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  #151  
Old 05-17-2015, 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by PhillyGuy View Post
See:

http://www.princeton.edu/mudd/news/f...mericans.shtml



And:

https://books.google.com/books?id=zw...nceton&f=false



While Princeton may have been the worst of the high-prestige Northern universities, my impression is that before Affirmation Action, black applicants were held to a much higher standard than wasps.
That's not evidence that the policies put in place to limit the number of Jews were also used to limit the number of blacks. There was not a "too many blacks" at Princeton problem-- blacks were explicitly not allowed to enroll in the first place.
  #152  
Old 05-17-2015, 08:41 PM
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For one of my college essays, I wrote about the impact my AP history teacher--an effeminate black gay guy--had on me as both an "enemy" and a role model. I'm sure my white classmates were affected by Mr. B too. But was their experience the same as mine? I don't think so. Most of the other teachers we had were from their cultural milieu. Mr. B was only one of a few that hailed from mine.

There are a million different things a kid can write about to set themselves apart, that also play up "identity". Racial minorities don't have a monopoly on "special identity" stories. I'm guessing the kids who are diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders (disproportionately diagnosed among whites) write a ton about this experience. Take "identity" off the table and there isn't much to write about except for "that one time at band camp" kind of stuff. Boring.
  #153  
Old 05-17-2015, 08:44 PM
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The primary function is to see how insightful, self-aware, reflective a person is.
I think it is more likely that the requirement tests how good the applicant (and his or her family) is at gaining help from others to produce a wise-beyond-ones-years essay. If you want to keep out of your university students with enough integrity (or, looked at from another perspective, stubbornness) to write the essay independently, it is then of value.

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If you are going to insist on race blind interviews, essay, and rec letters, you might as well just reduce applications to numbers. And I think what you lose when you do that is worse than whatever ills the current system has.
If you reduce it to just one number, as in the traditional Chinese examination system, I think that does have teach-to-the-test evils. But if you base it on lots of different numbers, I don't see why that is so bad.

There must be some top world universities which base everything on numbers. Does anyone here know some examples? I'd be interested to read any articles on how it works for them.
  #154  
Old 05-17-2015, 08:49 PM
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I think the question we should be asking ourselves is this:

If a school's admission policies result in Asians being over-represented* in the student body, is that a problem that needs to be corrected?

For our purposes here, let's define "over-represented" as being 50% more than the general population. If a state has 15% Asians, a student body with > 22.5% Asians would qualify. If we're talking about private universities, like Harvard, it's probably better to use national averages.

Personally, I don't see that as a problem unless there is evidence that the school is discriminating against non-Asians.

Last edited by John Mace; 05-17-2015 at 08:52 PM.
  #155  
Old 05-17-2015, 08:53 PM
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If you reduce it to just one number, as in the traditional Chinese examination system, I think that does have teach-to-the-test evils. But if you base it on lots of different numbers, I don't see why that is so bad.

There must be some top world universities which base everything on numbers. Does anyone here know some examples? I'd be interested to read any articles on how it works for them.
Cambridge - not pure numbers, but
Admissions decisions at the University of Cambridge are based solely on academic criteria - your ability and your potential. Along with all the other information you provide, interviews help Admissions Tutors to assess your application.
what the interview is: http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.a...rviews-involve

The main focus of interviews is to explore your academic potential, motivation and suitability for your chosen course. Questions are designed to assess your:

problem-solving abilities
assimilation of new ideas and information
intellectual flexibility and analytical reasoning

It’s important for you to remember that interviewers won’t be trying to ‘catch you out’, but will be challenging you to think for yourself and show how you can apply your existing knowledge and skills laterally to unfamiliar problems.

Interviews help selectors to gauge how you would respond to the teaching methods used at Cambridge. Interviews are similar in many ways to supervisions.
Note: no mention of "compelling life stories" at all.

Last edited by Terr; 05-17-2015 at 08:54 PM.
  #156  
Old 05-17-2015, 08:57 PM
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I think it is more likely that the requirement tests how good the applicant (and his or her family) is at gaining help from others to produce a wise-beyond-ones-years essay. If you want to keep out of your university students with enough integrity (or, looked at from another perspective, stubbornness) to write the essay independently, it is then of value.
This is true. Well-to-do kids can afford to hire coaches who can help craft glowing essays. A kid without this resource is at a disadvantage. So is the kid who is strong in mathematics but weak in communication skills.

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There must be some top world universities which base everything on numbers. Does anyone here know some examples? I'd be interested to read any articles on how it works for them.
I didn't have to write an essay to get into Georgia Tech. It's possible that's not the case anymore, though. And that may not be the kind of "top notch" institution you're talking about. (It's not a liberal arts school, for one thing).

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If a school's admission policies result in Asians being over-represented* in the student body, is that a problem that needs to be corrected?
I don't think so.
  #157  
Old 05-17-2015, 09:06 PM
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I think it is more likely that the requirement tests how good the applicant (and his or her family) is at gaining help from others to produce a wise-beyond-ones-years essay. If you want to keep out of your university students with enough integrity (or, looked at from another perspective, stubbornness) to write the essay independently, it is then of value.
For whatever it's worth, this is not my experience. Professional help is a help, of course, but you have to have something to work with. What DOES help is having someone help you understand what the essay is supposed to do, and stop you from writing about things they don't care about. But if a kid doesn't have much to say, it's hard for professional help to get the essay past "adequate".


