur on much when it comes to admissions; witness the early decision (or early action) variances. Critics also cite the troubling message this approach would send to students: Just be "good enough" and let luck be your angel.
While I applaud efforts to reduce admissions angst and to quell the obsession with getting into the "right" colleges, we shouldn't let the luck of the draw determine where students go. To be certain, most admissions decisions hinge on good fortune to some extent, but we're far from pulling names out of a hat.
Then again, maybe colleges should choose professors that way.
Posted on February 18th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
I bet Larry Summers wishes he never attended the NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce last month. At the very least, he no doubt regrets his comments about scientific Aptitude and gender differences. We know that because he's since issued several apologies.
Last week the Harvard faculty turned out in force to rebuke Summers for his remarks. Some observers even suggested that these events could lead to his resignation.
The New York Times certainly hasn't ignored the fracas. A new article discusses a recently-published book on Summers and his leadership of Harvard—a book thrust into the national spotlight thanks to this rather timely conflagration. From what I can tell, the book, titled Harvard Rules, simply confirms what we already knew about Summers and his confrontational, controversial style.
And now we're treated with a transcript of Summers' remarks at the conference. Pay attention to the fourth paragraph if you're interested in slogging through his speech. For a concise analysis of it, check out this treatment on Inside Higher Ed.
Best of luck to you, Larry.
Posted on February 15th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
According to one UCLA law professor, it does. Richard Sander, writing in the Stanford Law Review, recently suggested that affirmative action causes black students to enroll in law schools beyond their abilities. As a result, he says, they receive poor grades and pass the bar at lower rates. The implication is that without affirmative action, black students would attend more appropriate schools, fare better, and pass the bar more consistently. Hence, we'd have more black lawyers.
Of course, not everyone agrees with him. Critics say his data are correct but his conclusions lack merit.
Seems to me, though, that this argument isn't entirely new. That is, opponents of affirmative action have always suggested that some minority students would fare better at less-competitive colleges and be more likely to graduate, and that affirmative action therefore doesn't do them any favors.
The debate rages on.
Posted on February 11th, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
(Source: Yale University)According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, last fall's freshman class at Yale topped the Ivies in terms of black enrollments. Just under 10 percent were african-American, marking a decade-high for the university. Over the past dozen years, Yale has seen its black enrollment rise by over 16 percent.
In fact, six of the eight Ivies show increased black enrollments over that time. Only Brown (down about three percent) and Columbia (down a whopping 32 percent) declined. The biggest increase? Harvard, whose numbers have risen 48 percent over the past 13 (not 12) years.
For the record, Cornell enrolled the lowest percentage of blacks last year—4.7 percent.
Posted on February 1st, 2005 in Uncategorized | No Comments »
Check out this article in the Boston Globe on Lloyd Thacker and his organization, Education Conservancy, a "non-profit organization committed to improving college admission processes for students, colleges and high schools." Thacker is editor of a book titled College Unranked: Affirming Educational Values in College Admissions—a series of essays on reforming admissions practices. He and his colleagues encourage students and families to reconsider fundamental beliefs about the process and the end result. Here, courtesy of the Globe, are a few suggestions for students culled from the book:
– Resist taking any standardized test more than twice.
– Try to limit the number of college applications you submit to no more than four to six. Studies show that students who apply to fewer colleges, once they have done reasonable research, often have better rates of acceptance and college success.
– Remember: The more popular the college, the more political the admissions process and the less control you have in that process.
– Carefully consider your reasons for accepting a position on any college's waiting list, and make sure you are set to go to a college to which you have been admitted. If you have selected your colleges confidently, you should have options.
– Are you applying to a college just because the application process is easy?
– Keep in mind that you are being judged according to criteria that you would never use to judge another person and which will never again be applied to you once you leave college.
– Consider taking a year off between high school and college to work or follow your passions.
– Approach high school as a necessary, significant, and enjoyable part of your life.
– Take appropriately challenging courses; you are in charge of deciding what is appropriate.