A deeply affecting article about the irrationality of admissions to top-tier universities. Students and parents alike are convinced that rankings matter and that being admitted to #10 is better than settling for #11. Millions of dollars are spent on this proposition.
In fact, everyone is so convinced of this (despite the apparent randomness of the process) that armies of 18-year-old high school students are willing to alter their aspirations to make it through a selection scheme that doesn’t much care about them.
Last year, I conducted alumni interviews for Yale applicants. It’s an easy gig. You take a smart, ambitious 17-year-old out for hot chocolate, ask them about their life, and then report back to the university, “Yup, this is another great kid.”
I recently got an email asking me to re-enlist. Was I ready for another admissions season?
I checked “No,” mostly because “Aw, hell no” wasn’t an option.
Why my reluctance? No grudge, no beef, no axe to grind. It’s just that the whole admissions process is so spectacularly crazy that participating in it— even in the peripheral role of “alumni interviewer”—feels like having spiders crawling out of my eyeballs.
In the last 15 to 20 years, Yale’s applicant pool has gone from “hypercompetitive” to “a Darwinian dystopia so cutthroat you’d feel guilty even simulating it on a computer, just in case the simulations had emotions.”
I don’t fault the admissions office. For every…
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