Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tales from a University: Why Say Yes, When You Can Say No?

Noah Gentele presents a case in The Yale Herald that has received quite a bit of publicity over the last few years: the increasingly hyper-selective nature of elite universities. Anyone with a chance to glance at the New York Times or with a family member or friend going through the college application process is well aware of the harsh reality that is now college admissions. This is, of course, not to suggest that this is a new revelation. The number of colleges high school seniors apply to has been increasing for years, but the last four years have produced a massive escalation not seen by admissions officers before. The advent of online applications is most certainly a contributing factor in this development, but there is one actor that stands well above the rest: there are far too many qualified applicants out there these days, and college is more accessible to people who may not have considered it ten or even five years ago.

Accompanying the grand influx of college applicants is the problem facing universities throughout the country: what to do with all these applicants. According to Gentele,
"Last year, Harvard rejected more than a thousand students with perfect scores on the SAT math section...The same is true at Yale."
Sentiments being echoed by admissions officers suggest that this trend can be seen at many institutions throughout the country. The key question is what is being used to differentiate between candidates who are seemingly equal on paper? In many cases it may be interviews, but perhaps the recent development of universities striving for a more "diverse" academic community intimates that nationality or race may play a factor. The fact is that we can posit all we want about what drives admissions decisions to no avail. What is essential to take away from this issue is that a bachelor's degree is becoming the standard. No longer can a high school diploma offer what it did fifteen or twenty years ago. Despite the potential for limited access for a great deal of people, I see this as progress (inevitable progress, yes, but progress nonetheless...). The fact that more people are determined to attend higher-education facilities and further their education is always a positive in my eyes. The negatives (lack of accessibility to minorities, costs, cutthroat admissions practices and processes) clearly need to be addressed. Simply stated: the risk of taking the first step towards progress is stepping on toes.

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