Another Admissions Wrinkle

Advocates for MSMS have long described it as the most diverse city block in Mississippi. However, a lawsuit against Harvard University, brought by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, challenges the assumption that diversity enriches an educational experience. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that Harvard has violated their rights by using a quota system for admissions. Oral arguments ended last week, and observers expect the Supreme Court, which has taken a turn to the right with the appointments of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, to reshape the ways that schools can use race and identity in the admissions process.

What I’ve learned about admissions suggests that it is more an art than a science. Should a well-rounded student–a nice person with a letter of recommendation from both research mentor and the school’s custodian–be selected over somebody with higher standardized test scores and grades? How should we measure an 18-year-old’s preparedness for college? It all depends on the college, and on the way it wants to be perceived. 

However, “it all depends” doesn’t exactly satisfy plaintiffs in cases like these. They want a standards and formulas; they want certainty. This strikes me as somewhat ironic, as there are few things less certain than the directions in which a college freshman’s life will go. Perhaps the larger issue posed by this lawsuit involves how it will result in broader changes to affirmative action.

This entry was posted in Education, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Another Admissions Wrinkle

  1. alexandra magee says:

    Generally, I think well-rounded students are chosen over students with good grades because colleges and universities do not only want a smart student but they want a promising person who will make the school a better place and bring new money making prospects. With that being said, there is not an even distribution of races in this country, therefore, if potential students view a prominent university to only see one race or social status of individuals – in the dorms, in the cafeteria, playing the fields – those future leaders will go elsewhere because they will not feel as welcome. Diversity leads to an array of ideas from different points of view. In a perfect world, neither college nor job applications would not request the knowledge of sex or race because culture and gender bias is nonexistent. Unfortunately, this is today’s society. Affirmative action may present the idea that a person is accepted because of race, but it is designed to give everyone a chance.

  2. Emily Penton says:

    An admissions process will never be certain. Each year the university is looking for something different than the year before, take the college of veterinary medicine at MSU. Every year they may take more out of state students than the year before. They might look for more leadership skills than test scores another. These students will never get the certainty that they want because the university is never certain what they want.

  3. Ethan Xavier Lucas-Cooper says:

    The system of admissions for educational institutions should not be based on whether the student’s previous ‘verifications’ are are valid to the director of admissions or not. I think that the admission process should be standardized to a certain point. My opinion is that there should be a nationalized set of requirements for admission, then each of the institutions should enact their own special, requirements, unique to the institution.

  4. Taylor says:

    I do think it is important to display relatively high test scores because this shows that many students are dedicated to education and attempt at these standardized test. However, it should not be the only factor that contributes to the selection process because some students are merely bad test takers, but this does not necessarily mean that they do not possess the intelligence to be successful at a university such as Harvard. As for race and identity, it does not make sense to choose any one person because they are a certain race. If there is both a white student and an asian student with extremely similar resumes and qualities, one isn’t necessarily more eligible than the other, for both can bring similar amounts of success to the school. I think that universities are so caught up in labeling themselves as a “diverse” school with all types of different races and ethnicities that they sometimes lose sight of who the best candidate is. While this trait is not favorable for many students, it’s how many universities work, and it’s very unlikely that they will alter their selection process in the near future.

  5. Linda Arnoldus says:

    The subject of Harvard’s quotas is one that is very relevant in my life. The Asian Community is particularly angry because it’s hard enough as it is to get into college without quotas. However, I am a personal believer that diversity is something to be sought after. Ethnically ambiguous or mixed race people are stronger and healthier genetically, and I believe the same is true for college campuses. Having a campus where everyone is from the same background doesn’t teach you much, and doesn’t introduce you to new ideas. Diversity educates, and not just in a school setting- people need to be exposed to other types of people.

  6. Om Chimma says:

    By any means, a student shouldn’t be judged just based off of grades alone. A well-rounded student that is a productive citizen should always be considered just as an extremely intelligent, overachieving, and sharp student.

  7. Erin says:

    I don’t think there is a good way to determine how well an 18-year-old will do in college. Some 18-year-olds aren’t great at standardized tests but are really hard workers. Other 18-year-olds have 4.3 GPA’s and high standardized test scores and do not work hard and/or cheat on school assignments. I feel like students should be well-rounded people to be of any good to a school. I don’t think college admissions people can really tell how well rounded a person is until they meet and sit down to talk to the person. Also, letters of recommendation are good things and bad things to use in applications because most recommenders know the student well. Because of the student knowing and/or being close with their recommender, they recommender could bend the truth to put in a good word for a student.

  8. KT says:

    At places like Harvard, those who apply are typically very good students, and they either deserve to get in or simply believe that they do. I don’t think that race should really be a determining factor on if a student gets into a college or not, I believe that it should be solely based on their ability to preform both academically and socially. Both of these things matter a great deal in stressful schools that keep its residents close together (kind of sounds familiar). Diversity means little if attendees are under-qualified. Diversity can be good if everyone is over-qualified, such as in Harvard. It brings people together and builds a community.

  9. X says:

    Standardized test scores and letters of recommendation should be considered equally in a student’s ability to do well at a college. Standardized test scores show how well you are prepared for college, along with grades and a transcript. The courses and the grades in the courses reflect whether or not, to colleges, a student can survive there. The letters of recommendation show the student’s character in class and out of class. It’s the impression the teachers get from the student, so the admission committee can see the student in a different light. I think that colleges should hide a student’s race from the selection committee, and when they make the decision of whether or not a specific student belongs on their campus, they can then reveal the race. This eliminates any racial bias during the consideration of the applicant.
    There is no real way to measure a student’s preparedness for college. One suggestion could be that the college provides an entrance exam, and the student could take it. The results could reflect whether or not the student would be able to survive in their classes. Interviews, letters of recommendation, essays, and grades in class are pretty reflective of a student’s character. However, a student’s college readiness should also consider his or her ability to live in a residential environment, ability to budget expenses, and ability to balance grades and a job. College is not like high school where parents would help the students through everything. Students at MSMS already have an advantage because they have experienced the dorm life and living away from parents. But overall, a student’s preparedness for college can be measured through the ways suggested above, on top of the current evaluations.

    • G says:

      I agree with you on that race/thenicity should be hidden from the selection committee as to not cause any bias the committee may have for or against any race. This should not be a factor that defines how well they can perform at a college and how prepared they are for it.

  10. Cameron Thomas says:

    Of course it is important to have high standardized test scores and a high GPA to get into colleges like Harvard. However, college life is nothing like high school(unless you’re at a school like MSMS). They want to make sure that you can handle college; they do this by using the essays and recommendation letters to see how well-rounded you are. Affirmative action does have its flaws, but it is there for a reason. For example, the school that I came from did not have a math higher than Algebra II or any ACT prep classes, so are they implying that I am supposed to go to community college like everyone else from home just because of circumstances that I can’t control and regardless of how intelligent I actually am? They are looking for equality, which is everyone having an equal chance of getting accepted, but that is assuming that everyone started in the same place and had availability to the same resources. Whether we acknowledge it or not, everyone does not. It should be about equity, which is giving everyone what they personally need to be successful. Affirmative action is not the best way, but it’s the necessary way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *