Preparing for College


The amount of corruption in the world is staggering. We don't know the half of it. All we have to do is look at the governments of the world to see just how deeply ingrained corruption is. There are infinite themes and variations. Of course our theme here is college and the admissions process, a fairly isolated and specialized niche in in the overall Big Picture of the world today. However, even combining the two seemingly disparate areas of government and college admissions can reveal some truly depressing outcomes.

Justin Pope, in an AP news article tells us about the latest aspect of deepening government corruption:

Scandal exposes favoritism in admissions

All college applications are equal. But some are more equal than others.

A Chicago Tribune expose in the past few days about how the University of Illinois gives extra consideration to well-connected applicants has set off a storm of protests, prompting the school to change its practices and sending politicians who made use of the rules running for cover.

But the truth is, many universities — public and private alike — give special treatment to some degree to the sons and daughters of big donors, politicians, trustees and others with control over the school's purse strings or other clout, admissions experts say.

"The admissions offices are essentially being held over a barrel," said David Hawkins of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. "How can they really say no when the directives come from the very top of the institution?"

Whether formalized or not, "virtually every selective college, public or private, has some kind of list" like the one maintained by the University of Illinois, said Daniel Golden, whose 2006 book "The Price of Admission"exposed admissions practices that favored well-connected applicants . . .

The full title of Golden's book is The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges--and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates and has created some interesting reactions, such as these comments:

From the Washington Post:

The frenzy surrounding college admissions has spawned a vast and profitable industry. Especially among affluent families, the hiring of private tutors to prepare for the SAT, coaches to nurture athletic skills, and college consultants to help prepare the right application portfolio have become familiar features of adolescence. Of late, the pressure on Junior to get on the track to Harvard has been pushed to ever-younger ages. In large cities, it is not uncommon for parents to hire counselors to coach their toddlers for the interview for admission to pre-school. In a bizarre foreshadowing of what is to come later, some pre-schools now proudly offer early decision programs for 2-year-olds. And just when it seemed that all the possibilities for satire had been exhausted, parents began to push for enrollment in the best play groups for 6-month-olds.

And Publishers Weekly:

A heavy-hitting, name-naming exposé by Wall Street Journal deputy bureau chief Golden concludes that Ivy League admissions offices do not practice meritocracy. Instead, top-drawer schools reward donor-happy alums and the "legacy establishment," which Golden defines as "elites mastering the art of perpetuating themselves." Moreover, the "preference of privilege" enables wealthy candidates to nose out more deserving working- and middle-class students, especially new immigrants and Asian-Americans. Golden backs his assertions with examples comparing the academic records of entering students: e.g., Al Gore's son was admitted to Harvard despite his shabby record, although a better prepared Asian-American was rejected at all Ivy Leagues because he was "unhooked" (in admission parlance, not well connected or moneyed). Asian-Americans, notes Golden, are the "new Jews," for whom a higher bar is set. Golden tracks shameful admissions policies at Duke, where the enrollment of privileged but underqualified applicants has helped elevate the school's endowment ranking from 25th in 1980 to 16th in 2005; Brown is skewered for courting the offspring of entertainment industry notables. Golden suggests reasonable, workable tactics for resurrecting the antilegacy campaign in Congress (led by Senator Kennedy) and devotes a laudatory chapter to the equitable admissions practices at Caltech, Berea College (Kentucky) and Cooper Union (New York City).

I know that I'm weary of corruption, seemingly at all levels of life these days. Perhaps you are too. The one paragraph in Pope's article that disturbed me the most was this one:

Among the applicants on the clout list at Illinois was a relative of Tony Rezko, a key figure in the corruption scandal that brought down former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The admissions office initially rejected the unidentified relative, but the Tribune reported the decision was reversed following an e-mail from university President B. Joseph White that noted the governor's backing.

How can we compete with that? The sad part about all this, and other areas of corruption (beyond college admissions) is that there seems to be no consequences for the perps. Isn't it time we stood up and echoed Howard Beale?

"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!!"

Don't forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.