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you reduce it to just one number, as in the traditional Chinese examination system, I think that does have teach-to-the-test evils. But if you base it on lots of different numbers, I don't see why that is so bad.
Because numbers need context. Let's say you have a kid who has an 1850 on his SAT and a 3.5 and by the end of his junior year has taken a mere two AP exams and earned a 3 on one and a 4 on another.

It really, really matters where that kid goes to school. If you look at essays and interviews and rec letters and school profiles, you might learn that the school average for SATs is like 1250, with only 25% of kids even taking it, and that he's the first kid to ever pass any AP exam, and he did it in two very different subjects (say, Calc and English). You might see that he has a 3.5 instead of a 4.0 because he works 40 hours a week and that a couple of his teachers are more concerned with homework turned in than in mastery, so there were a couple times he took a B.

A kid like that has incredible ability. This is NOT a case of "yes, he's not as talented as this other kid with a 2150 and 12 APs, but he didn't have the opportunity, so give him a break". This is a diamond in the rough who will explode when given proper support and encouragement. THAT'S what holistic admissions are looking to find--not the kid who we let in out of sympathy, or trying to balance "fairness", but the truly extraordinary individuals who will be interesting roommates and study group members for the more typical elites, and who can really take advantage of what a top-rate school can offer.

On the other hand, if you have a kid with scores that are sort of middle-of-expected for one of these institutions, but he's had every type of support and instruction to maintain that success, well, what you see is what you will be getting. It's hard to see that as being "more meritorious" even if every single number is higher.

Last edited by Manda JO; 05-17-2015 at 09:10 PM.
  #158  
Old 05-17-2015, 09:22 PM
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I think the question we should be asking ourselves is this:

If a school's admission policies result in Asians being over-represented* in the student body, is that a problem that needs to be corrected?

For our purposes here, let's define "over-represented" as being 50% more than the general population. If a state has 15% Asians, a student body with > 22.5% Asians would qualify. If we're talking about private universities, like Harvard, it's probably better to use national averages.

Personally, I don't see that as a problem unless there is evidence that the school is discriminating against non-Asians.
Well by that standard Harvard stands unaccused of having any problem with Asian over-representation as they have roughly a 20% Asian student body compared to 6 to 7% national numbers. So closer to 300% more than the general and accused of having too few. Their "too many," the charge alleges, would be getting any closer to 25% of the class or higher, and the charge is that the admissions committee functions with that as a de facto quota as a pure SAT/GPA metric demonstrates higher scores on average for the Asian admissions than the White ones (who have more who benefit from legacy admissions and we suspect more who fill professed demonstrated interests in Humanities and a variety of Social Sciences).

Maybe raise the bar? Is there any proportion that would be too high? And there I am of mixed mind as I do see the value of having a mix of cultural backgrounds. But of course I apply that equally to the 1%ers. Having 1400% more than the general population may be too much.
  #159  
Old 05-17-2015, 09:27 PM
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If you're going to claim that your use of the phrase "champ" wasn't meant as an implicit, as opposed to explicit, insult then you're insulting the intelligence of everyone in this thread including your's.
I'm sorry that you took it that way, sincerely. It was said innocently as a sports metaphor to go with with the "curveball" comment and had no intentional facetious meaning. And the "curveball" reference was about the statement "I didn't accuse you, or for that matter the people who imposed the Jewish quotas as being 'stupid'" in which the disputed question of quotas has become embedded as a given within a different argument, like an expert pitcher with control over every nuance of his moves. Again, sorry you took it in a way that wasn't intended.
  #160  
Old 05-17-2015, 09:28 PM
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A general comment: lest anyone think I'm defending the current setup, I'm not. I think it's deeply, deeply flawed. It's turned into this horrific kludge of a system that benefits those with access to a set of really arcane knowledge of how it works. It's a total fucking mess. However, of all the various injustices inherent to it, the fact that it's harder for middle-class Asians to get into the most elite schools is not the one keeping me up at night. And I really have no idea how to fix any of it.
  #161  
Old 05-17-2015, 09:30 PM
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Well by that standard Harvard stands unaccused of having any problem with Asian over-representation as they have roughly a 20% Asian student body compared to 6 to 7% national numbers. So closer to 300% more than the general and accused of having too few. Their "too many," the charge alleges, would be getting any closer to 25% of the class or higher, and the charge is that the admissions committee functions with that as a de facto quota as a pure SAT/GPA metric demonstrates higher scores on average for the Asian admissions than the White ones (who have more who benefit from legacy admissions and we suspect more who fill professed demonstrated interests in Humanities and a variety of Social Sciences).

Maybe raise the bar? Is there any proportion that would be too high? And there I am of mixed mind as I do see the value of having a mix of cultural backgrounds. But of course I apply that equally to the 1%ers. Having 1400% more than the general population may be too much.
Not necessarily. Did Harvard at one time have a higher percentage and did they institute policies to reduce that number? Or, did they see the numbers increasing and take steps to slow or reverse that increase?
  #162  
Old 05-17-2015, 09:34 PM
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I think it is more likely that the requirement tests how good the applicant (and his or her family) is at gaining help from others to produce a wise-beyond-ones-years essay. If you want to keep out of your university students with enough integrity (or, looked at from another perspective, stubbornness) to write the essay independently, it is then of value.

Admissions officers are experts in pattern recognition. They've seen it all before, probably a dozen times that morning. They know when an essay is ghost written-- a bright kid doesn't sound the same as an adult pretending to be a bright kid, and it's pretty obvious when a essay doesn't quite "fit" with the rest of the application. In any case, anyone who is a serious contender for a modern Ivy League spot is probably much brighter than any random nearby adult they are likely to rope in.
  #163  
Old 05-17-2015, 09:54 PM
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Asian American groups accuse Harvard of racial bias in admissions


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This is true. Well-to-do kids can afford to hire coaches who can help craft glowing essays. A kid without this resource is at a disadvantage. So is the kid who is strong in mathematics but weak in communication skills.

