There is a letter to the editor in today’s “New York Times” entitled “Elite College Admissions” that we thought we’d share with our readers. Written by Loully Saney, a member of Princeton University’s Class of 2017, the letter is in response to an article authored by Kevin Carey, an article we previously praised for its accuracy. It’s praise we 100% stand by. But we beg to differ with quite a few things that Mr. Saney purports in his letter to the editor. It’s a letter replete with inaccuracies about the highly selective college admissions process. As our college admissions blog aims to correct misconceptions and inaccuracies related to this process, allow us to correct the Princeton undergrad.
In his letter, Mr. Saney writes, “Generations ago, high school students were expected to have good grades, good recommendations and a well-written college essay. Today, high school students are expected to show all that plus a dedication to service, academic rigor more rigorous than ever, diversity, leadership within their communities and the unknown X factor.” Not so, Mr. Saney. Students who gain admission to schools such as yours, Princeton, do not need to demonstrate leadership within their communities. They do not need to have an unknown X factor, as you suggest. They do not need to show a dedication to service. Highly selective colleges such as yours are interested not in well-rounded students but in singularly talented students. These singularly talented students would then form a well-rounded class. A talented basketball player need not show leadership within his community to run the backdoor cut for — and invented by — the Tigers. A science researcher need not demonstrate a dedication to service. Winning the Intel Science Talent Search competition will suffice in its stead. And as for an X factor, that leads readers to believe that a mystery element factors into your admission decision to a school such as Princeton. This is simply not the case. Applicants have more control of their destinies than Mr. Saney lets on.
Mr. Saney also writes in his letter, “The ‘holistic admissions’ process gives students the full chance to show who they are and why they deserve a seat at one of these elite institutions, but the process also loses some of the best and brightest students, who fall through the cracks or don’t tick enough boxes. Students are hiring college counselors, tutors and advisers beginning in their freshman year of high school. They are tutoring disadvantaged students after school and volunteering over the summer in impoverished communities in Africa. Do you really think that odds for admission remain the same?” Volunteering in impoverished communities in Africa typically doesn’t help one’s chances for admission to a school such as Princeton, Mr. Saney. All this activity says is that the student likely has quite a bit of money to be able to spend his or her summer in Africa. And one doesn’t have to tutor disadvantaged students after school to get into Princeton either. Princeton is not looking for a thousand tutors of disadvantaged children.
We understand, Mr. Saney, that you may believe we’re misinterpreting what you’ve written. But you’ve written it nonetheless and it is our interpretation of what you’ve written. It’s likely also the interpretation of others. Our college admissions blog intends to correct such inaccuracies in the college admissions process and we hope we’ve done that here. Mr. Carey’s “New York Times” article is entirely accurate. Your letter to the editor on elite college admissions is, unfortunately, not.