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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Finding Solace in College Rejection
We're still muddling through March. College admissions and rejection letters are trickling in. With them, comes the heavy referendum on self-worth.

I've written many times about the positives on the college landscape. Most universities do accept students. College isn't everything. The best college isn't necessarily the one that is the hardest to get into.

But New York Times columnist Frank Bruni put things in a more elegant perspective than I could hope. He and I are of the same mind when it comes to college admissions as a threshold event in life. Yet, he reminds his readers of what college should be, a "singular opportunity to rummage through and luxuriate in ideas, to realize how very large the world is and to contemplate your desired place in it".

This, he says, is lost in the chaos of college admissions, which has evolved, in his words, to "a border to be crossed" instead of "a land to be inhabited and tilled for all that it is worth". College is a place, not a finish line. And if students are able to look at it as fertile ground, rather than a trophy, they will see that where they go doesn't matter in the long-haul.

In life, everyone has the potential to till the soil. So why do we treat college admission as an all-or-nothing affair? Potential does not evaporate with a rejection letter. Instead, we learn about disappointment, dusting ourselves off, and getting up again.

Like Bruni, I have put many years between me and my college experience. Which makes it a bit easier to be philosophical about its significance. Sometimes, however, grown-ups have had their knees scarred by experience. And it isn't so bad.

The full blog, and a moving letter from some very wise parents, can be found here:

NY Times

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Monday, March 23, 2015
Admission to the University of Everywhere
As college costs continue to rise and competition for admission accelerates to near impossible levels, more and more educators are discussing alternative paradigms in higher education. In his book, The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, author Kevin Carey envisions a sort of equal-opportunity utopia where universities no longer hold the best knowledge under lock and key.

His theories (impossible to consolidate into a short blog entry) are based upon the ubiquity of information now available to people via technology. This isn't too say that Google Scholar will offer the same education as Harvard. But the on-line "open university" model is one that is becoming increasingly viable.

Students who can't afford bricks and mortar universities are learning that education can be available at their fingertips. Such a model is also more workable for older students, and students who may already have families or full-time jobs. Carey talks specifically about an on-line course in Introductory Biology that he once took on line. It was essentially taped lectures from an MIT course. He took the same exams and read the same textbooks as the MIT students. What, then, he ponders, is the difference in the quality of the two educational experiences?

Carey's theory is based upon the idea that the entire college system is merely one that perpetuates privilege. We feel we need college in order to get better jobs. But college admission is largely limited to children who are already socio-economically privileged. Carey calls it not a system of opportunity but "a system of replicating privilege that already exists".

Exploring the cost-benefits of on-line education is just one way of unpacking the ways in which education could (and should) be made more accessible. Could the University of Everywhere really become a possibility?

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Monday, March 16, 2015
Name-Blind College Admissions
A few weeks back, I wrote about legacy admissions. In case you missed it, legacies in the college admissions context have to do with giving preference to children of prominent alumni. "Prominent" may mean anything from "famous to "generous donor". It sounds icky when you call it like it is-non merit-based preferences in a system that is supposed to be the ultimate meritocracy.

In reality, legacy admissions make sense, from a business perspective. Big names draw prestige. Prestige draws donations. Money makes institutions better. It may even be subtler than that. Prestige is its own life force. Universities with auspicious alumni are just treated differently. They are catalogued on a higher shelf in the collective consciousness.

So let's put aside my personal beef with legacies. (If they exist, so too should affirmative action. And I'm not sure how this all squares with meritocracy). A recent Washington Post blog reminded me that the eldest of President Obama's two daughters, Malia, is a senior in high school. This means she's currently touring colleges.

As the Post rather cumbersomely asks, "Imagine seeing 'Malia Obama' on a college-admission application". Well yes, let's. The daughter of a sitting U.S. President. For better or worse, people will be paying attention to the college of her choice. I know nothing of Ms. Obama's grades or test scores, but I'll go out on a limb and state the following: it would be a difficult name for an admissions officer not to notice.

What does this mean for college admissions? I see it as another reminder of just how impossible it is to keep the process wholly objective. Even assuming the President's daughter should be admitted based on her performance and not her name, it may not be reasonable to expect universities to separate the two.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015
College Admissions Disadvantage for Asian Students
There are myriad reasons why the discussion of race in college admissions is so ubiquitous-on this blog and elsewhere. Affirmative action cases have been tried in states across the country and appealed all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. No one can agree on the issue. It's an issue precisely because college is competitive, and no one wants to believe that anyone else has an unfair edge.

Most colleges admit to taking a holistic approach to college admissions. Even in states where race cannot officially be a consideration, it is one of many elements which admissions officers are allowed to contemplate when making an admission assessment. Without question, the two largest underrepresented racial groups are African-American and Hispanic students.

This blog, however, focuses on the effects of race in college admissions for Asian students. On campuses across the country, Asian students (both American and foreign born), account for larger numbers in the student population than in the general population. Asian students are stereotyped as being supremely academic, strong in the STEM subjects, and often less well-rounded than their Caucasian peers.

Foreign born Asian students often embody this stereotype precisely because of the high stakes academics that in fact form the pillars of academic systems in countries like China.

A recent LA Times article notes that certain college preparatory services recognize the "Asian stereotype" and base their advice on an acceptance of racial bias in college admissions. The sheer number of Asian students in colleges means that even a holistic approach to admissions means that some Asian students must necessarily be turned away. Asian students also struggle to set themselves apart from the cookie-cutter stereotyping of their races and cultures.

Is it possible for admissions to ever be utterly neutral? Can race be removed from the equation? Should it be? Does it need to be? It probably depends upon who you are asking. For more on the HS2 Academy:

LA Times

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