Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

From Where I Sit - Painful Admission: News

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

From Where I Sit - Painful Admission: News

Article excerpt

All across the US, colleges and universities are sending out their letters of acceptance and rejection. There will be tears.

Harvard has proudly announced that its acceptance rate for this year's 35,023 applicants shrank to a mere 5.8 per cent. So cruel, yet so prestigious.

Acceptance rates at the other elite Ivy League institutions were only slightly higher. Yet, even though most US four-year colleges and universities admit more than half of their applicants, ever more students are applying to prestigious institutions like the Ivies, which have lower acceptance rates and higher costs. (This trend flies in the face of growing public scepticism about the long-term economic and social value of university degrees, especially in the humanities.)

Once students reach a certain level of accomplishment, randomness prevails. Although the competition may appear Darwinian, some applicants will make the cut and others won't, despite identical grades, identical scores on national tests and equivalent extracurricular activities.

Many exceptional applicants admitted into some top-ranked institutions get rejected by other similarly ranked - or even less competitive - ones. Or they get placed on waiting lists. In this crapshoot, it is widely conceded that the students on the waiting lists would make a class of entrants just as qualified as those admitted.

We recently watched the new movie Admission, starring Tina Fey as Portia Nathan, a veteran Princeton University admissions officer. Although the movie is light-hearted, it is accurate in its depiction of admissions as a slap in the face to those who believe in American meritocracy. Throughout the movie, Portia repeats the message that there's no magic formula for acceptance. Equally qualified extraordinary candidates cartwheel on top of Portia's desk. They croon. They twirl. They dazzle. Most are rejected, dropped through an imaginary trapdoor. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.