Admissions people understand that the application packages of people from modest backgrounds is going to look a little different than those of someone who has a lot of resources to pump in to admissions, and they adjust accordingly. They can tell who has had professional coaching on their applications, and they can adjust their expectations. It won't necessarily hurt you-- it'd be more or les expected from certain types of applicants-- but the thing they are looking for isn't the polish, it's the voice. And a coach can help you find that voice, but they can't make one out of whole cloth.

That doesn't mean the system is fair. Poor kids have a bazillion disadvantages in the process, most noteably just not having resources that really understand the process. And there are times when admissions coaches say "Eh, he sounds like one of us" and that's that. But admissions counselors definitely aren't fooled for a moment by the various ways people try to transform money into admissions advantages.

Last edited by even sven; 05-17-2015 at 09:56 PM.
  #164  
Old 05-17-2015, 10:06 PM
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Professional help is a help, of course, but you have to have something to work with.
I suppose it depends on how much integrity the professional (or highly educated parent) has.

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It really, really matters where that kid goes to school.
Agreed. When I went to one of the bottom tier Ivies in the 1970's, I recall that they kept statistics on the relationship between high school and college GPA for the various feeder high schools, and considered that in admissions. Using such data is crucial to avoid admitting students at high risk of flunking out.

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you might learn that the school average for SATs is like 1250, with only 25% of kids even taking it, and that he's the first kid [at that high school] to ever pass any AP exam, and he did it in two very different subjects (say, Calc and English).
This is a great example of what I meant by basing admissions on lots of different numbers. The College Board should release, to colleges, machine-readable data on how common it is for students at each high school to do well in AP tests. Then it should be a plus if an applicant does well at a school where few others do. This implies that the applicant is able to excel in face of ineffective teaching, a crucial skill when you are a student at a university where research is valued above undergraduate teaching, or where many students get caught up in an anti-intellectual, alcohol-fueled, fraternity culture.

I do have a concern that you may be thinking that the college admissions office should get the information on how unusual was that AP 4 or 5 from a letter of recommendation. I suspect that reading such letters would be a mistake because of high danger that, out of generous motives, many school guidance counselors exaggerate to get students into top schools.
  #165  
Old 05-17-2015, 10:08 PM
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But admissions counselors definitely aren't fooled for a moment by the various ways people try to transform money into admissions advantages.
This is a great example of how easy it is for people to be so sure of what they couldn't possibly know.
  #166  
Old 05-18-2015, 06:10 AM
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This is a great example of how easy it is for people to be so sure of what they couldn't possibly know.

And yet, it's easy to tell.

Writing convincingly in the voice of someone completely different is a rare skill, which is why not everyone is a best-selling author. And Ivy League admissions is exponentially more competitive than it was even a decade ago. meaning this "helpful adult" needs to not only take on the voice of a teenager, but the voice of a teenager so uncommonly brilliant that they are the type of person you would meet a handful of times in your lifetime.

And the admissions officer will have access to a letters of recommendation, a full breakdown of your academic and extracurricular activities, etc. Your essay about curing cancer won't work if it's not on your resume. Your claim to be a heartfelt social activist isn't going to ring true if your only volunteer work is a one-week pay-for-play voluntourism trip to Costa Rica.

And this has to get past a team of people who do this for a living, who have countless examples to compare it to, and who have nothing more to do at work than figure this stuff out.

I'm sure it happens now and then, but it's a strategy that is much more likely to backfire to succeed.
  #167  
Old 05-18-2015, 06:34 AM
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This is a great example of what I meant by basing admissions on lots of different numbers. The College Board should release, to colleges, machine-readable data on how common it is for students at each high school to do well in AP tests. Then it should be a plus if an applicant does well at a school where few others do. This implies that the applicant is able to excel in face of ineffective teaching, a crucial skill when you are a student at a university where research is valued above undergraduate teaching, or where many students get caught up in an anti-intellectual, alcohol-fueled, fraternity culture.
At some point, the human element is going to have to be introduced. You can't replace context with correlations. Data can tell you what, but not why or how.

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I do have a concern that you may be thinking that the college admissions office should get the information on how unusual was that AP 4 or 5 from a letter of recommendation. I suspect that reading such letters would be a mistake because of high danger that, out of generous motives, many school guidance counselors exaggerate to get students into top schools.
It's not a matter of reading one letter and blindly accepting it. For one thing, admissions officers work particular geographical areas for years at a time. They know the schools in their area. They read apps from the same school and region together, so that they can see how the rec letters and essays compare. They do school visits to recruit in the fall. If they get what looks to be a strong app from a school they've never even heard of, they are going to look that school up and see the available data on that school. You might be able to get away with exaggeration (one other kid passed an AP exam, 3 years ago), but not out and out falsehood--and not for several kids in a row.

Furthermore, as has been mentioned before, a modern application is a huge mass of information--it's not one recommendation, it's two from teachers and one from a counselor. It's an essay and probably a couple supplemental essays/statements and an interview. It's a school profile page. It's the actual application/resume. It's a transcript and a bunch of score reports. Whatever narrative a kid is building about themselves has to be consistent across all of those, and that's surprisingly hard to fake. I suspect more honest applications that "smell funny" get rejected (there's always another!) than out-and-out deceptive applications get in.

