We came across an editorial in “The Stanford Daily” entitled “Holistic admissions undermine a meritocracy” written by Gitika Nalwa that we figured we’d share with the readers of our college admissions blog. While Nalwa makes some interesting points, a number of inaccuracies are also peppered in the op-ed that we are inclined to draw attention to. In describing how the holistic college admissions process to highly selective universities is biased, Nalwa writes, “Holistic criteria favor those who can afford private high schools and private college counselors to guide them through the nuances of a successful application. Such counselors can reveal biases of particular admission committees that often aren’t publicly known — what works and what doesn’t — and then lobby for their charges. On Wall Street, acting on any non-public information is termed ‘insider trading,’ a crime, but in college admissions, doing so is routine. Surely, this ability to purchase subjective insider information is a distinct, undeniable and undesirable advantage available only to the very rich.”
Where to begin. Do you have an advantage in the highly selective college admissions process if you have a lot of money? Yes and no. It depends how you use it. If you use it by employing an unqualified private college counselor, it could hurt more than help. If you use it by offering a university to which your daughter is applying a $500,000 donation, it is likely to hurt more than help. But, in general, in college admissions — and in life — money does make things easier. It’s a fact of life. Get over it or the road will be tough in the years ahead. With respect to private college counselors “lobbying” for their charges (what is this the Underground Railroad that Nalwa is describing — strange word choice!), that is preposterous. Any good private college counselor works behind the scenes. College admissions officers at highly selective colleges aren’t inclined to root for someone whose mommy and daddy paid a lot of money for their kid to get assistance in the admissions process. Admissions officers never know the identities of our students of Ivy Coach. It’s why we’re good at what we do. The notion of “lobbying” reflects an unfamiliarity with the highly selective college admissions process on the part of Nalwa.
And as for “insider trading,” if knowing the rules of a game and choosing to play by them makes students — and their parents — guilty, they are guilty as charged. So too are baseball players and Wall Street executives and doctors and lawyers. Don’t be ridiculous. It’s called being smart. There is so much more wrong with this op-ed, but this is enough for now.