The Ivy Coach Daily

February 20, 2021

Shaking Up Admissions

Another day. Another proposal to shake up elite college admissions. ZZZzzz.

Over the years, from atop our soapbox in elite college admissions, we at Ivy Coach have proposed dozens of ways to shake up the highly selective college admissions process. As but a sampling, we’ve suggested colleges eliminate the prompt that appears on too many supplements that asks applicants if they require financial aid. If colleges were truly need-blind, admissions officers would not be privy to the answer to this query. We’ve suggested colleges go test-blind rather than test-optional. If colleges truly offered no advantage to a student with great test scores as compared to a student with no scores, they wouldn’t allow the submission of scores in the first place. We’ve suggested that colleges decrease the percentage of legacy admits and make those earmarked legacy slots count more by only admitting the children of truly major donors — those who subsidize the educations of low-income students. It’s surely an imperfect proposal but, heck, it’s better than any of the lame ideas to shake up elite college admissions we’ve come across through the years. Yet it never stops folks from proposing ways to shake up the process.

A Nonprofit Aims to Shake Up Admissions by Offering College Courses to Underprivileged Students

In The Paper of Record, a piece out this week by Erica L. Green entitled “A College Program for Disadvantaged Teens Could Shake Up Elite Admissions” shines a lantern on the proposal du jour to shake up elite college admissions. As the venerable journalist writes, “Through an initiative started by a New York-based nonprofit, the National Education Equity Lab, hundreds of students are virtually rattling the gates of some of the nation’s most elite colleges by excelling in their credit-bearing courses before they leave high school…The goal of the pilot program was ’reimagining and expanding the roles and responsibilities of universities,’ and encouraging them to pursue star students from underprivileged backgrounds ’with the same enthusiasm and success with which they identify top athletes,’ said Leslie Cornfeld, the Equity Lab’s founder and chief executive…The experiment has given the high-profile gatekeepers of opportunity a gut check.”

Their “Shake Up” of Admissions Seems Like a Whole Lot of Hyperbole

The experiment has given admissions officers “a gut check”? Really? Not so much. For decades, admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities have sought to improve their outreach efforts to students from underprivileged backgrounds. Heck, it’s been their mission, their raison dêtre. This new initiative, while well-intentioned, is merely the latest salvo in an attempt to woo these deserving students. Remember the “Turning the Tide” snoozefest report published by the Harvard Graduate School of Education that was lauded for its attempt to shake up elite college admissions? We do, we do! What did ever happen with those proposals? And let’s be real. High school students from across America taking classes at elite universities? As much as we applaud the efforts of the National Education Equity Lab, this is no novel idea. The nonprofit just happened to get some great attention in the press for their admirable efforts. But shaking up admissions? Giving admissions officers a gut check? It seems like a whole lot of hyperbole to us.

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