Somewhat ironically, those with the means and understanding to fake a whole package tend to be at high performing schools--and this kind of thing is least possible at high performing schools. Admissions counselors know these schools--they know the teachers that write the recommendations, the counselors, the programs. They know which schools have competitive math teams and where being in NHS is a joke. Admissions counseling and high-performing schools are like a small town--everyone doesn't know each other, but everyone knows a lot of people, and everyone knows someone else that knows someone. It's easy to investigate. I would expect any extraordinary false claim coming from a school like that will be detected.

I'm sure people have just flat out lied their way into competitive schools. But I think the process as it exists is a lot more exhaustive than you realize, and it does have quite a few fail safes built in.
  #168  
Old 05-18-2015, 08:22 AM
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I guess it should also be noted, even just for devil's advocate reasons, that Harvard (like all other Ivy League schools and 19 of the top 20) meets 100% of financial need. The legacy admissions of rich white dolts keep the endowment up and allow the "disadvantaged" to attend the school if they get in.
  #169  
Old 05-18-2015, 08:24 AM
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One other thing: professional help absolutely does help in preparing an application, and that's terribly unjust. But it's not a matter of someone writing your essay. It's a matter of someone helping you chose your activities/extracurriculars to fit a central narrative, framing the things you've done in a way that illustrate qualities that matter to colleges, soliciting rec letters in ways that reinforce a central set of qualities, and, yes, write an essay that expresses the same profile.

Even without all that, informed support helps a great deal on the essay. But, again, it's not about writing the essay for the kid. It's about sitting there as the kid rambles about their life and helping them see which of their own insights and experiences are actually unique and interesting, vs. cliche and predictable. It's about going over an essay with a kid and cutting out the boilerplate they don't even realize they have written. Typically speaking, the first time I go over an essay with a kid (and these are my students/former students, not clients), I shitcan the whole thing and send them home to redo it entirely, usually starting with what I thought was the best idea they had, which is almost inevitably buried in a bunch of crap. They end up with a much, much stronger essay because they had support, but it's not by any means ghost written.
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Old 05-18-2015, 08:41 AM
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So since this is now a general "the problem with college admissions" thread:

I would place almost no value on "extracurriculars." Everyone trying to get into a decent school is checking off the list of which clubs and service projects are hot this year. They serve no purpose besides showing which students are wealthy enough to be able to spend their free time on this instead of a part-time job, and the activities themselves are compromised by students going through the motions for college apps instead of actually wanting to be there.

We all know that high school GPAs are gamed in the same way and are difficult to compare across schools. Even at the most elite high schools in the U.S., which the Harvard admissions officers may have some familiarity with, it's always tempting to avoid challenging oneself to preserve the GPA. And there's no way they actually can evaluate the GPA from a random public school for "disadvantaged applicants."

I don't think aptitude tests are worth much of anything except as a minimum disqualifier -- does the SAT still just test basic vocabulary and math through trigonometry? Does Harvard really take applicants who don't get through calculus in high school? Should they?

The ability to write intelligently is, in my experience, a rare skill even among top students. I knew a Harvard English major who couldn't do it, in fact. If there is a reliable way to screen out essays-for-hire, I would place a lot of emphasis on the form of the writing sample.

One thing that does predict the ability to keep up with high-level coursework is high scores on AP exams. At least the ones I'm familiar with have been fairly rigorous and a much better diagnostic of actual ability to do academic work than the SAT-type tests. I've heard that some of the exams are being radically overhauled this year, and would like to see the new ones before saying that they continue to be a reliable gauge.

I frankly don't think it's the job of the university system to try to address lower-level disparities by admitting underqualified applicants. The reform needs to come earlier in the process.
  #171  
Old 05-18-2015, 10:51 AM
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So since this is now a general "the problem with college admissions" thread:

I would place almost no value on "extracurriculars." Everyone trying to get into a decent school is checking off the list of which clubs and service projects are hot this year. They serve no purpose besides showing which students are wealthy enough to be able to spend their free time on this instead of a part-time job, and the activities themselves are compromised by students going through the motions for college apps instead of actually wanting to be there.
I would think the quality of extracurriculars matters a lot more than quantity. Surely admission officers can distinguish a dilettante who is just wants to get in the yearbook as much as possible from someone who is engaged with the greater world around them. A part-time job can certainly count as a extracurricular if the student frames it that way. I remember doing this with my own college apps.

Universities invest a lot on "extracurricular" activities, because college students don't go to college simply for book learnin'. It would not be in the university's best interest to accept students who have no interest in joining clubs, running for student government, playing sports, or being politically active. High school is where kids start cultivating an interest in these things.

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We all know that high school GPAs are gamed in the same way and are difficult to compare across schools. Even at the most elite high schools in the U.S., which the Harvard admissions officers may have some familiarity with, it's always tempting to avoid challenging oneself to preserve the GPA. And there's no way they actually can evaluate the GPA from a random public school for "disadvantaged applicants."
Personally, I'd love to know if anyone has created a database containing information for every high school in the country. The database would tell you how many AP courses the school offers and what kind, the average AP exam score, the average GPA, the average SAT score, the average income, etc. These metrics could then be rolled up into a single index. Another index could be designed to characterize each student (based on their socioeconomics, GPA, test scores, difficulty of their coursework). A student/school ratio of 1 would indicate a student who was truly exceptional, controlling for factors outside of their control (socioeconomics, race, cultural background, etc.).

