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Purchasing the Right Personality for College

By gonerill in Op-Ed
Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:37:32 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

A friend recently pointed me toward Ivy Success. Ivy Success are self-described "Admissions Strategists" whose job is to get you (or your darling child) into an elite university. For a modest fee you get the "complete strategy" which

translates the essence of the candidate, his or her accomplishments and future potential into a succinct profile in a way that differentiates the applicant from the competition. We scrutinize what each individual school emphasizes and custom tailor each application and essay in order to present our client in the best way possible.

Ivy Success will "will provide guidance on how to properly position the client for each school and application; garner letters of recommendation; write, edit, and re-write essays; schedule on campus visits and interviews; [and] establish application timing strategies". After their consultant is through them them, clients "are able to present a cohesive and confident image of themselves" to admissions offices. The whole package costs eighteen thousand dollars. Alternatively, you can pay a thousand dollars and receive extensive coaching on your admissions essay.

Now, the college admissions system to elite schools in the U.S. is so difficult and stressful, and the pressure to stand out from the crowd is so absurdly strong that I can see why these kinds of businesses have sprung up. But they raise an interesting question. Do we really want people to get into the habit of subcontracting their personalities?

Ivy Success's scheme has plenty of precedent. The academically challenged offspring of financially gifted parents (in Garrison Keillor's phrase) have long been able to improve their life-chances by hiring a private tutor, or buying a Princeton Review course. Beyond that, better-off and better-educated parents pass on a wealth of valuable, tacit knowledge to their children in the form of piano lessons, ballet classes, foreign holidays, or just having a good collection of jazz CDs around the house. Sociologists call this sort of thing "cultural capital."

Ivy Success seems like the next logical step in the race to stay ahead of the neighbors. After all, it's a sad fact of life that well-meaning, well-off parents with a rich appreciation of art, music and literature can nevertheless produce offensively boring, empty-headed children. What is to be done in these cases? Must all this parental investment go to waste? Not at all! If poor Muffy is earnest but dull, simply cough up $1000 and Ivy Success's consultants will make her sound like Dorothy Parker. Never mind that Muffy has no idea who Dorothy Parker is. Deans of Admissions know, and that's all that matters. A bit of judicious editing, a dash of sincerity, a pinch of sophistication and off she will go to the school of her choice.

If you think that individuality isn't something that can be purchased, then Ivy Consulting's services will not seem very appealing. If you think individuality is overrated, however, you will point out that we already buy almost every other observable aspect of our identity, from branded clothes to target-marketed music to focus-group-tested movies. Not to mention the large part of one's identity that comes simply from having attended a particular university. Isn't this just another niche in the market for identity?

Perhaps so. But there's a further irony. In the struggle for college places, students desperately try to differentiate themselves from one another, so that they will be the ones chosen by the consumer --- in this case the Universities that admit them. But this struggle to stand out from the crowd tends to lead to more homogeneity. The sociologist Harrison White points out that in markets like this, striving to be better requires --- and therefore induces --- comparability. In the process of trying to be different, competitors end up looking identical to consumers, just like McDonald's and Burger King. Businesses like Ivy Success accelerate this process for college applicants. They sell the same product to every customer. The next person in the door after you will get more or less the same advice you did. It won't take long for people to start looking the same.

I'm not sure whether, when deciding on admissions, elite colleges take seriously the personal statements written by applicants. If they don't, then Ivy Success is getting money for nothing, and good luck to them. If they do, I hope they have some way of adjusting for the ability to purchase the illusion of charisma. After all, if your parents buy you piano lessons, you'll really be able to play music for people. If they buy you a tutor and your SAT score jumps by 75, you haven't actually cheated on the test. But if they buy you a personal essay, you're still the bore you were before, no matter how appealing you sound.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


My Individuality lies in my
o Wallet 5%
o Head 17%
o Wardrobe 4%
o Hard-Drive 26%
o knowing that everyone will answer "Head" 46%

Votes: 167
Results | Other Polls

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o friend
o Ivy Success
o modest fee
o admissions essay
o so difficult and stressful
o so absurdly strong
o life-chanc es
o Princeton Review
o jazz CDs
o cultural capital
o who Dorothy Parker is
o Harrison White
o Also by gonerill

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Purchasing the Right Personality for College | 128 comments (117 topical, 11 editorial, 1 hidden)
Write in poll option: (2.50 / 4) (#1)
by mrgoat on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 02:38:19 AM EST

"I'm having sex right now?" - Joh3n
--Top Hat--

Oh that.. /nt (1.00 / 1) (#6)
by kb5 on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 05:32:32 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Welcome to the process. (4.41 / 12) (#2)
by Apuleius on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 03:01:11 AM EST

Try not to be too processed when you come out. You miss the purpose of the essay. It's the great Fudge Factor. If the college wants to admit you even though your SAT/ACT/GPA aren't so hot, and the real reason is because you play soccer, play the oboe, are the right race, are an alumni legacy, are not an alumni legacy, or something they don't want to admit to, they can point to your essay. That's all it's there for. So don't sweat it. My essay was of variant #2, how I learned the true value of leadership as a summer camp counselor. Obviously, I was lying through my teeth. Write something less trite than mine and you'll have no reason to sweat it.

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
I'm already well out the other end of it (4.00 / 2) (#25)
by gonerill on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 09:54:51 AM EST

I went to University in a country where application essays were thankfully not required, and only saw the process at second hand when I got to graduate school. But I think your advice is on the right track.

[ Parent ]
Essays, hah (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by greenrd on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 12:18:03 PM EST

In the UK admissions process (at least when I did it) you're only expected to write two or three paragraphs, and although I went to a top selective school the "essay" was never highlighted as being particularly important or something to sweat over at all. I suppose it might be slightly more important if you had not-so-good predicted grades, but in general I think the feeling was, just waffle about yourself and your good points / why you're interested in the course, which any literate person can do adequately. Who's really going to choose a person based on whether they prefer football or swimming, or something irrelevant like that?

(Then again I didn't apply to the UK elite universities - Oxford or Cambridge - so it might have been different for them). But paying thousands of dollars for "the right essay" and "the right interview technique" is just ridiculous.

Only in America... ;)

"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

3 Paragraphs (3.00 / 1) (#55)
by FeersumAsura on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 04:35:02 PM EST

I can't even rember writing anything more than the Uni code and course code on my UCAS form. I had no interviews or anything and I still was being offered places at reasonable Uni's.

I'm so pre-emptive I'd nuke America to save time.
[ Parent ]
Oxford and Cambridge (3.33 / 3) (#85)
by Simon Kinahan on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 08:54:57 AM EST

They emphasise their own interviews, and their entrance exams, over your A-levels and what you wrote on your UCAS form. But, then, each university has a number of colleges, and each college is looking for a different profile of person. If your personality doesn't suit one, it might well suit another. The only think that makes you an absolute dead cert is being a rower.

I didn't go to either, but I live in Cambridge, and the university sort of saturates the atmosphere here.


If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]

Ambiguity of advertising (4.14 / 7) (#3)
by Alan Crowe on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 04:49:23 AM EST

Advertisers are great salesmen. But to whom are they selling? Do they sell the client's products to the client's customers? Or do they sell advertising to the client, ie their own product to their own customer?

This ambiguity is surely worse in the case of Ivy Success. Will their genius turn out to lie in "selling" their customers children to Ivy League Uiversities, or will it turn out that their great skill is in persuading parents to pay for worthless services?

How could we ever know? Harvard will say "Our admissions procedures are proof against spoofing by Ivy Success." Maybe, maybe not. The trouble is that Ivy Success will say, copying Christine Keeler, "Well, they would say that wouldn't they." And that will be about the only thing we can be certain of.

minor factual (4.50 / 2) (#16)
by streetlawyer on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 07:37:32 AM EST

It was in the context of the Keeler/Profumo affair, but the quote "He would say that, wouldn't he?" was Mandy Rice-Davis.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
Aluminum Siding, Snake Oil, and Ivy Success (5.00 / 3) (#65)
by TON on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 06:33:21 PM EST

The schools in question already get far more applicants of sufficient quality than they can accept. The problem for schools is evaluating the future prospects of potential students. Ivy Success actually makes this process more difficult, rather than less.

