Better way to admit applicants to elite colleges

Some of the most selective colleges have become somewhat less selective this year in the percentage of those who were admitted (“Acceptance Rates at Harvard, Other Ivy League Schools Edge Up,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 28).  The change will no doubt be applauded by reformers who want to diversify the student bodies at these schools.

But rather than agonizing over whose credentials are more impressive and therefore deserve admission, I propose that the fairest solution is application of the principle of the flat maximum.  It holds that the qualifications of people bunched at the very top of the curve are all good enough to succeed at elite schools.  Hair splitting is a fool’s errand.

If adopted, a lottery would be used to determine those among this elite group who are admitted.  That would eliminate countless hours of trying to distinguish among applicants.  I submit that such a policy would also result in virtually no lawsuits because a lottery plays no favorites.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

4 Replies to “Better way to admit applicants to elite colleges”

  1. But this would tick off almost everyone — the alumni who love to win football games, the alumni who want to see their kids/grandkids go to their college, the big-$ donors who expect to have purchased their kids’ admission, the administrators at the prep schools that are long-time feeder schools to the Ivies, the Hispanic activists, the black activists, the poverty activists, and even the faculty crowd whose perceived self-worth rests heavily on the validity of the fine distinctions between the academic elite.

    But seriously — going to a lottery would shift the fight from the admissions-decision level to the lottery-admissions level. Still have to decide what, if any, weight to give to each arguably valuable aspect of an application.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: The present system infuriates everyone and as a result lawsuits follow when seemingly better qualified applicants are rejected. A lottery among those at the top of the curve is much fairer. Of course, it is not perfect, but what is?

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  3. I’d interpret civil rights law and the Equal Protection clause as prohibiting affirmative action based on race or ethnicity. That would stop most of the lawsuits.

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