The College Admissions Process — Why it Sucks and Why You Should Care — 15 April 2024

My kid applied to college this year.  What happens nowadays should concern everyone.

Colleges say they want holistic reviews of student records. They spend 5 minutes looking at an application and they really don’t want to be bothered with details. Most colleges don’t interview kids anymore. They don’t know if kids read a newspaper daily and care about the world or joined the debate team to show up to a few meetings and put it on their resume. My daughter couldn’t report a perfect English ACT score because a lower math score would be averaged and take her below the threshold score for a given college; she will never take a math course and is not interested in that but who cares?

Meanwhile, many kids pay a professional to create a phony excuse for extra time on a standardized test, greatly improving their odds toward a perfect score, but these accommodations are not revealed to colleges. With all this gamesmanship by parents and narrow-mindedness of colleges, lots of good students are being filtered out of contention and it’s a huge waste of good people. I passed algebra on the curve and I’d probably never get into a good college these days, but because I’m from a previous generation I have 3 degrees, I’m part of the top 1%, and you are reading an article that I wrote.

Privilege has become a dirty word and it shouldn’t be. JFK and two Bushes were president. They didn’t hide from privilege. They saw privilege as conferring the qualifications and obligation to serve the public good. Somehow we got to the point where merit is also a mark of Cain. Privilege is not the thing that matters – it’s what you do with it. We need leaders who are informed and who care. My kids are probably among the most privileged kids in the world, and it seems phony to try and deny it; I hate it when I see people pretend that they are not what they are. My goal is to train them to recognize the uniqueness of what they have experienced, to see the human condition at its greatest potential, and to seek excellence both for themselves and for the world around them. The current Saudi Ambassador to the US recently talked about how she learned diplomacy watching from her father’s side when he was the ambassador. What’s wrong with that?

The palpitative fear of applicants perceiving admission boards with leftist biases has created ludicrous results. It is like applying for a municipal job with the Gestapo as the HR Department: Kids are afraid to check off that they are White on their application when asked about their race. They have to figure out how to get past a now-ubiquitous DEI question which is the result of the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. This question forces kids to find a minority to say they are a part of and look for letters in the alphabet to use to describe themselves. Who thinks they are fooling whom?

My daughter can’t reveal she traveled to over 25 countries because it makes her look Privileged. As a parent, I’ve invested in my kid trying to produce a future leader that will understand the world and be in a position to try and make it a better place. Travel teaches you logistics, troubleshooting and to understand the nuance when a public speaker refers to the UAE and Singapore as “boring autocracies” because you’ve been there. “Reading 10,000 books is not as good as traveling 10,000 miles” goes an old Chinese saying. Why would you want to hide that from a college? But everyone told me not to mention it. so we didn’t.

Colleges don’t seem to want really interesting people that show grooming to be future leaders; they want people who tick boxes and letters of the alphabet. And they want kids to portray themselves in a way that pleases admissions boards. Kids tell my kids that they never even saw their personal essays sent off to colleges that hired hands wrote. I wonder how many Palestinian activists at the various Ivy League schools revealed prior involvement on their college applications? I’d bet more than you think. What kind of people do colleges want these days? Kids who think Hamas is great?

America’s advantage is that we have critical thinkers and creative people who take chances and make things work by creating pathways to overcome obstacles. Colleges are looking for people who will fit in for indoctrination training. My most influential professor said, “Training fits you in; Education leads you out.” If college becomes like communist Russia or China where you focus on saying and doing the politically correct thing to get in and get ahead, our country will lose the edge we have: our open minds.

My kid didn’t even want to go to a northeast college because she was sick of all the woke stuff she was fed in high school and didn’t want 4 more years of it. She wants to be in a place of real learning. I don’t respect what American colleges are becoming and I really don’t believe that an Ivy League kid is one you want to employ because I don’t see the right values or perspectives coming out of there.  The first thing colleges should do is clear out their admissions offices of people who are looking to use admissions to advance their political ideologies, and to demonstrate with more flexible admissions criteria and better due diligence of applicants that they care about the totality of people’s backgrounds and that they really are in business to educate and not just indoctrinate.

There’s no sour grapes here. My kid got into the college she wanted, and I don’t believe college makes the person anyway. But the process was nauseating, and we need to consider what it’s doing to our kids, the colleges themselves, and our country’s future.

To return to the Global Thoughts posting of 15 April 2024, click here.

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