The students are not the real customers, the parents are. Who is paying and what are they getting? Students get "help" re-writing essays and scheduling interviews. What student really wants to spend more time re-writing essays? As I recall, scheduling interviews and campus visits was a fairly painless process. The parents are paying to get piece of mind; the feeling that they have really done all they can for Chip or Muffy. They are also paying to stave off a few months of nagging doubts that "Maybe junior won't get in". Maybe I am going bald? Maybe I need a face lift?

Interestingly, the parents are buying the proverbial "pig in a poke". What do they get for their money? Ivy Success lists their services, but does not document the effectiveness of said services. A few "rave" reviews are just that; anecdotal raving. Let's take a look, shall we?

Ivy Success regurgitates admissions statistics from many schools. This is effective selling. Build those nagging doubts. Maybe everyone else already had lipo? Ivy Success does not document the admissions statistics for their own clients. Unless I saw a significantly higher than average percentage of Ivy Success clients admitted, I would be very sceptical.

As a comparison, universities in Japan use an admissions process which is almost entirely based on examinations. This is full of problems, but let's just leave that aside for now. There is a very significant university admission industry. Many students attend prep school for extended periods to pass the university exams. These prep schools advertise the percentage of their clients who pass the tests. You compare that with the average and see what you get for your money. If I buy this insurance it is cheaper/has better coverage than that other insurance.

Ivy Success is selling plastic surgery for the soul to parents who fear their children haven't got one. It's an academic boob job.

"I could say it stronger
But it's too much trouble"

[ Parent ]

standing out, but not too much (4.84 / 13) (#15)
by iGrrrl on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 07:37:28 AM EST

After a few years of the intense peer pressure of high school, most students have trained themselves not to stand out. But in a culture where publicists rule the entertainment industry (as opposed to talent), one cannot be surprised that this service exists. It's publicity, "message shaping," and image enhancement.

But it makes me think of a couple of anecdotes having to do with medical school admissions. If you get an interview for med school, they think you have the scores and grades to qualify. After that, it's a (metaphorical) beauty contest. a dozen years or so ago I heard the then Dean of Admissions tell the following story:

"Be yourself in an interview, not who you think they want you to be. I was interviewing a kid and getting nothing but pat answers. To try to put him off his guard and get some idea of who this obsequious creature really was I asked if he'd ever won any Nobel prizes. He laughed a little and said, 'No.' Then I asked him, 'Any Olympic gold medals?' Turned out the kid had been on the U.S. luge team, and hadn't bothered to put it on his medical school application. Use anything that makes you stand out."

Yes, he really used the words "obsequious creature."

Years later I stepped into the elevator in the building that houses the medical library and many of the med school classrooms and administrative offices. It was interview season. Almost every person in the elevator (male and female) wore a navy suit with perfectly dressed hair. There was one exception. He wore a light charcoal pin strip double-breasted suit. His hair was cut in one length, between ears and chin. I leaned over to him and whispered, "You look different."

"Is that a bad thing?" he asked.

"No, they might actually remember you."

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.

The system is fucked anyways. (3.81 / 11) (#18)
by evilpenguin on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:10:22 AM EST

Back in high school, I had two friends who wanted to get into a certain pretenti ou^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hprestigious college.

Friend A (lets call him), has wanted to go to this college since he was a kid. It was his motivator to complete assignments on time and put up with the general bullshit that is high school (at least, high school in a non-rich area). And he did keep his grades up -- I don't recall ever seeing a grade below 95 -- and participated in some after-school activities to boot. One would think that, a kid such as this with an excellent resume and essay would have no trouble getting into any college he pleases.


Now, let me tell you about Friend B. Freind B didn't know where he wanted to go to college, or what he wanted to do with his life in general, until late in his junior year in high school. However, when he had decided, he was also lucky enough to make quite a fuss about it. He was on the school's wrestling team, quite good at pinning people down, and because of this got profiled by the local news channel for a scholorship program. So he also got an article written about him as part of this deal, in which he was quoted as saying such maudlin crap as: "it's always been my dream to go to MIT". I should add that his grades were also not up to par of Friend A, and to be frank, his essay was crap. But he attached the article to it.

Guess which one got in?

Yes, it's Friend B, who is currently in his second year as an EE major at MIT. From what he's told me, he wasn't prepared (nor qualitified) to be there; but that's not important, because he is there -- tangiable as ever. Friend A ended up going to a lesser college, and tells me he doesn't feel challenged enough.

I remember my college advisor, who would tell us that, basically, you needed a "hook" to get into one of these Ivy-league colleges (my personal goal, Carnegie Mellon, was indeed out of my reach because of this). In other words, if you're a white male and do not have rich parents who are alumni, your only chance of getting in rides on a gimick. I didn't want to believe this, but after seeing what happened to A, B and myself, who are all white males, I seemingly have no choice but to be a cynic about this whole process. Only the most qualified get in? Bullshit. You just need to be lucky enough to have chosen the right parents (read: rich or not white).

Honestly, if you're going to spend money trying to get into college, it would be better spent paying off the dean of admissions.
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty
Hooks (4.50 / 4) (#19)
by iGrrrl on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:37:43 AM EST

<i?I remember my college advisor, who would tell us that, basically, you needed a "hook" to get into one of these Ivy-league colleges ...</i>
Absolutely. A friend of mine in grad school had tried to get into Harvard's neuroscience program. At the time she was working as a technician in a Harvard neuroscience lab. She went to talk to the head of admissions for advice on preparing her package. She was told, essentially, that she had no chance, but that her chances might improve if she went off and did a Master's in history, or something else unrelated.

You cannot have a reasonable conversation with someone who regards other people as toys to be played with. localroger
remove apostrophe for email.
[ Parent ]

Undergrad to grad (5.00 / 3) (#27)
by wiredog on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 10:13:24 AM EST

Many grad schools prefer students who did their undergraduate work elsewhere.

Can't sleep. The clowns will get me.
[ Parent ]
Why? (4.00 / 1) (#75)
by Bwah on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:28:20 PM EST

This makes no sense to me.

To redesign an infinite ensemble of universes: what terrible responsibility, what arrogance ... It sounds just like the type of thing your average Homo sap would do for a dare. -- Stephen Baxter
[ Parent ]

Undergrad to grad - why? (4.00 / 2) (#89)
by agapow on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 12:11:18 PM EST

Many grad schools prefer students who did their undergraduate work elsewhere.

This makes no sense to me.

There's a widespread idea in academia (at least science) that it's bad for people to stay at one institution and good for them to move around, be exposed to different points of view, make contacts etc. In fact, contacts is something you can bring to a lab. This may be the reasoning.

[ Parent ]

Different perspectives. (none / 0) (#90)
by haflinger on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 12:29:01 PM EST

Speaking as a guy who is in possession of 5 (!) student IDs, and degrees from three of those 5, I can say that it comes down to perspective. If you travel around a lot between schools, you get exposed to far more ideas than if you just stand still.

With that said, I think it's just smart of graduate schools to prefer outside students. They'll bring more into the graduate program. They'll be able to tell their academic advisors things that their advisors didn't know. It leads to more of a cooperative education environment, unlike the undergraduate situation, where it's mostly about the students receiving wisdom from the profs.

BTW, I have a liberal arts background. My B.A. does have a minor in CS, but that's it.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Damn straight you need a hook. (4.50 / 2) (#45)
by baldnik on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 02:39:29 PM EST

Especially when the essay you're facing is the classic "significant personal experience" essay. Ugh.

After a week of trying to figure out how to make that non-boring, I realised that writing the damn essay was a pretty significant esperience. Then I twisted it some, and rewrote it from the essay's perspective.

It worked - it got me into the only real college I applied to. Not that I went there. I hate being poor.

[ Parent ]

Essay (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by evilpenguin on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 03:43:19 PM EST

OK, a hook other than an essay.  I know mine rocked... every teacher I showed it to (and student!) said it was the best essay of the type they have ever read.  Well, I think it's pretty damn good.  I took the essay on why I chose my major, and wove it into a commendable work.

I think the thing that killed my chances was that I had no "offical" school-related activities.  OK, so I'm not on the football team, I just spend my time doing math, programming, reading, writing and building stuff... how silly of me.  Surely those who spend their high school "career" practicing catching a ball are much more qualified than I.

Perhaps its for the best though... CMU would have put tremendous strain upon my parent's finances.  We're not poor folk, but $52K per year isn't something that most people can just pay out of pocket.
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty
[ Parent ]

Parents? (4.00 / 2) (#56)
by baldnik on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 04:35:06 PM EST

I wish I was putting a strain on my parents' finances. I've got last year's tuition and books sitting on a credit card. I'm just glad I go to a fake college. State schools are cheap.