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I don't think aptitude tests are worth much of anything except as a minimum disqualifier -- does the SAT still just test basic vocabulary and math through trigonometry? Does Harvard really take applicants who don't get through calculus in high school? Should they?
Of course they should. It is easy enough to jump right into calculus having only trigonometry under one's belt. And while calculus is important, to be sure, I don't understand why it should be a pre-requisite for a liberal arts education. Plenty of kids decide to take statistics their senior year of high school. Personally, given how important statistics are in this day and age of Big Data, I think that's a much more valuable skill than finding the area under the curve.

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I frankly don't think it's the job of the university system to try to address lower-level disparities by admitting underqualified applicants. The reform needs to come earlier in the process.
Personally, I think we need to stop pretending that qualifications are anything other than a way to winnow down applications to a manageable pie. Do we really think high school kids are smarter and better able to tackle the world than their predecessors who did not have a roster of extracurriculars and a slate of AP classes and perfect SAT scores? My office is staffed with young(er) people with Master's and Ph.D's, even though neither are required to do our jobs. We went to schools that are far more impressive than the institutions the gray-haired veterans in our midst graduated from. And yet we are all doing the same jobs, with similar competencies (on average, cuz to be honest there's some good ole boys here who must have been hired under old school AA). "Qualification" is a moving target. You don't have to have a 4.6 GPA to be a good doctor. You don't need to score in the 95th percentile on the SAT to be a good scientist or engineer. You don't need to take AP geology to be a good journalist or film producer. It's time we stop acting like these measures are anything but a way to flash status for those who can afford them.
  #172  
Old 05-18-2015, 11:53 AM
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There are two such indices:

http://www.usnews.com/education/best...ional-rankings

http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...h-schools.html

They have different methodologies, but both are pretty transparent.
  #173  
Old 05-18-2015, 12:04 PM
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Looks like the Bamboo Ceiling will take a while longer yet to break.
  #174  
Old 05-18-2015, 02:30 PM
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*sigh* People are selfish and greedy. As soon as it doesn't benefit them, people try to change the rules
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Old 05-18-2015, 02:40 PM
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*sigh* People are selfish and greedy. As soon as it doesn't benefit them, people try to change the rules
Who's selfish, and who's trying to change which rules?
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Old 05-18-2015, 03:09 PM
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Here are Berkeley's numbers. Interesting that Berkeley separates out many different Asian groups, and Middle Eastern falls under White.

http://opa.berkeley.edu/uc-berkeley-...nrollment-data

Breaking out just the Black, Hispanic, Asian and White:
Black: 2.9%
Hispanic: 17%
Asian : 41%
White: 25%

Most of the international students in the UC system are Asian it appears:
http://internationaloffice.berkeley....nrollment_data
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Old 05-18-2015, 03:25 PM
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After California eliminated affirmative action in public university admissions in the 1990s, everybody won. The number of black and Hispanic students accepted to Berkeley and UCLA went down, but the number graduating stayed the same. In other words, former AA-benefitting students were correctly steered to the university they could handle and emerged with degrees instead of wasted time and debt, and no one of any race who was real material for the top tier was excluded.
I'd like to read about this. Got a cite?
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Old 05-18-2015, 03:32 PM
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There are two such indices:

http://www.usnews.com/education/best...ional-rankings

http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...h-schools.html

They have different methodologies, but both are pretty transparent.
Thanks.
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Old 05-18-2015, 03:32 PM
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I'd like to read about this. Got a cite?
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/...action/263122/

A powerful example of these problems comes from UCLA, an elite school that used large racial preferences until the Proposition 209 ban took effect in 1998. The anticipated, devastating effects of the ban on preferences at UCLA and Berkeley on minorities were among the chief exhibits of those who attacked Prop 209 as a racist measure. Many predicted that over time blacks and Hispanics would virtually disappear from the UCLA campus.
...
Throughout these crises, university administrators constantly fed agitation against the preference ban by emphasizing the drop in undergraduate minority admissions. Never did the university point out one overwhelming fact: The total number of black and Hispanic students receiving bachelor's degrees were the same for the five classes after Prop 209 as for the five classes before.

How was this possible? First, the ban on preferences produced better-matched students at UCLA, students who were more likely to graduate. The black four-year graduation rate at UCLA doubled from the early 1990s to the years after Prop 209.

Second, strong black and Hispanic students accepted UCLA offers of admission at much higher rates after the preferences ban went into effect; their choices seem to suggest that they were eager to attend a school where the stigma of a preference could not be attached to them. This mitigated the drop in enrollment.

Third, many minority students who would have been admitted to UCLA with weak qualifications before Prop 209 were admitted to less elite schools instead; those who proved their academic mettle were able to transfer up to UCLA and graduate there.
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Old 05-18-2015, 03:43 PM
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We live in a strange society when a measure that bans racial considerations in admissions, is called racist.
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Old 05-18-2015, 03:50 PM
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I don't care about the story a kid told. Let's talk about my (hypothetical) kid. He is not fat because he eats healthy and plays sports. He is not gay or Mexican because of his DNA (or whatever accident of birth).

Because he is a regular kid who went to high school and got good grades, he gets a markdown? That's facially absurd.
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Old 05-18-2015, 04:09 PM
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I don't care about the story a kid told. Let's talk about my (hypothetical) kid. He is not fat because he eats healthy and plays sports. He is not gay or Mexican because of his DNA (or whatever accident of birth).

Because he is a regular kid who went to high school and got good grades, he gets a markdown? That's facially absurd.
It's absurd that a kid across town that worked just as hard as your kid, who is just as talented and well-liked, gets marked down because of the accident of THEIR birth. Not just when it comes to college applications, but for the rest of his life.

