An Interesting Week in Admissions

The admissions world is all atwitter over the news that Harvard College is ending its practice of Early Admission, which many people (even Harvard) agreed favored the wealthy and the admissions-savvy. That news broke soon after Dan Golden's new book "The Price of Admission" hit the shelves. With the subtitle "How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way Into Elite Colleges -- and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates," Dan wasn't pulling any punches. (I call him Dan not because I'm a Gen Y kid who treats perfect strangers like BFFs, but because we stayed in touch after he interviewed me for an article on affirmative action and was kind enough to provide a blurb for my book.)

Dan does a huge service in shedding light on the more unsavory aspects of admissions at top-flight colleges, practices I also observed at the prep school level (my four years at Andover would make for some prime name-dropping if I were so inclined, which I'm not) and, to a somewhat lesser extent, as an admissions officer at a top law school.

However, with this book he is also fueling (perhaps inadvertently) the collective madness among high school students and their parents about the primacy of getting into an Ivy League school. That tendency is particularly strong in the Northeast, where Dan is based, and where college admissions has become a blood sport. As plenty of successful people who haven't graduated from Harvard or Brown can attest, there is life -- and great success -- to be had outside those gates. There is no shortage of wonderful colleges out there, so I can't join in the handwringing about what a life-altering penalty those goofy admissions practices impose on the hoi polloi who can't buy their way in.