[ Parent ]
Indeed (3.50 / 2) (#66)
by evilpenguin on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 06:35:09 PM EST

Cheap, yup. As I said, we're not that poor, and I'm lucky enough to have my parents pay for college, but CMU is rediculous. All of the Ivy league schools are more expensive than most people could ever afford. I guess that's how they can do all those cool projects.
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty
[ Parent ]
not white? (3.50 / 2) (#50)
by pocoloco on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 03:40:34 PM EST

You just need to be lucky enough to have chosen the right parents (read: rich or not white).

Why is having non-white parents a good thing?

One will instinctively assume that in GENERAL, white people will have an easier time getting in. I assume that: white = Anglo-Saxon and/or of western Europe descent.

Disclaimer: I don't live in the USA.

[ Parent ]
Nope (4.66 / 3) (#62)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 06:14:44 PM EST

In the United States, being a racial minority is a big advantage for college. "Hispanic" is good, "African American" is better, and "Native American" is probably best of all.

The only exception is being an Asian, which might even be worse than being white since Asians are the only ones who statistically get better grades on their SATs and transcripts than white people.

We call it "Affirmative Action".

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

some references (5.00 / 3) (#69)
by pocoloco on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:16:46 PM EST

In the United States, being a racial minority is a big advantage for college. ... We call it "Affirmative Action".
After reading some websites that discuss "Affirmative Action," I will think that this discrimination for college enrollment is not that high (if we take into consideration the ratio (white, black, hispanic, etc) of students accepted). But it will be pretty depressing for the guy that is refused knowing that he had better scores than the non-white guy.

The only page against "Affirmative Action" that I found [5] (all the pages discuss the overall "Affirmative Action" in society and not only in college enrollment) gives this interesting info:
A 1995 report released by the university said that 9.7% of all accepted applicants were African American. Only 0.8% of these African American students were accepted by academic criteria alone. 36.8% of the accepted applicants were white. Of these accepted white students, 47.9% were accepted on academic criteria alone. That means that approximately sixty times more African Americans students were accepted due to non-academic influences than white students.
In short, it seems that a few individuals from minorities will benefit from this "Affirmative Action." But the overall effect on the student population seems to be small if we consider numbers only. Of course, the conclusion of the parent post appears to be correct.

For those wanting to know more, google around. I found these few sites:


[1] The Affirmative Action and Diversity Project (Research project) This site has some good links.

[2] Affirmative Action Reconsidered: Was It Necessary in Academia? (Research / Report)

[3] Affirmative Action Under Attack (Washington Post Report)


[4] Ten Myths About Affirmative Action

Cons (I couldn't find a better site against, maybe because I was looking more for reference than pros and cons):

[5] The Failures of Affirmative Action

Hope this gives some light.

[ Parent ]
Reverse Discrimination Does Exist... (4.00 / 2) (#80)
by gusgus on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 01:27:51 AM EST

In fact, a US Supreme Court case dealt with the exact issue:


In summary, Bakke, a white male, sued the University of California for not admitting him to medical school due to affirmative action laws set in place. Bakke's claim was that he was better qualified than individuals belonging to minorities that were accepted to the school. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and it was determined that Bakke's rejection was also descrimination.

All in all: there are advantaged to being a minority. The US's policy about political correctness and equal opportunity has become a warped monster that does not function with its intended purpose.

[ Parent ]
Carnegie Mellon has gotten particularly selective (4.50 / 2) (#51)
by jlinwood on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 03:42:10 PM EST

I started at CMU in 1995, and I didn't really have a gimmick (President of the German club, now that's some leadership, there were 4 of us :) )  My brother applied four years later and got rejected from every school at CMU he applied to. I think they are really ratcheting up their standards.

Why are colleges getting more picky?

[ Parent ]

liar (2.00 / 1) (#113)
by treetops on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:30:02 AM EST

My brother applied four years later and got rejected from every school at CMU he applied to

Not quite true. At any rate, who wants to go to geek school for four years anyway? Look how you turned out: your Saturday nights are spent compiling open source kernels with your geek friends after a 7 hr D&D matchup1. No thanks :)

I say go for the Ivy Leagues (preferably Harvard or Columbia, the only two not in the ghetto or the sticks) and enjoy the grade inflation. Slack off for four years and graduate with honors.

1. Warning: might not be true.

[ Parent ]
hooks and what schools look for (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by adamba on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 01:47:06 AM EST

I went to an Ivy League school, I was basically a geek in high school (edited (lame-o) school newspaper, that was about it), but I had good test scores and was #1 in my high school class. I have also done interviews of high school kids for the school.

I would say that a school like that probably admits about 10% of what they call "academic ones". Students are rated 1-5 on academics and extracurriculars. So an extracurricular 1 is captain of football team, student class president, etc. Academic 1 is >1500 on the SATs and >700 on the achievement tests (which I think are called SAT IIs now).

Beyond that, you may need a hook. Once thing people don't realize is how much of tbe student body, at a school with 4500 students, needs to be involved in extracurriculars for the school to have people to play all its sports, do all its clubs, fill all its fine arts programs, etc. So it's not just the football coach telling the admissions office he needs a quarterback in the freshman class, it's the orchestra needing a new tuba player, and the dance program needing people, and the student newspaper needing people, etc. Now it's probably true that only the major sports really get any say in this (by actually being able to designate a few people and say "please let this person in"). But the admissions office has all this in mind when they are trying to fill the other 90% that are not academic ones. And I think it is true they are looking for people with a wild talent in one area, as opposed to generalists.

One thing, though, is that nobody is required to do what they did in high school, because nobody is on an athletic or other scholarship -- they are all purely need based. So you can get a boost by being a football player and show up on the first day and drop football and nobody can say "Boo!" to you.

- adam

[ Parent ]

You mean "and" (2.50 / 2) (#92)
by phliar on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 01:50:13 PM EST

You just need to be lucky enough to have chosen the right parents (read: rich or not white).
You mean "rich and not white". The average non-white person in the US is having trouble surviving high-school, let alone applying to ivy league schools. (Clarence Thomas had no problem going wherever he wanted, though.)

Actually "rich" covers all the cases.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Sometimes it doesn't matter (3.50 / 4) (#20)
by MicroBerto on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 09:16:59 AM EST

If a certain one of these colleges gets an assload of applications from white kids from Ohio, and you're one of them, chances are that you're screwed as it is. Admissions criteria are very discriminant against many people, and that's the way it is going to be, like it or not.

However, the essay is definitely the one thing that can make you stand out. It should be something that when you read it, you say "holy shit! did i really do this?" every single time. It can't just be like "Yeah, I play the piano and the oboe and I was captain of the swim team"... blah. It needs spice. It needs a story behind it, or something unique that underlies the message itself.

But then, hopefully you'll relize that going to college should be more about having fun, and that you can get a quality education from several colleges at a fraction of the cost, and party like an animal in the meantime. That's why I chose to go to a superior school deeply rooted in football and beer, and haven't turned back since. So much for writing those essays - I didn't even need one for OSU!

- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip

Even worse if you're Asian-American (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by RyoCokey on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 09:23:48 AM EST

I.e. the minority that people don't want.

The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
[ Parent ]
the minority that people don't want?? (2.50 / 2) (#39)
by eudas on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 12:58:38 PM EST

despite the fact that UT's statistics say asian-americans make up around 5-8% of the student population, they're freakin' everywhere. i think their statistics lie... based on subjective experience, it seems like i see more asians than i do any other group, except possibly the indian/pakistani group.

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

Statistics (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by Miniluv on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 02:31:03 PM EST

In this case I'd have to side against Mr. Clemens and say that those statistics couldn't have been hard to compile, since they're based on information provided on admissions forms (normally) so unless you're mistaking Hawaiin/Pacific Islander, Other, or Aleutian/Inuit Native for Asian then you're wrong.

"Too much wasabi and you'll be crying like you did at the last ten minutes of The Terminator" - Alton Brown
[ Parent ]
Is it possible... (5.00 / 1) (#91)
by phliar on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 01:38:07 PM EST

Perhaps you see what you want to see.

Incidentally, India and Pakistan are both in Asia.

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Unless you're at UC Berkeley? (none / 0) (#60)
by haflinger on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 05:51:16 PM EST

The numbers at UC Berkeley for fall 2002: 17.5% black and Latino (was 25.3% in 1997); 40% Asian American (was 35% in 1997); 33% white (31% before). There are 10.5% of all students who either checked other or did not declare.

