There was recently an editorial on the pages of “The New York Times” entitled “Throw Out the College Application System” penned by Adam Grant that we figured we’d share with our loyal reader base. In the piece, Mr. Grant argues, expectedly (hey, the title of the piece on throwing out the college application system kind of gave away his viewpoint), that the current college admissions process is broken and it’s in dire need of revamping. But unlike most folks, Mr. Grant at least proposes a solution. We happen to think that the solution he proposes is a ridiculously bad one, but it’s a proposal nonetheless. Just as we do with our students as they write their college essays, a bad idea is better than no idea. At least they’re throwing something out there. Bad ideas can sometimes lead to good ideas. It’s indeed sometimes how progress is made.
In the piece, Mr. Grant writes, “There is a better way for colleges to gather comprehensive information about candidates. It’s called an assessment center, and it’s been in use for more than half a century to screen candidates for business, government and military positions. The roots of the assessment center in the United States can be traced back to 1942, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the C.I.A. The O.S.S. was responsible for secret intelligence, research and analysis, and special operations behind enemy lines, but there was a major problem: No one had any clue how to select a spy…In 1956, the psychologist Douglas W. Bray pioneered the use of the assessment center in a corporate setting. At AT&T, Dr. Bray and several colleagues developed reliable techniques for evaluating new managers on attributes such as leadership skills, motivation and optimism, and succeeded in predicting the managers’ advancement rates and effectiveness. Today, at a typical center, applicants spend a day completing a series of individual tasks, group activities and interviews. Some assessments are objectively scored for performance; others are observed by multiple trained evaluators looking for key behaviors.”
Like the college admissions process isn’t stressful enough. Can you imagine students all having to go to these assessment centers to have their interpersonal skills and intelligence analyzed? The college admissions process to highly selective colleges isn’t perfect. Not even close. But this is no solution. Mr. Grant ends his piece supporting these assessment centers with this zinger, “More students would have a fair chance to demonstrate their distinctive talents and qualifications, and colleges might be less likely to reject the next Walt Disney.” Mr. Grant, most highly selective colleges would likely reject Mr. Disney. He was a well-known anti-Semite. Colleges don’t like admitting those who don’t value diversity, even if their name is Walt Disney. We suspect his anti-Semitism would come out at an assessment center as well. And maybe Mr. Grant can get him to attend one. After all, he is cryogenically frozen, right?
While you’re here, what do you think about Mr. Grant’s proposal to throw out the college application system?