When brilliant isn’t good enough

Today’s Harvard applicant has stronger credentials than the Harvard alum who’s doing the interviewing, writes Michael Winerip. An alumni Harvard interviewer, he’s done 40 interviews of local applicants over the last 10 years. Only one student was accepted.

Knowing me and seeing them is like witnessing some major evolutionary change take place in just 35 years, from the Neanderthal Harvard applicant of 1970 to today’s fully evolved Homo sapiens applicant.

There was the girl who, during summer vacation, left her house before 7 each morning to make a two-hour train ride to a major university, where she worked all day doing cutting-edge research for NASA on weightlessness in mice.

When I was in high school, my 10th-grade science project was on plant tropism — a shoebox with soil and bean sprouts bending toward the light.

Winerip’s own children aren’t Harvard material. His most academic offspring earned Dad’s old SAT scores, which aren’t good enough any more.

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  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    Doesn’t this contradict what Kevin Carey was saying in the American Prospect entry referenced a few blog entries ago?

  2. I pray that Harvard students learn how to slack off while they are there. I would hate to think that our country is going to be run by a bunch of overachievers who don’t know how to relax.

  3. the hardest part of Harvard is getting in. Many of them drink their way through school. classes are A- centered. you don’t need to worry.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I understand some orchestras use blanket auditions – the prospect plays from behind a screen so only the music is evaluated. My concern with interviews is that the country will be lead by folk who blow smoke well.

  5. Thank god for that Greifer. From what I have been reading lately its so kids at MIT that need the relaxation anyway. Of course they are all going to be engineers anyway, so I suppose it doesn’t matter.


  6. Winerip makes a solid case for education outside of the Ivy League. Even though he went to Harvard, he seems to think his kids will be just fine with a state school education, as long as they’re happy.

    We couldn’t agree more.

  7. GradSchoolMom says:

    What a beautiful article from a highly educated parent who has learned to let go. I love his mentally healthy view of his own children and his compassion for those students and parents who believe differently. His children have the received a great gift and I hope they are all blessed by it. Too many parents are trying to control their children’s future and I believe their children will someday pay the price. Many of these students who are applying to Ivy League schools and have been working on their “resume” since middle school believe that life will be on easy street if they can achieve their goals. Unfortunately, once they graduate with their loans and their PHD, many are not finding employment that can put a dent into their debt, let alone afford a house. The boomer generation that was dangling good-living in front of them throughout their school years, now feels threatened by the emerging workforce and refuses to share. I fear the level of success that is sought after is going to be a broken dream for many of these highly-stressed, close-to-burnout-by-25 kids.