Holier Than Thou Admissions Officers

We make a point on this college admissions blog of shining a bright light on admissions leaders who have a habit of telling it like it is. We call them the heroes of our college admissions blog. The University of Pennsylvania’s outgoing Dean of Admissions Eric Furda has a long history of speaking the truth. So too does Duke University’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Christoph Guttentag. Former admissions czar and current National Association for College Admissions Counseling CEO Angel B. Pérez too has a long history of speaking the truth about college admissions. But, regrettably, many admissions officers don’t tell it like it is and when you dare question their policies, the vocal minority among them will so often get on their high horses and rant and rave instead of offering evidence to substantiate the notion that, say, students with great scores don’t have an advantage over students with no scores under test-optional admissions policies.

Admissions Officers Are Paid to Sit in Judgement Yet Hate Being Judged

But admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities are not saints. They are not nurses. They are not first-responders nor are they rescue swimmers. No, they are officials of elite, often private institutions who are literally paid to sit in judgment of students applying for admission. And while they may claim theirs is a noble profession — and we’re not saying it isn’t — it’s ridiculous that they consider themselves so holier than thou that their policies can’t be questioned. Newsflash: they can be questioned. They will be questioned. And when the National Association for College Admission Counseling has to defensively publish a statement that the very colleges that are test-optional this year really won’t penalize students for not submitting test scores, well, the defensive posturing says it all. The truth is that our nation’s elite colleges — in spite of the fact that they have signed this statement — still value great test scores. If these schools truly didn’t care about test scores, they’d follow the lead of Caltech and go test-blind by not allowing the submission of SAT or ACT scores. Or they’d follow the lead of MIT and Yale by not allowing the submission of SAT Subject Test scores. But until they do that, they’ll be in a defensive posture because some of their policies, like test-optional admissions, well, they just don’t pass the sniff test.

A Vocal Minority of Admissions Officers Don’t Like Their Policies Being Questioned

On a National Association for College Admission Counseling listserv, a man who has admirably devoted his life to ushering in the end to standardized testing in America, was recently flabbergasted that we would question the merit of test-optional policies at elite colleges — as we did recently in a piece in The Daily Pennsylvanian. A few high school counselors and admissions officers at schools that are not among our nation’s elite universities then also chimed in, echoing the man’s words, shocked that test-optional policies could be questioned. Yet none — not one — addressed the holes we poked in test-optional policies. Instead, they just went on the attack, incredulous that a private college counselor who gets paid to help students earn admission to elite colleges, could question the merit of their policies.

NACAC Should Not Be An Echo Chamber

Well, guess what? Admissions officers get paid to sit in judgement of students as they apply to college. High school counselors get paid to help students get into college. And the National Association for College Admission Counseling isn’t supposed to be an echo chamber in which admissions officers pat themselves on the backs. No, the National Association for College Admission Counseling is an organization that includes admissions officers, high school counselors, and private college counselors like us so that we can all learn from one another. The irony is that if this vocal minority could get off their high horses for just a moment, they’d learn from their fellow members — yes, even from private college counselors (heck, it’s the role many will play after their time in admissions anyway — some wonderful ones even at Ivy Coach!). They’d learn our insights into how the college admissions process can be made better for all. After all, we’ve been helping students earn admission to elite universities for over a quarter of a century. So too have many private college counselors. But until this vocal minority of admissions officers get off their high horses, they’ll never learn and the system will remain as flawed tomorrow as it was 30 years ago. Here’s hoping that changes.


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