Source: Salon (premium content warning)

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

You do realize, don't you ... (4.50 / 2) (#29)
by irksome on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 10:41:37 AM EST

that your comment about "school deeply rooted in football and beer" only provides amunition for the fans of that school up north, several of whom would debate the football powers of your school over the past 14 years. (that being said, we still love John Cooper)

I think I am, therefore I'm not.
[ Parent ]
Yeah right (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by MicroBerto on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 10:18:37 PM EST

You honestly don't stand a chance this year! Bring it on!

Meanwhile, I must say that Michigan does have better academics in most areas (I like OSU's engineering better)... but let me just say this - Besides Purdue, Michigan was the lamest campus I've ever visited, and I've been to a lot. Sure, it looks nice, but there is NOTHING GOING ON. What a boring place... I seriously think there's no point to going to a college that comatose.

- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]

hmm (4.00 / 1) (#74)
by irksome on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:12:36 PM EST

Ann Arbor always struck me as a city with a lot going on.  (On the other hand, I don't go to UM, so I don't know about the party scene, and I live far enough away from campus that I can't hear the noise)

(PS: your football team may be getting better, but your hockey team still sucks)
I think I am, therefore I'm not.
[ Parent ]

Agreed (4.00 / 1) (#86)
by MicroBerto on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 09:26:13 AM EST

I've heard the same for Ann Arbor. But being at UM on weekends twice was enough to make me very proud that I chose my school.

As far as the hockey team goes, you are very right. I live right by the hockey team's house, and they are seriously a bunch of idiots who can't play well either.

- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]

Well, that was a surprise (4.00 / 3) (#22)
by gonerill on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 09:42:06 AM EST

I went to bed with this in Edit mode and woke up with it on the Op-ed section page. Did and editor switch it to voting or something?

it stays in edit a max of two hours. (4.00 / 2) (#23)
by Shren on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 09:45:33 AM EST

Sucks, don't it? Remember, to be successful on k5, you have to do everything quickly. Write quick, vote quick, edit quick. Quality is of less concern. We want speed!

[ Parent ]
Ah. (3.50 / 2) (#24)
by gonerill on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 09:48:03 AM EST

I see. That does seem like a pretty quick turn around time.

[ Parent ]
sarcasm aside, i agree with you [nt] (3.00 / 2) (#30)
by Shren on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:01:41 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Repeat after me (4.60 / 5) (#37)
by greenrd on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 12:21:20 PM EST

Rusty, why doesn't it tell you on the form that it'll only be two hours?

Rusty, why doesn't it tell you on the form that it'll only be two hours?

Rusty, why doesn't it tell you on the form that it'll only be two hours?

If we all shout maybe he'll hear us. The edit queue is pretty useless if no-one knows how it works.

"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Who has not done this before ? (3.83 / 6) (#26)
by jim.fr on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 10:02:39 AM EST

I've graduated from a school in the french equivalent of Ivy League and I can testify that anyone going through the selection process is going to alter his expressed personnality significantly in order to match the expected filters and fit into the lame preconceptions that interviewers hold. And don't tell me that you have never used the same kind of manipulative techniques to get jobs or girls : morphing into personnalities is everyday life. I actually consider it as an essential survival skill, and as a bonus it is great fun.

This Ivy league admission coaching agency is nothing more than a specialized outplacement agency. If you are not capable of marketing yourself properly it may be a good investment.

Which knid? Business? (4.33 / 3) (#28)
by linca on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 10:16:50 AM EST

One of the nice features of French "good" schools in Science, but not so much in business schools, is that the selection system is a simple anonymous competitive exam. No stuff about "leading the school club" or whatever.

[ Parent ]
Exactly right (4.50 / 2) (#36)
by jim.fr on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 12:18:54 PM EST

> One of the nice features of French "good"
> schools in Science, but not so much in business
> schools, is that the selection system is a
> simple anonymous competitive exam. No stuff
> about "leading the school club" or whatever.

Yes, I believe that the French system for "ecoles d'ingenieurs" (science and engineering curriculums) is the fairest selection in the world : everyone has about equal chances and the costs are very low.

But I went through the business schools and it is another world altogether : money definitely makes a difference and the social background of business students is much more homogeneous, so there is much more potential for profile engineering at the selection stage.

[ Parent ]

Extra (5.00 / 1) (#126)
by A Trickster Imp on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 08:23:46 PM EST

Does the American emphasis on extra curricular activities actually aid in predicting college success?

Or...are colleges, especially the "good" ones, looking for those with more potential to be leaders in their industires, or overall, so as to boost the school's image in the future?

Yale is well known for trying to pluck future leaders out from under Harvard's nose, and they seem to do a pretty good job of it.

[ Parent ]

Well what can they look at... (3.60 / 5) (#31)
by bigsexyjoe on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:14:29 AM EST

I was going to complain about the arbitary standards at first but I recosndiered. Essays matter more the better the school is because there is nothing else to distingish the students. While it might be a poor criteria what else can they look to? I'm sure Harvard could fill itself up three times over with people nearly perfect GPA and test scores. I once read that admissions is really more about eliminating people than finding them.

In a sense the goofy standards are not that unfair because at least it is something you can control. If you are slick enough to bull shit admissions officers who are twice your age then you most likely have what it takes to suceed in the real world.

And honestly, if Daddy is rich that will also help you too. You don't want to work 20 hours a week if you're wrestling with a Harvard curriculm. His connections will help you later in life too. You might even become president without having to go through the trouble of winning an election. (Sorry I had to say it.)

Comprehensive examinations. (none / 0) (#33)
by haflinger on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:24:41 AM EST

It's the European way, and I think it's the right way. Sure, it's hard for people who aren't good at taking exams.

But realistically, most of those people are stupid anyway. Any really bright people can discipline themselves into being good at writing under pressure.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Well (4.00 / 2) (#38)
by BloodmoonACK on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 12:47:00 PM EST

I'm assuming by the "European Way" you mean something like the A-Levels (as I don't know anything else about the European examinations!). I've talked to people in Britain and I think these can best be equated with AP's here in America (in terms of content and difficulty). The people applying at places like Harvard would have no difficulty passing multiple AP's and getting 5's (top score). Besides, if these became implemented, there'd be a "learning industry" for them, too (moreso than now). Finally, I'm not quite sure what you mean by "Any really bright people can discipline themselves into being good at writing under pressure." Are you talking about the essays that people send to their colleges? Sure they're all well written. The difference is that some have "character", some give a better impression than others. THESE are what they're looking for.

"It's like declaring a 'war on crime' and then claiming every (accused) thief is an 'enemy combatant'." - Hizonner
[ Parent ]

The A-Levels are one example. (none / 0) (#48)
by haflinger on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 02:55:51 PM EST

First, though. By APs you mean this, right?

Okay, I'd never heard of them before. And yes, in some ways, they do look promising. There are two problems.

  • They don't have a lot of people signed up. Only 1.5 million tests administered last year, and when one considers that most students would take several tests, that's a speck of dust.
  • You seem to be claiming that they're too easy. If all the bright students come out with 5s in everything, then there's no point in the test. Agreed. However, check this graph for the success rate at A-Levels at age 15. It's even worse for 17-year-olds.
And yes, wealthy European parents do hire tutors for their children. But you have to think: at what point do you stop worrying about nebulous ideas of social justice, and start worrying about the quality of students, and thus education?

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
Rent This Space! (4.20 / 10) (#32)
by octalthorpe on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:22:36 AM EST

Maybe there is just something wrong with me, but doesn't anybody else get disgusted with the whole system of "education" we've erected in this country?

Sure, everyone's personality is somewhat varied, and sometimes we all enjoy charades, but should we really be teaching our children that the only way to have a good life is to subordinate their own interests, personality, and goals so that they can "get into a good school" and "get a good paying job" and etc.?

Of course, many of us didn't/don't have real "goals" when we're 18, and many college students change their majors half way through, but this is the way it should be, I think. Many of the people I graduated high school with were never even really encouraged to consider their options, it was simply a foregone conclusion: Go to College -> Get "Good Job" -> blah blah blah.

Teaching the rich parents slightly dense daughter to emulate Dorothy Parker to get into school is not really doing her a service, is it? Would'nt it be better to simply try and teach her to think for herself?

