The College Admissions Scam

Posted on 04/01/2007 in misc

I have an Associates, Bachelors, and Masters degree. The two undergrad degrees are courtesy of a school generally considered to be fairly prestigious. Yet, I'm more and more convinced that college is mostly a scam. Certainly there are particular fields such a medicine, law and engineering that benefit from rigorous academic pursuit. The general world of business? Not so much IMO.

The idea that everybody will benefit from four more years of "school" is simply ludicrous. Our parents were sold a bill of goods. You do generally have to have a college degree to get a good job, although there is rarely anything about those jobs that necessitates anything that may have been learned in college. Corporate America enforces the standard that props up the education establishment. Mix in the student loan industry that makes it possible for just about anybody to pursue the golden sheepskin, and you have legions of college graduates waiting tables for a living. Harvard is just the extreme end of that mindset.

Then I see articles like this, with parents shelling out thousands of dollars on summer programs for no other real purpose than to pad Junior's Harvard application. Not that doing good works can't be fun and useful, of course they can. But these kids are doing this stuff not because they really care, they do it because it might help them get into Harvard. It leads to sad situations like this.

At Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs, Colo., Jessica Clayton scored 1540 out of 1600 on her SATs, aced five advanced-placement courses last semester, volunteers two days a month at a middle school, works after school at a smoothie shop, is on the varsity Lacrosse team and runs cross country. But she worried that wasn't enough: An Ivy League recruiter told her about a rival applicant who composed harp music, recorded the compositions and sold the CDs for charity. "I don't even play the harp," says Ms. Clayton. "There are kids who have sent up satellites that have orbited the Earth. At my school, I'm pretty average."

It's simply not healthy to be stressed out over a lack of accomplishment given that background. This poor kid is going to feel like a failure because she could only get into Standford. Oh the horror.

I think Seth Godin has the right idea.

The opportunity for 95% of the student body is this: reject the idea of being almost good enough to get in to Harvard and embrace the idea of being extraordinarily good at something else.

Both of my kids are certainly headed in that direction. In fact, stories of homeschoolers at Harvard aside, I think homeschooling sort of naturally leads towards the something else.

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