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The Disorderly March Redux

July 19, 2009

Not finished with the New York Times yet, but ready to get cracking on some writing, and this front page article on college admissions consultants was hilarious.  On the lighter side, the article starts at a

fashion show…billed as a crash course in dressing for a college admissions interview.

Yet the proposed “looks” — a young man in seersucker shorts, a young woman in a blue blazer over a low-cut blouse and short madras skirt — appeared better suited for a nearby yacht club. After Jennifer Delahunty, dean of admissions at Kenyon College, was shown photos of those outfits, she rendered her review.

“I burst out laughing,” she said.

The article talks about how some “experts” (many of whom may or may not have emptied wastebaskets in an admissions office somewhere as their sole qualification) are charging between $15,000 and $40,000 for their “expertise” in getting through the admissions process at the highest-status universities.  My first reaction is to think about how much better that parental money would have been spent sending their kid around the world in their gap year, but then I realized that a) people that rich have already taken the kids around the world, and b) in America a “gap year” is tantamount to career suicide, as your peers will log more miles than you on the academic treadmill while you fall behind by going new places, meeting new people, and learning new things.

But the greatest absurdity isn’t the money, or the number of bullshitologists who have made careers out of applying health-giving leeches to status-crazed parents in exchange for astrological forecasts of what will get their kid into Yale.  It’s that parents, and kids, are following their advice as they (emphasis mine):

[tutor] jittery applicants on what classes to take in high school or musical instruments to play, the better, their families are told, to impress the admissions dean.

To me, this is the ultimate tragedy of the Orderly March.  When even something that should be the most personal, private passion, one’s artistic accomplishments, becomes nothing more than a factor chosen in a calculation for the maximum impression it will make on one person in one office in one school…  The mind reels.  “You can’t play guitar!  Harvard likes cello!  Give me that guitar and go practice your cello!” 

(I actually went to high school in the late 70s with two kids, brother and sister, whose parents had moved them to Reno from Connecticut for one reason:  Harvard at that time had a “geographical diversity” program, and their chances of getting in to Harvard from Nevada were a hundred times better than their chances in CT…yeah, their whole life upended so they could get into Harvard.  Wonder if, thirty years later, it was worth it.)


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