Nothing is stopping your hypothetical kid from writing a compelling essay about something that speaks to his own identity. Racial minorities are not the only ones who have ever experienced how it feels to be "outsider". I'd actually have some concerns about an individual who has NEVER had this experience before.

I don't have any experience reading college essays. But I'm guessing a story JUST about how it feels to be a member of a minority group does not qualify as "compelling" anymore. Hence, why a fat Mexican may be able to get away with it, but a skinny Mexican might be encouraged to write about something else.
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Old 05-18-2015, 04:12 PM
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I don't care about the story a kid told. Let's talk about my (hypothetical) kid. He is not fat because he eats healthy and plays sports. He is not gay or Mexican because of his DNA (or whatever accident of birth).

Because he is a regular kid who went to high school and got good grades, he gets a markdown? That's facially absurd.
He doesn't, if he can write about whatever experiences shaped him with wit and humor and grace and insight. I've read tons of dreadfully boring, ineffective essays about "compelling personal stories", and they don't do well.
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Old 05-18-2015, 05:04 PM
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It's absurd that a kid across town that worked just as hard as your kid, who is just as talented and well-liked, gets marked down because of the accident of THEIR birth. Not just when it comes to college applications, but for the rest of his life.
How is this kid marked down solely because he can't write about being fat, gay, and/or Mexican? Why are any of those three things important for a college application?

My hypothetical kid has a 4.0, is in the honor society, quarter back and captain of the football team, is white, straight, and in shape. He has never suffered anything. He gets laid by cheerleaders every Friday and is loved by the community. He has no essay to write about overcoming anything. He is successful in his young life.

Why is this a negative for him in the admissions process. Remember, under my proposal, the fat, gay, Mexican kids gets judged by his GPA and SAT scores as well.

Last edited by UltraVires; 05-18-2015 at 05:04 PM.
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Old 05-18-2015, 05:04 PM
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He doesn't, if he can write about whatever experiences shaped him with wit and humor and grace and insight. I've read tons of dreadfully boring, ineffective essays about "compelling personal stories", and they don't do well.
Amazing, isn't it, how Cambridge manages to deliver excellent education without considering any "compelling personal stories" or any extracurricular activities in its admission criteria.
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Old 05-18-2015, 05:52 PM
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How is this kid marked down solely because he can't write about being fat, gay, and/or Mexican? Why are any of those three things important for a college application?

My hypothetical kid has a 4.0, is in the honor society, quarter back and captain of the football team, is white, straight, and in shape. He has never suffered anything. He gets laid by cheerleaders every Friday and is loved by the community. He has no essay to write about overcoming anything. He is successful in his young life.

Why is this a negative for him in the admissions process. Remember, under my proposal, the fat, gay, Mexican kids gets judged by his GPA and SAT scores as well.

He can still have a story-- it will just need to be a different story. How has he challenged himself? How has he displayed commitment to a cause or goal? Given his clear intellect, how has he used it? It's not really the topic of the story that is important, it's the personal qualities displayed in that story.

Now, if what he did with his life was glide through without challenging himself, then yes, he doesn't belong. Smart people are a dime a dozen, and rarely achieve much. The smart coasters are the ones that drop out the first time they take a tough class.

The kinds of smart people these schools are looking for will never have a dull story, because they are naturally driven to take on the biggest challenges they can conceive of. And there are basically no limits on what a bright kid from a good family can set out to achieve. And you know, sometimes that is playing football. But he is going to have to sell it to the reader.

Again, universities are not handing out cookies for good grades-- just like a job interviewer isn't in the business of handing out cookies for good qualifications. They are trying to find the people who will contribute the most- to campus life, to intellectual life, to the school's reputation, or to the school's endowment.
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Old 05-18-2015, 05:54 PM
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I don't care about the story a kid told. Let's talk about my (hypothetical) kid. He is not fat because he eats healthy and plays sports. He is not gay or Mexican because of his DNA (or whatever accident of birth).

Because he is a regular kid who went to high school and got good grades, he gets a markdown? That's facially absurd.
Yes, your conclusion is facially absurd. It is farcical even.

He gets points if he can tell a good story about who he is and why he is interesting and different than the bulk of the other candidates. Indeed he does not a get any extra marks up just for being another middle class suburban kid with decent grades with lots of support ... the class is full of them. Yes, being privileged is his cross to bear. Of course the fat gay Mexican kid didn't get marks up for being fat gay or Mexican ... but for telling a story about his identity formation that entertained while demonstrating self-awareness and insight.

I have no hypothetical children; only four actual ones. Two through college already and one in the process of deciding where to transfer. One just starting High School.

For most big schools it is mostly a numbers game.

Smaller ones care about the extra-curriculars in terms of rounding out the class as much as anything else: do they need a French horn player in the band? More who will likely staff the student paper? So on. The essay? Only an occasional exceptional one might stand out and make a difference. Most I am sure are just a bore to read and slog through.

The elites are, after taking the big monies and legacies, looking at a large pool of candidates that are amply "qualified", more than able to handle the academics, and from that group want to choose people who are also interesting and who will make for an interesting mix.

Should they not be allowed to do so?

Okay they define those who hail of the most wealthy and most generous of the most wealthy families as interesting by definition ... green is a very interesting color when you have a program to run. But of the others they don't want all similar stories and attributes. Straight A near perfect SAT piano or violin playing and award winning multiple AP classes with 4s middle class kids, going into sciences or math or physics or econ? Whatever the skin color they only want to so many of them.

