ERIC Number: EJ783430
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Jan-11
Reference Count: 0
An Admissions Race that's Already Won
Stevens, Mitchell L.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n18 pA53 Jan 2008
The author recently spent a year and a half in the admissions office of a highly selective Eastern college as an ethnographer, seeking to understand just how admissions officers make their decisions. He accompanied them on recruitment trips to high schools and college fairs, helped manage their offices' relentless current of visitors and mail, and observed them deliberate the fate of literally thousands of applicants. What he found was consistent with the American ideal of educational meritocracy. He realized that it was not big donations or athletic recruitment that most undermined the American dream of meritocratic admissions, but rather, and however paradoxically, the fact that their dream has come true. The days when old-school connections were enough to get through the doors of top colleges, and when dark skin or a Jewish surname were enough to be excluded, are over. Selective colleges now sort applications based on measurable accomplishment. But in general, only the more affluent colleges can afford the infrastructure necessary to produce that accomplishment in their children. The author's research convinced him that the ever-more-frenzied activity surrounding selective admissions is essentially ceremonial--an elaborate national ritual of just desserts. The fact that the fates of particular applicants at particular colleges remain uncertain until the end enables them to believe that the winners earn their victories in a fair game.
Descriptors: Selective Admission, Ethnography, Admission Criteria, College Admission, Competitive Selection, Operations Research
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site: http://chronicle.com/
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A