"For my birthday I got a humidifier and a de-humidifier... I put them in the same room and let them fight it out." -- Steven Wright

You're so right (4.40 / 5) (#42)
by pyramid termite on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 01:18:43 PM EST

Maybe there is just something wrong with me, but doesn't anybody else get disgusted with the whole system of "education" we've erected in this country?

It's a charade for the most part - it is either a glorified vocational school for those who need advanced training in a certain field, or it's a means of perpetuating the managerial class. You have to have a college degree to manage people these days - and yet, the computer skills one might need can be taught with a limited amount of class time and the rational and interpersonal skills one should be taught for such a position, aren't taught at all - or if they are, they aren't learned. I know of supervisors who can't think and can't deal effectively with people.

In short, a college degree is no longer a measurement of one's knowledge, but a measurement of one's willingness to conform and work within the system. (Again, I make an exception for the many technical fields where real knowledge is required.) Calling it an education is wrong. It's an indoctrination. Or worse, just a meaningless prolonged rite of passage from adolescence for middle class brats.

I pity the small minority who go to college and actually find an aspect of the liberal arts that they are burning to learn about. And I pity even more the smaller minority who actually take this business about learning how to think for themselves seriously.

"I forget, in a certain way, everything I write, doubtless also, in another way, what I read." - Jacques Derrida
[ Parent ]
It's all very ironic (4.40 / 5) (#47)
by merkri on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 02:42:01 PM EST

I think it's ironic that so much is made of individuality and whatnot in the elite college application process.

I'm in graduate school now, and one thing I've grown to learn since being here is how much the same so many students are. They have the same interests, same attitudes, same ideas about what's "right" and "wrong", and so on and so forth. The most disturbing thing to me is how uncreative so many of them [us?] are. They're incredibly smart, true, but can't seem to do more than copy exactly what is said during seminars, regurgitate it during exams, regurgitate it in research, and regurgitate it in papers.

I've started to believe that many of the qualities that make people competitive in elite college application settings are those that stifle innovation and creativity: the tendency to do exactly what they're told.

Now, I'm not saying that these individuals aren't successful, or smart, or whatever, but it's generally because what they're told is good to begin with. But when it comes to suggesting something that's a bit new or unusual, that contradicts some of the status quo, forget it. They'll have nothing to do with it.

It's sad, really, because I think we all are capable of being more creative. But the whole educational process, from elementary school to the university, seems to train most of us to "learn what the teacher said" and not think for ourselves. In the process, those who do think for themselves are often penalized for not doing what everyone else is doing.

I think there was an article in Atlantic Monthly about this not too long ago, about some guy who interviewed undergrads at Princeton or something, and was struck by how many of them would write down whatever the profs told them. I think it's a serious problem, and not with one university or set of universities, but with the entire process of education.

[ Parent ]

"Colleges .... (4.00 / 1) (#95)
by waverleo on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 02:31:51 PM EST

... are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed." Robert G. Ingersoll

How often does the whole admissions gauntlet turn off the truly creative and ingenious, but disinterested in conforming? If you hate writing scholarship applications and "selling yourself", it doesn't matter how great a thinker you are: the chances are pretty good that you won't do as university-wise as "Little Miss Perfect" who did exactly as she was told.


[ Parent ]

Solution (3.83 / 6) (#34)
by lb008d on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 12:14:24 PM EST

Forget "elite" schools.

Go to a state school and motivate yourself to do well. Learn everything you can. If you're motivated enough you can learn anything anywhere (heck you may not even need college for that!).

When you're out of school and don't have thousands of dollars in debt to pay off you'll be glad.

"Elite" college educations buy yourself status.

Misguided suggestion. (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by haflinger on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 05:36:28 PM EST

Some state schools qualify for this "elite" status: UC Berkeley, to name one. Also, most private universities are not in the Ivy League, or the southern or western equivalents.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
and untrue, too. (4.00 / 2) (#84)
by Josh A on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 03:47:10 AM EST

It's as foolish to dismiss "elite" schools as mere image and status as it is to dismiss lesser known schools as not good enough.

It's going to be easier to "learn everything you can" at a school with the resources that fit your educational goals. It's pretty hard to learn to operate a particle accelerator at a school with no physics department.

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
right on (4.00 / 2) (#87)
by Shren on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 09:50:35 AM EST

The kind of person who can go to an uber-school is the same kind of person that state colleges will trip over each other to get. Both big state schools and most of the little ones sent me recruiting letters very early on in the college game. I looked into a bunch of schools, but my handling of both of the major state schools was the same:


Both state schools offered full rides.

[ Parent ]

Learning to "sell yourself" (4.00 / 4) (#40)
by hatshepsut on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 01:04:53 PM EST

Other than the concept of buying a good admission essay, I don't see a problem with this sort of thing. Many people don't have a lot of idea how to sell themselves to potential employers, admissions offices, etc. If this company actually teaches students how to sail through an interview, portray themselves well (assuming they are honest about it), etc. then they are learning important life skills.

The author's assertion that this will assist many who don't belong at ivy league schools, seems a bit far-fetched to me (but I am not American and don't really "get" the ivy-league school thing - maybe that is where I fall short on the understanding scale). From where I sit, learning how to write an essay for entrance to college/university will stand you in good stead when you start to write your resume. Learning how to deal with an admissions interview will help with job interviews, and having someone teach you this stuff will give you the benefit of their experience, while still making you do the work.

"write, edit, and re-write essays" (5.00 / 2) (#81)
by adamba on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 01:37:39 AM EST

This was also the part that gave me pause. I know there is a fine line between editing and writing, but they are basically coming right out and saying they will write your essays for you!! I wonder if you have to certify somewhere on the application that it is all your own work (can't remember back to my application days).

- adam

[ Parent ]

College Admission Counselors (4.66 / 6) (#41)
by frankwork on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 01:17:11 PM EST

I am a reasonably academically gifted child of reasonably financially gifted parents. I went to a second-rate public high school (where I couldn't actually take the computer science class that I wanted because there was no CS teacher that year), got good grades, and competed on the swim team.

At any rate, my parents shelled out some amount of money (I really have no idea how much) for a college admission counselor. She interviewed me, asked me what I was interested in, what I was looking for, and looked at my grades, classes, activities, etc.

This was incredibly helpful, but not in a "buy your personality" sort of way. She came up with a list of around a dozen schools that she felt were a good match. I sent them each a letter asking for more info, and then narrowed down the list after getting the standard set of brochures.

I applied to eight schools, and was accepted at four. Before talking to her, I had literally never heard of the college I ended up going to, much less some of the others that I applied to. (I could write the better part of an article about how much of a shock it was to actually have to work at getting passing grades by the time I got to college, but I won't).

While Ivy Success certainly rubs me the wrong way, I would urge K5 readers to not completely write off the whole college admissions industry.

hmc (4.50 / 2) (#43)
by stipe42 on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 01:29:47 PM EST

Huh.  I wish my counselor hadn't heard of hmc, since I ended up going there in a similar sequence of events and absolutely loathed it.

[ Parent ]
hmc (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by avani on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:36:08 PM EST

I'm a current senior at HMC, and was wondering if you could elaborate a bit on what you have against it before scaring off all of the pre-frosh.

Though students haven't heard of it. I'm told (and dearly hope) that grad schools are well aware that tech students from places like HMC, CMU, and Case tend to be at least as well prepared as Ivy League graduates.

( Oh, and in response to the uncle post, HMC is pretty much upper-middle class white/asian guys, and they are really trying to change that for PR purposes. )

[ Parent ]
Never heard of them? (4.00 / 1) (#54)
by joev on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 04:19:47 PM EST

Geez, HMC sent me stuff weekly, I just about had to beat them back with a stick (I went to an inner-city public HS). The school I went to was far more laid back during the recruitment process...

[ Parent ]
On a HMC tangent... (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by Keepiru on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 06:58:27 PM EST

I could write the better part of an article about how much of a shock it was to actually have to work at getting passing grades by the time I got to college, but I won't.

I would like to point out that Harvey Mudd is most definitely *not* a slack-off college. They have an impressive curriculum, and by *god* you're going to have immersed yourself well into it before they let you out. Getting through really is an accomplishment.


[ Parent ]

balancing out the scales (3.00 / 5) (#46)
by zzzeek on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 02:40:55 PM EST

with these kinds of unfair advantages to college admissions being given to wealthy kids, suddenly the concept of "affirmative action" programs seems much more justified to me.

A very interesting point (4.66 / 3) (#58)
by IHCOYC on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 05:27:51 PM EST

As was pointed out below by Apuleius, these essays were invented to give a fudge factor to college admissions. The object is to make a subjective element in the admissions process that will blunt the cutting edge of test score, GPA, and other point-value algorithms. With a randomfactor in place, admissions officers can have their (diversity || quotas) without paying for it in lawyer fees.

I doubt that much more profundity is asked for on these essays on Leadership and similar tripe than you'd expect from the speeches given by Miss America aspirants. If it can be taught by some sort of cramming mill, I'm sure it isn't.

Heus, nunc, mihi cantate hanc æruginem.
[ Parent ]

Just fucks it up more. (4.25 / 4) (#68)
by evilpenguin on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 07:02:58 PM EST

Affirmative action only helps you if you are a "minority", not "poor".  If anything this just fucks up the entire situation more because people get admitted based on their skin colour and not academic merit.
# nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty
[ Parent ]
I forget who said it, but. . . (4.00 / 4) (#49)
by IHCOYC on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 03:13:57 PM EST

A quote I remember from somewhere: "We need another Great War to kill off the overachievers."

Someone thinking of the generation of upper class, boarding-school educated, poetry-writing lads who cheerfully marched off to die in the trenches of World War I, no doubt. I remember reading this other article in the Atlantic Monthly by David Brooks, about student would-be Masters of the Universe and the complacent credentialism that fills their harried and shallow lives. Quite obviously, U.S. society has become too competitive. There is a downside to meritocracy, and this sort of thing is part of it.

I remember coming across that other article again, shortly after Sept. 11. These are the things that fuel my perverse hunger for apocalypse.

Heus, nunc, mihi cantate hanc æruginem.

I would say ... (4.00 / 1) (#77)
by pyramid termite on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 12:38:50 AM EST

... these students need a good kick in the ass to shake them out of their complacency. The odds are that many of them will receive it; times will get tough, wars might happen, personal lives may go to hell. Some may remain complacent, others will realize that there is a meaning to life other than what the leading segment of society has defined it. Others won't get that good kick in the ass until much later in life and won't feel like doing anything then.

What really worries me is the kids on the other side of the tracks have nothing in common with them. Are these future elite going to be capable of understanding why others are so different?

"I forget, in a certain way, everything I write, doubtless also, in another way, what I read." - Jacques Derrida
[ Parent ]
Its this damn stigma of... (4.00 / 2) (#53)
by TunkeyMicket on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 04:04:59 PM EST

...'everyone needs to go to college to succeed in the world' that drives people to invest in a program such as this. I'm in college, no thanks to any advisors or anything. I just picked up applications, filled them out, mailed them off, and got accepted. If you get good grades, have good work ethic, and are actually an appealing student, then you should go to the better colleges. If not then you should not go. I got accepted to Cal-Tech, did I want to go? Hellll no, talk about a boring college life. Did my parents want me to go? Yes, but they weren't about to choose my college for me.

If parents would give kids slack in choosing what to do with themselves, then we'd see less kids in colleges where they don't belong.
Chris "TunkeyMicket" Watford
How is UIUC (3.00 / 1) (#63)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 06:20:52 PM EST

Mostly in the "student life" and "not being bored off your ass" capacity. When I think about what college I want to go to, the main Pro for UIUC is that it is a top rated school for computers. The main Con is "Illinois".

"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

I'll tell you the answer... (3.00 / 1) (#121)
by peanutbadr on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 11:51:36 PM EST

...in a couple weeks. (I'm an incoming freshman) :D
[ Parent ]
Individuality lies in body (2.00 / 2) (#57)
by Rhodes on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 05:12:39 PM EST

Which includes your head- now identity is composed almost exclusively of memory- if one remembers only commercial objects, ones identity has been consumed.

Implicit in your discussion is that personality is static. It can be changed, perhaps more slowly than behavior, but it can be changed.

What is personality, anyway- even the supreme court would have trouble "I know it when I see it".

Confidence... (2.50 / 2) (#61)
by doormat on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 06:04:48 PM EST

After their consultant is through them them, clients "are able to present a cohesive and confident image of themselves" to admissions offices

I need a consultant to do this now? I thought being cohesive and confident was something you were supposed to be.

I suggest we Learn to love ourselves before it's made illegal


Fill me in somebody (2.50 / 4) (#64)
by fhotg on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 06:24:16 PM EST

I don't get it. What are these schools good for, why would you want to go there anyways ? From where I am sitting it looks like having a diploma from there guarantees a high paid job without actually being good at something. You get there because your parents are rich or important or both. So it's just a self-recruitment facility for the 'elite'. Except those token guys from a less influential background who go to great lengths to get to that school so they too get a high paid job without being good at anything.

If, for example, you were highly intelligent and talented and wanted to do good research, would you want to go to such a place, where your surroundings consist mainly of boring rich kids who are not interested in research (because research isn't well paid) ?
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

Don't fall prey to stereotypes (4.50 / 2) (#83)
by Josh A on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 03:37:45 AM EST

Okay, I can only speak for one school, and it's not exactly at the top of the Ivy League, but most of the students I met at Cornell weren't rich--in fact, many had money problems. Financial aid plays a big role here.

As for why you'd want to go to an Ivy League, it's simple: they're good. Okay, maybe not as good as MIT or Cooper or U of Chicago, but pretty damned good. Anecdotal example: second year Comp Sci students at Cornell cover material that my friends in the California State University system didn't get to until their fourth year.

Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney

[ Parent ]
Cornell... (5.00 / 2) (#88)
by Rocky on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 11:32:32 AM EST

..actually has one of the best CS departments in the country, especially at the graduate level.

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
[ Parent ]
Difficult Admissions Process? (2.25 / 4) (#71)
by valar on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:46:58 PM EST

I don't know what people are talking about with difficult admissions processes. I'm applying right now to some pretty competitive schools (MIT, Berzerkly, Cornell, Yale) and the application is no more difficult than the one for my current high school was. Hell, I'd say I went through 3 times as much trouble to get into LSMSA. If you can fill out your name, address and social SN, you are halfway there practically.

Halfway there? (4.00 / 1) (#96)
by Souhait on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 02:40:44 PM EST

Good luck to you...  I don't think anyone is halfway in to MIT no matter what their scores or life experiences are.  I was rejected despite having scores well beyond anything they require.  I was involved in high school and took the hardest courses my school offered, and graduated 7th in a class of 600.  I'vw talked to a guy who has done some research and given lectures up at the University of Texas at Austin as a high school student - definite genius - and he was rejected by MIT.  :::shrug::: the other schools on your list are probably a bit easier to get into, but don't count on MIT being an easy acceptance.

[ Parent ]
Ok. (4.00 / 1) (#105)
by valar on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 06:08:33 PM EST

I didn't mean to disturb the bee in your bonet. But that said, all my senior (last year) friends got into MIT (the ones that applied that is). *shrug*

[ Parent ]
thank god (4.33 / 3) (#72)
by blisspix on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 10:03:33 PM EST

i live in australia.

admission is by test scores, and interviews are only required for medical students. i don't think i could manage an essay going on about how 'great i am and how much i've achieved but wait! i'm only 16!'

do yourself a favour. move here.

go to UWA or University of Sydney. Save yourself a hassle, and get an overseas experience at the same time. We're cheaper, too.

I also agree with another poster who said getting into their high school was harder. Interviews! applications! essays from my parents! sheesh!

Ahhh if I could only find a company over there (3.00 / 1) (#76)
by Bwah on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:36:01 PM EST

that was hiring embedded software people. :-(

To redesign an infinite ensemble of universes: what terrible responsibility, what arrogance ... It sounds just like the type of thing your average Homo sap would do for a dare. -- Stephen Baxter
[ Parent ]

Elite admissions processes ... (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by waverleo on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 02:10:53 PM EST

... are inherently flawed. Universities would do much better to over-accept and then flunk out the ones that do badly, as oppose to hoping that someone can accurately represent themselves by mentioning their parents professions, and telling the admissions officer how good their private-school marks were. Sure it means being surrounded by morons first-year, but as you stream to the more challenging courses they gradually drop out.


[ Parent ]

The problem with this idea... (none / 0) (#97)
by haflinger on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 03:04:19 PM EST

Now, it's a good one, and I agree with it.

