A Class of Students with Perfect Grades and Scores
A class of students with perfect grades and scores? ZZZzzz. Sounds like a boring crowd to you too, right? There was a segment on “CBS News” in which the president of Princeton University, Chris Eisgruber, addresses Affirmative Action, a hot topic of late with the United States Department of Justice signaling it will throw its support behind a lawsuit against Harvard University alleging discrimination against Asian Americans in the school’s admissions practices. In the piece, Eisgruber essentially suggests that while the process is certainly flawed and controversial, it’s necessary in order to foster a meritocracy here in America.
Here happens to be our favorite line from Eisgruber: “If we wanted to, we could take students who had only perfect GPAs and only perfect board scores and fill a class with them.” Yes, Princeton sure could! All those students (and parents) who think that perfect grades and perfect test scores are a ticket into Princeton and other highly selective colleges couldn’t be more wrong. We once heard a dean of admissions take that same kind of thinking a step further — that his school could fill its incoming class with denied applicants with perfect grades and perfect scores. Doesn’t that just kind of say it all?
Some highly selective colleges could fill their incoming classes with students boasting perfect high school grades and scores. Yet they choose not to do so. And for good reason.
It’s not just about grades. It’s not just about test scores. Do grades and test scores matter? Yes, big time! But there is so much more to the holistic college admissions process and it’s one key reason why lawsuits challenging the practice of Affirmative Action are flawed. As Eisgruber says in the “CBS News” piece, “We want our students to go out in the world and have an impact in a multicultural and diverse society and to produce those kinds of students, we need to have a diverse student body on this campus.” Merely boasting perfect grades and test scores does not a diverse student body make and college should be under no obligation to admit a class of boring applicants (not that a student with perfect grades and perfect scores is necessarily boring but if you admit a class strictly based on this data, you’re bound to get a whole lot of boring young people!). And these data-points alone — perfect grades and perfect scores — don’t indicate that the student is inclined to change the world. Highly selective colleges seek students who endeavor to change the world.
If you were a highly selective college, would you choose to fill your incoming class with students boasting perfect grades and perfect test scores? Or would you account for other factors — maybe a host of other factors? Let us know your thoughts by posting a Comment below. We look forward to hearing from you.
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Hi Ivycoach. I love your blog! But the above essay suggests a false equivalency and an (unconscious) bias. Why should a question about potential discrimination against Asians have any relevance to perfect GPAs and test scores (and “boring ZZZzzz”)? Unless one assumes that the only thing Asians can contribute to a holistically constructed class is high GPA and test scores (and boredom). As you have noted, the evidence suggests that holistically constructed classes result in proportionally fewer Asians than might be expected given typical test score profiles for highly selective colleges. Somehow, that person with nonperfect test scores who “spikes” so strongly that they win holistic acceptance on the basis of that “spike” is always assumed to be non-asian. Isn’t that an implicit bias in itself? Consider the Asian student who writes about his passion for cooking in that online movie “Acceptance” (and gets into Harvard). Don’t we subconsciously assume that he (of course) had perfect test scores? And if not, does he really exist?