Between them Princeton, Harvard and Yale admit under 4500 students each year, out of 5.25 million kids entering colleges overall in the country. In the big picture what they do is of little import, even for the top 1% of students or even fraction thereof. Most of that top academic 1% will succeed just fine going elsewhere, even without golden ticket of a Harvard/Princeton or Yale diploma in hand.

Yes, Terr. Rags to riches, overcoming obstacles, humble beginnings ... is a particularly American affectation, part of our particular mythology. The concept of a broad liberal arts education as something that colleges offer is also something currently foreign to Cambridge or English colleges in general, for that matter. You are comparing different beasts inhabiting different cultures. Interesting thing about Cambridge though ... Asian applicants secured "AAA at A-level" at 78.8%, higher than the 74.8% for Whites. But Asian acceptance into Cambridge was 22.7% while White applicants were accepted at an 30.1% rate. Huh. They have that in common anyway!

Last edited by DSeid; 05-18-2015 at 05:59 PM.
  #188  
Old 05-18-2015, 06:34 PM
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Amazing, isn't it, how Cambridge manages to deliver excellent education without considering any "compelling personal stories" or any extracurricular activities in its admission criteria.
Amazing how Cambridge requires a personal statement, as do all of the schools in the UCAS system. They also want to see if you have held a job as well. They also might have an interview.

Everything is covered here:

https://www.ucas.com/

(Just went through all of this with my son - the UC application that got him into Berkeley and UCLA, and the UCAS which got him into University of Edinburgh and St. Andrews).
  #189  
Old 05-18-2015, 06:40 PM
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Amazing how Cambridge requires a personal statement, as do all of the schools in the UCAS system. They also want to see if you have held a job as well. They also might have an interview.
Yet they do not care about your "compelling personal story" or extra-curriculars. What they do care about is your academic credentials and test scores. In their web page they say, basically, sure, include your compelling personal story in your statement. If it is not relevant to your field of study, we will ignore it.
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Old 05-18-2015, 06:45 PM
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I fully support the plaintiffs in this case. No, "test scores alone" do not entitle anyone to admissions at Harvard. But admissions have to be based on objective and non-racial criteria. Test scores are objective. If you can find other objective criteria, apply them. "Holistic process" and "diversity" are inherently subjective and as such should not be part of the criteria.
Universities--particularly competitive ones--do, and must, use race-alone criteria for the purpose of maintaining race-alone diversity.

Without race-alone affirmative action criteria, almost no US blacks would qualify for admission to elite medical schools, for example.

Using opportunity as a winnowing device does not work because highly privileged black students still underscore poorly privileged whites and asians.

What this means at a practical level is that a smaller percentage of asians with high test scores will be admitted than any other self-identified race group. There are a finite number of spots, so preferentially admitting one group effectively denies other groups.

Race-based AA is absolutely necessary, and we should keep it, because all race groups are not of equal potential for all skillsets. Therefore no amount of cultural adjustments will ever mean outcomes are equivalent in groups whose average gene pools for the source populations have been separated by tens of thousands of years.

Of course Harvard has racial bias for admissions, and it should. We need a society that protects all groups equally, and we can find ways to let all groups participate in the benefits of the society we build. Harvard--nor any other higher institution--will not easily expose its data, and for obvious reasons. The data will not show a color-blind admissions process (nor a legacy-blind one either, for that matter). But we need to look past that and understand that there is a greater good at play.

Last edited by Chief Pedant; 05-18-2015 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 05-18-2015, 07:08 PM
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How is this kid marked down solely because he can't write about being fat, gay, and/or Mexican? Why are any of those three things important for a college application?

My hypothetical kid has a 4.0, is in the honor society, quarter back and captain of the football team, is white, straight, and in shape. He has never suffered anything. He gets laid by cheerleaders every Friday and is loved by the community. He has no essay to write about overcoming anything. He is successful in his young life.

Why is this a negative for him in the admissions process. Remember, under my proposal, the fat, gay, Mexican kids gets judged by his GPA and SAT scores as well.
Why do you think an essay has to be about "overcoming" to be compelling? No one has said that except for you.

Your hypothetical kid could write about his biggest role model. He could write about the first time he decided to say "no" to his friends or to his parents, or about how the premature death of his favorite uncle affected him growing up. He could write about being deeply religious when all his friends are non-believers.

If your hypothetical son has NO stories to tell, "compelling" or otherwise, then what does he have to offer an elite university? Out of struggle and adversity comes the real learning. A person with an easy life, with zero problems, is a person who hasn't learned anything except for what he's passively absorbed. Why would a university want such a student?

If you want your hypothetical to have a story to write about, challenge them. Push them. Encourage them to leave their comfort zone. With all the opportunities out there to learn new things and meet new people, it's actually harder to boring than interesting nowadays.
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Old 05-18-2015, 07:43 PM
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If your hypothetical son has NO stories to tell, "compelling" or otherwise, then what does he have to offer an elite university? Out of struggle and adversity comes the real learning. A person with an easy life, with zero problems, is a person who hasn't learned anything except for what he's passively absorbed. Why would a university want such a student?
What an absolutely ridiculous statement. Sometimes I despair when I think that this kind of stupid crap passes for educational policies in the US. Apparently we don't need world-class engineers, mathematicians, physicists, chemists etc. etc. etc. in the United States. No, we need a bunch of less-than-stellar specialists who "overcame adversity". Because overcoming adversity is what's important. Not ability or talent.