The problem is financial. University tuition is simply too high; people who flunked out after a year might find themselves bankrupted by the experience.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

bad idea (4.00 / 1) (#102)
by adamba on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 05:45:57 PM EST

First of all I will assume you are not serious when you think Ivy admissions are based on what your parents do, or that all Ivy students went to private school.

But second of all, you are missing one of the main thing that these schools aim to offer to students, which is the quality of the other students.

Plus they have limited size based on the size of the campus. Any school will tell you that there are easily twice as many kids who could do the actual work; but they want to limit the size of the school. They have the luxury of picking the best of the best because they get 8 times as many applicants as they have spots available. So just saying "the dumb ones will drop out" won't work. There won't be any dumb ones.

- adam

[ Parent ]

I studied at Sydney. (5.00 / 1) (#123)
by Jacques Chester on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 03:52:37 AM EST

And it wasn't really that amazing. Basically it was a north-shore University, trendy lefties with wealthy parents, the whole deal. As a university they loved their Law School and Medical School, and everything else be sodded. The CS dep't was in particular underfunded and little-loved.

And as for foreign students studying in Australia, no, it's not that much cheaper. You're away from home, you have to deal with immigrations, live with rules about when and where you can work, and finally, your education is full-fee anyhow. Australian students get subsidised, in part, by the fees that foreign students pay.

I do second the recommendation to move to Australia, though. As a country it isn't perfect, but I am told that Sydney is the yankee idea of the perfect city. This seems a bit odd to me, I find Darwin to be a great place to live. We have a Uni here, too, a little small mayhaps. But I can tell you that we have better law students than Sydney's - I've studied alongside both, so I guess I should know.

Remember: choose the nation on the lifestyle that suits you, and laws you can tolerate. Choose the university according to the subjects in which it is strong. For example, if you wanted to do Comp. Sci. in Australia, I would direct you to the University of Queensland, or to the University of New South Wales, both of which have very strong CS programs. Macquarie is also good in CS research. If you wanted to learn to be a leftie, I would instead direct you to the Sociology departments at the University of Sydney, and also U. Melbourne. If you were a foreign-affairs fiend, I'd say "Go to the Australian National University", and so on. And so forth.

Horses for Courses. If these people can help you identify the university that suits your interests, then good on 'em. Would've saved me a lot of money and heartache.

Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
[ Parent ]

you're right (none / 0) (#127)
by blisspix on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 10:15:43 PM EST

every school has it's strengths and weaknesses. The "Group of Eight" (Sydney, UWA, UNSW, etc) are generally based on the Oxford/Sandstone model (except UNSW, which used to be a TAFE college). They generally have eight schools, and their specialties are always in Science, Medicine, Law and Arts.

This of course, makes them terrible for people wanting to study commerce or IT.

Australia's problem is that few people are willing to move around the country in order to go to a school with a strength in their field, unlike in the US. Thus, every university has had to become quite average at doing everything. Since every state has a sandstone and a redbrick/University of Technology, it's not so much a problem but it's far from ideal.

I did Arts at UWA and it was everything it should be. Lazy afternoons on the lawn in the sun, philosophical debates about Russia with hippies, easy exams. I then went to Curtin to study Librarianship and it was the most demanding course I'd ever done.

[ Parent ]

I never saw it that way. (none / 0) (#128)
by Jacques Chester on Mon Aug 19, 2002 at 03:38:44 AM EST

The NTU's prestige is quite low, so a lot of the "high-flyers", myself included, decide to go interstate to study. As such we have no qualms in shopping around for the University that has the course we want to study.

That said, the NTU is better than nothing. It's certainly competitive on key areas, law being one of them. And it has the best mix of students that I have seen on any campus. This is a reflection of Darwin, but also a reflection that the mix of people inside is a lot like the mix outside. It's really very cool to be studying law alongside old journos, people on to their third career, as well as people my own age.

Well now. We seem to be temporarily out of sigs here at the sig factory. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.
[ Parent ]

It's funny (4.25 / 4) (#78)
by auraslip on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 01:11:31 AM EST

I just finished reading a book called "On writing the college application essay". It was a very good book, and a fairly short one. I enjoyed it mostly becuase the author(bauld) is a very decent writer, and not really because of the information I took away from it. It's a good book for just creative writing in general.

Here some tips he had:

College essay reviewers are usally very bored. They usally read essays at a rate of one every 2 minutes. Be intresting.

Most everything a highschooler has to say is trite. He then list the most typical type of essays; The jock "as I crossed the finish line..", The lover "the things a I'm for are bunnys, cookies, and world peace", Heartbreak "As I watched fluffys life ebb away I came to value....", the autobio "I am an A student, I am in band"

I guess the point here is be intresting.

Ingenius marketing perhaps (4.00 / 4) (#79)
by X3nocide on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 01:16:33 AM EST

Slightly offtopic, but I remember one piece of collegiate mail that stood out from the pack. I was a senior in the class of 2000 at the time. It was a simple post card style mailing with the URL and contact information on one side, and the most inflammitory eye catcher. Apparently the school wasn't set up open doors until 2001. It read along the lines of "We don't want you, we want you to give this card to the irritating junior who does better at you in everything." Now I had a pretty busy schedule at the time, and I was taking all the advanced classes I could. Most of my life I had been the irritating junior(or whatever young age), although there were a few in a new AP Chemistry offering (I had elected to take physics first, they hadn't).

Back then I was slightly pissed off, but now that I think about it, it was fairly ingenius, should you assume they didn't really know the smart from the really smart from the really dumb. If I followed their advice, they just got mail to a desireable student's eye. If I was the annoying junior then I'd be curious, or perhaps curious if I was a senior. And if I threw it away, its pretty light compared to those other school's Encyclopedia Academica Lificus. And now you know I didn't study Latin.


Skip the Ivies (5.00 / 4) (#94)
by psicE on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 02:26:26 PM EST

Why bother applying to the Ivy League schools in the first place, whatever your academic ability, when there's such a wide range of alternative, and better, schools?

Anyone who was thinking about taking one of these courses, instead think about applying to MIT, Reed College, Berkeley, U Washington, Toronto, UBC, McGill. Or you could apply to the London School of Economics, Warwick (UK), or other British schools, where you'll stand out from the crowd if for no other reason than you're American; or if you speak the languages, the Sorbonne, Utrecht (NL), Berlin... the list goes on.

There is nothing special about Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, UPenn, Dartmouth, Princeton, or Harvard that make them automatically the best choice; in fact, their prestige often makes them among the worst choices. There are so many good schools, some more well-known than others, that don't carry the same baggage as those eight... open your mind.

<twitch>U of T</twitch> (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by haflinger on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 03:14:07 PM EST

Okay, I agree in general with the post.

Please don't go to the University of Toronto, unless they really have some specific program that you need, that you can't find anywhere else in the world. It's a grim, obnoxious environment, not suitable for anyone.

They are the most prestigious school in Canada, sure. However: "There are so many good schools, some more well-known than others, that don't carry the same baggage as those eight... open your mind." U of T carries the same baggage. It's the Canadian answer to the Ivy League.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

York (4.00 / 1) (#100)
by psicE on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 04:03:11 PM EST

The University of York, then. I was just saying Toronto because, chances are, most people reading my post will at least have guessed that Toronto has a pretty good university if they didn't know about it anyway, and they'd probably know about McGill and UBC too, but I doubt they'd know too much about other Canadian universities. Nor do I, for that matter; I know what most of them are, but not what they're any good in.

[ Parent ]
Well, York University. (none / 0) (#101)
by haflinger on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 04:39:05 PM EST

If you want to do computing science in Canada, BTW, I think the best program is still Waterloo.

Now maybe this is a story topic: What Schools Are Good For What Subjects? Hmmmm.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

C# at Waterloo (4.00 / 1) (#115)
by DodgyGeezer on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:21:53 PM EST

But of course if you read that story on /. the other day, you will know that C# is now a mandatory subject.  Grrr.

[ Parent ]
Well, it's better than Pascal. (none / 0) (#117)
by haflinger on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 02:25:15 PM EST

I did my CS back in the '80s though. Dear god.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]
What's wrong with Pascal? (4.00 / 1) (#118)
by DodgyGeezer on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 02:43:47 PM EST

My first year of university they were still teaching structured programming.  They used Modula-2 for this.  A bit stricter and simpler than Pascal, I think.  In my second year on exchange to Canada, I learnt OO, taught in SmallTalk and Scheme (!).  

The argument back when I was learning to programme was that Pascal shouldn't be used as it wasn't an industry standard.  It was argued we should be taught C instead.  Well, I disagree: due to the very fact that it wasn't an industry standard made it more suitable for teaching!  

CS degrees should be teaching transferrable skills and deeper understandings, not vocational subjects.  Once one understands the concepts, picking up a language such as an industry standard one is much easier and rather irrelevant.  I think the languages taught for CS should most importantly be simple so one can concentrate on the concepts rather than issues in the language and development environment - the year after I left, the university I attended started teaching OO in C++ to their first years, which I think was wholly inappropriate.

[ Parent ]

Pascal lacks necessary structures. (none / 0) (#119)
by haflinger on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 02:47:55 PM EST

Setting up any data structures more advanced than simple DLLs and arrays are very difficult in it.

Modula-2 is a much better choice.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Pascal is good for ppl who hate OOP (4.00 / 1) (#120)
by RyoCokey on Sat Aug 17, 2002 at 10:31:19 PM EST

...including myself. Bleck, of all the stupid ideas to hit CS, I think OOP has to take the cake.

Secondarily, debating computer languages is very similiar to debating religion. Everyone has a preference, and your chances of changing someone's mind hover around 1*10^-19 %.

Human's cannot be trusted to protect nature! We need stonger laws to protect all animals. - Leonardo Calcagno, Monteal, P.Quebec, Canada
[ Parent ]
OOP isn't religion (4.00 / 1) (#122)
by DodgyGeezer on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 12:53:52 AM EST

You can treat your programming languages like religion if you like... so long as you don't mind being like today's Cobol programmers and doing maintenance for the last 30+ years of your career! ;)

[ Parent ]
You used that... word. (none / 0) (#124)
by haflinger on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 09:09:40 AM EST

COBOL must die.

That said, people who are willing to code in it have job security. There's still so much code written in it, and nobody wants to touch it.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

I can treat it that way because (none / 0) (#125)
by RyoCokey on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 07:57:55 PM EST

I'm a petroleum engineer, not a computer science... thingy. I prefer my absurd contructs to be dictated by science and physical laws, not someone who thought anthromorphizing data structures would be "cool."

Programming is a lot more fun as a hobby anyway, IMHO.

Human's cannot be trusted to protect nature! We need stonger laws to protect all animals. - Leonardo Calcagno, Monteal, P.Quebec, Canada
[ Parent ]
york? (4.00 / 1) (#104)
by klamath on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 06:01:55 PM EST

York's pretty crappy -- it's up there was Brock / Lakehead / Nippissing as far as I'm concerned.

U of T is a really good school, although I agree with the earlier post that said the atmosphere can be a bit unfriendly. But as far as the quality of the education in CS, I've heard it's good, if a bit heavy on the theory side.

Another good Canadian university is Queen's.

[ Parent ]

Canadian vs. American universities (4.00 / 1) (#106)
by adamba on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 06:09:27 PM EST

You remind me of an interesting point, which is the difference between Canadian and American universities. Canadian universities seem more focussed on job training: if you want to be an accountant you go get an accounting degree, if you want to be a programmer you go get a CS degree, and so on. Some American universities are also like this, but there is also this group of "liberal arts" colleges, plus universities like the Ivies and Stanford, which try to do something more, and promote learning for the sake of learning. Now you could argue that either is better, but it is a difference.

I think one of the reasons behind this is that there are very few truly private universities in Canada: schools like McGill and Waterloo are heavily funded by the government and would be considered state (or federal if there was such a thing) schools in the U.S. So maybe the government feels it wants more bang for the buck. Meanwhile if some kid wants to go to Bennington and pay $35K a year to study sociology, it's no skin off anybody else's nose.

- adam

[ Parent ]

There are no private universities in Canada. (none / 0) (#107)
by haflinger on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 06:25:17 PM EST

All post-secondary schools in Canada receive funding directly from their provincial governments. Most of this funding comes indirectly via the federal government (the feds send the provinces money, which the provinces the divvy up among their universities).

However. I think you're talking about Ontario universities. There are small liberal arts schools scattered around Canada; AFAIK, they're all outside Ontario. However, I got my B.A. at a small liberal arts university in Halifax; Nova Scotia is teeming with them.

Did people from the future send George Carlin back in time to save rusty and K5? - leviramsey
[ Parent ]

Don't knock sociology (4.00 / 1) (#110)
by gonerill on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:00:46 AM EST

My Ph.D is in sociology. We could do with having a few more of them around, believe me. Mind you, if you want to grow up to be a sociologist, you're almost better off learning as much as you can in subjects like History, Politics, Philosophy and Economics as an undergrad.

[ Parent ]
had to pick *some* major!! (4.00 / 1) (#111)
by adamba on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 01:21:15 AM EST

I knew whatever I picked someone would pipe up. So let me be clear: I strongly support education for education's sake, and think the Canadian view is too narrow. I don't think university should be just job training. And I think it's great if someone majors in sociology because they are interested in it.

- adam

[ Parent ]

What is the Ivy league anyway? (4.00 / 1) (#114)
by panum on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 04:11:11 PM EST

As an European, I am totally clueless when it comes to "ivy school" or "ivy league". My brief Googlings privided tons of links to football scoreboards and such. Could someone enlight me a bit?


-- I hate people who quote .sigs
[ Parent ]
The Ivies (5.00 / 1) (#116)
by adamba on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 10:07:36 PM EST

It's a group of eight universities (the eight listed above, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Brown, Cornell). It's a sports league, in that the intercollegiate teams generally play in the "Ivy League" sports league (but not always). The schools also agree on other things, such as not allowing athletic scholarships. And they are considered some of the most prestigious schools in the country. The relative prestige is up for debate, but I think the general consensus is close to the order in which I listed them, with a slight gap between the first three and the next five.

- adam

[ Parent ]

is grad school any different? (4.00 / 2) (#99)
by klamath on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 03:21:39 PM EST

Related question: I'm just about to begin attending a pretty good university in Canada, but I'm already planning to do a Master's (in CS) after I'm finished my B.Sc. At the moment, I'd love to get into MIT, CMU, or Stanford. With that in mind:
  • Are admissions to graduate programs (say, a Master's of CS or a PhD in CS) based more heavily in academics than the admissions for undergraduate programs?
  • Is the admissions process for "technical" schools (such as MIT, CMU, or Stanford) any more merit-based than the typical Ivy-leage admissions process?
  • Oh, and if anyone has any tips on how to make it into the schools I'm hoping for, I'd love to hear them.

grad school (5.00 / 1) (#103)
by adamba on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 06:01:48 PM EST

OK, another crack about the Ivies...do you think admission is not based on academics or merit? What the heck is it based on?

Anyway, assuming you are more intelligent than that comment makes you seem and you actually have a chance to get into grad school...admission certainly is different because for one thing, it is completely by department, not for the whole school. Also, because there are far fewer universities than high schools, and it is much easier to judge the quality of the professors (somebody knows someone who went to the same school, or did a paper with them, or whatever), faculty recommendations are a huge part of grad school admissions. The theory is that a high school teacher has an incentive to hype a student (particularly if they are at a fancy private high school that advertises what universities its graduates get in to), but a college professor has to worry about his/her reputation if he/she makes bad recommendations. Plus it is one college professor to another.

(In fact there are some foreign universities that get reputations for over-hyping their students, but eventually word gets around about that).

Anyway the only tip I could think of would be if there was a professor you knew who had gone to one of the schools, or knew someone who taught there in the subject you were interested in, then do independent work with that professor so he/she gets to know you well and can give a good recommendation.

- adam

[ Parent ]

why elite schools are stupid (2.00 / 1) (#108)
by turmeric on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 08:22:37 PM EST

this is a prime example of what is meant by 'elite'. it doesnt mean 'good' it means 'full of people who are fronting and posing'. that is why in general life, people who graduate from elite schools typically have emotional problems and are annoying to work with

Oh? (4.00 / 1) (#112)
by Rocky on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 09:29:41 AM EST

So when did you graduate from Yale?

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
[ Parent ]
What? (3.75 / 4) (#109)
by psychophil on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 10:35:46 PM EST

I thought all you had to do to get into a school like Princeton was to have a party at your house (while your parents where away on vacation of course) and have the admission guy hang out with about 15-20 hookers. Whats all this "Admissions Strategists" crap?

Purchasing the Right Personality for College | 128 comments (117 topical, 11 editorial, 1 hidden)
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