Last edited by Terr; 05-18-2015 at 07:45 PM.
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Old 05-18-2015, 07:54 PM
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What an absolutely ridiculous statement. Sometimes I despair when I think that this kind of stupid crap passes for educational policies in the US. Apparently we don't need world-class engineers, mathematicians, physicists, chemists etc. etc. etc. in the United States. No, we need a bunch of less-than-stellar specialists who "overcame adversity". Because overcoming adversity is what's important. Not ability or talent.

And yet...who has the best universities in the world? By a long shot?
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Old 05-18-2015, 08:06 PM
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What an absolutely ridiculous statement. Sometimes I despair when I think that this kind of stupid crap passes for educational policies in the US. Apparently we don't need world-class engineers, mathematicians, physicists, chemists etc. etc. etc. in the United States. No, we need a bunch of less-than-stellar specialists who "overcame adversity". Because overcoming adversity is what's important. Not ability or talent.
We do, even among engineers and mathematicians, need people with reading comprehension. How you could misread what monstro wrote so badly buggers the mind.

Again, to restate, explicitly "overcoming" adversity is not critical. Having a story to tell is. Challenge does not need be externally imposed but meeting challenge head on ... seeking it even and growing from the experience ... makes you a more desirable part of an elite group. Yes there is a place for some whose challenges were all the usual application c.v. ones ... taking the hardest classes and such. But a class full of them is boring. You want to be part of the special club without having the hereditary ticket of admission (1%er and/or legacy)? Then demonstrate why you are more than the typical high achieving middle class kid (of whom they have many thousands to choose between), convince them of what makes you interesting enough to add to their collection.

What challenges did you seek out? What have you learned beyond classwork? Yes, your grades are great. Test scores near perfect. We have lots of those in our collection. Lots of people who became CEOs. If you are to join our elite club without the ticket of 1%er or legacy then give us hope that you might have some spark of creative greatness not just plenty of discipline and study habits. Nothing? Nothing. Well move along then.

Last edited by DSeid; 05-18-2015 at 08:09 PM.
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Old 05-18-2015, 08:27 PM
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What an absolutely ridiculous statement. Sometimes I despair when I think that this kind of stupid crap passes for educational policies in the US. Apparently we don't need world-class engineers, mathematicians, physicists, chemists etc. etc. etc. in the United States. No, we need a bunch of less-than-stellar specialists who "overcame adversity". Because overcoming adversity is what's important. Not ability or talent.
Last time I checked, engineers and scientists are supposed to be problem-solvers. They ask tough questions and grapple with the answers.

They aren't passive. They seek challenges.

A kid who has it easy in life does not know what a problem is. If you've never experienced a problem, how can you even begin to call yourself a problem-solver? How can you say you're naturally curious if you've never stepped out of your comfort zone and asked questions?

Hell, if you don't have a authentic story to tell, there's no rule that says you can't be creative and exaggerate a little! A person who can't bullshit when it counts doesn't belong at Harvard either.
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Old 05-18-2015, 08:31 PM
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And yet...who has the best universities in the world? By a long shot?
Yeah, because Cambridge, that does not take into account any "compelling life stories" about "adversity" is not one of the best, is it?
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Old 05-18-2015, 08:39 PM
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Hell, if you don't have a authentic story to tell, there's no rule that says you can't be creative and exaggerate a little! A person who can't bullshit when it counts doesn't belong at Harvard either.
Yes, we all saw that documentary with C. Thomas Howell.
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Old 05-18-2015, 09:27 PM
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Yet they do not care about your "compelling personal story" or extra-curriculars. What they do care about is your academic credentials and test scores. In their web page they say, basically, sure, include your compelling personal story in your statement. If it is not relevant to your field of study, we will ignore it.
And if it is? They don't ignore it? I'm sorry, but I'm finding this line of "Cambridge doesn't care about their students as individuals" argument to be complete shite. You might consider moving on.
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Old 05-18-2015, 09:30 PM
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And yet...who has the best universities in the world? By a long shot?
I'm not opposed to your stances here, and not arguing with you per se, but don't forget Cambridge, Oxford, (and LSE?), the Sorbonne, Queen's, McGill, etc.

Also, I think it's relevant to this conversation that Terr has indicated in another thread that he thinks there is no substantial racial discrimination in the US, and that the racial disparities in socioeconomic well-being are due to "victim culture" and things like that.

On top of that, Chief Pedant, WTF?
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Old 05-18-2015, 09:33 PM
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And if it is? They don't ignore it? I'm sorry, but I'm finding this line of "Cambridge doesn't care about their students as individuals" argument to be complete shite. You might consider moving on.
http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.a...rviews-involve
The main focus of interviews is to explore your academic potential, motivation and suitability for your chosen course. Questions are designed to assess your:

problem-solving abilities
assimilation of new ideas and information
intellectual flexibility and analytical reasoning

It’s important for you to remember that interviewers won’t be trying to ‘catch you out’, but will be challenging you to think for yourself and show how you can apply your existing knowledge and skills laterally to unfamiliar problems.

Interviews help selectors to gauge how you would respond to the teaching methods used at Cambridge. Interviews are similar in many ways to supervisions.
... and
Are extra-curricular activities taken into account?

While achievements in particular extra-curricular activities may be impressive, getting an offer of a place isn't influenced by them. However, interviewers often ask about other interests or experience that you mention in your application where they're of relevance to the course that you intend to study.
Amazing, isn't it? For Cambridge, the fact that you overcame being fat, gay and Mexican apparently is not relevant. And yet, somehow, they still manage to be one of the best universities in the world. How do they do it? Don't they know that you're supposed to overcome adversity in order to "bring something" to the university?

Last edited by Terr; 05-18-2015 at 09:35 PM.
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