Success in numbers

It takes a “posse” to create a college graduate: By sending disadvantaged students to college ing groups of 10, the Posse Foundation has boosted success rates, reports the New York Times.

Posse chooses students with leadership, problem-solving and teamwork skills through a very competitive process.  A group of 10 meets during their senior and through the summer, then goes to the same elite college.

Posse Scholars’ combined median reading and math SAT score is only 1050, while the median combined score at the colleges Posse students attend varies from 1210 to 1475. Nevertheless, they succeed. Ninety percent of Posse Scholars graduate — half of them on the dean’s list and a quarter with academic honors. A survey of 20 years of alumni found that nearly 80 percent of the respondents said they had founded or led groups or clubs. There are only 40 Posse Scholars among Bryn Mawr’s 1,300 students, but a Posse student has won the school’s best all-around student award three times in the past seven years.

This is not about the SATs’ predictive power, as the Times seems to think. It shows that college students do a lot better if they have friends who support their academic goals and no financial worries.

DePauw was so impressed by the Posse Scholars’ success that the college now assigns all first-year students to small groups.  They meet regularly with an upper-class student as mentor “to talk about topics like time management, high-risk drinking and preparing for midterms.”


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  1. From what I’ve read, Dean’s List and honors are pretty much the norm in elite colleges. The mindset seems to be that anyone smart enough to get in should have both; the gentlemen’s C seems to have disappeared.
    Also, were these kids in competitive majors? As for best all-around student, I’m sure PC factors entered into the selection. I think it’s likely just another form of AA for preferred minorities. I’m not in favor of admitting kids that far out of the norm for the school. By definition, they are taking slots from applicants with stronger academic records; the classic mis-match situation.

  2. Lightly Seasoned says:

    I think the group is important, but so is the selection criteria — these kids are chosen for their work ethic and leadership skills. I know plenty of kids who aced the SAT but never made it past freshman year because they are lazy. Sounds to me like the colleges are getting exactly the right students. I doubt very much they’ll end up as barristas.

  3. Mark Roulo says:

    There are only 40 Posse Scholars among Bryn Mawr’s 1,300 students, but a Posse student has won the school’s best all-around student award three times in the past seven years.

    Googling doesn’t turn up much on this award (like, how it is determined who wins it).

    I can find this page:

    But no “best all-around student” award. The closest is the “Charles S. Hinchman Memorial Scholarship.”

    Does anyone have any idea where to find more details on this award? They Bryn Mawr web site is pretty mum about it (my google searching included this: site: best all around student award).

  4. Mark Johnson-Lewis says:

    This was said before, but echoing, it’s not just the groupings. It’s the selection process, and the massive amount of ongoing support, both social and financial. Keep in mind that the host colleges cover tuition. Which at the schools involved is not small change.

    It’s no big surprise why it works. You identify high-potential kids, put them into highly-structured group-building activities, send them to the most elite, private, colleges (where the posse students are publicly welcomed with open arms – often not the case for “regular” students of color), stay on top of them through their four years with ongoing activities and big-time support.

    But again, it’s not just about the “posse” it’s all the other stuff too.

  5. I have no problem with the idea of admitting students in like-groups and working with them to build a postive-support system. My problem is with limiting it to the preferred URMs (there really are disadvantaged white and Asian kids) and with placing them in colleges where their credentials do not match. Let any disadvantaged in and put them in a college where their scores are within 1 SD of the mean for their class, OK.

  6. PS: I’d also disallow majors in aggrieved-victim studies or any of the soft, politicized fields, which means most of the BAs. We already have too many of those grads, and too many are working in HS-grad jobs, if they have jobs at all. (yes, I know that many URMs will get hired for their “diversity” value; more’s the pity). I would extend that ban to any recipient of any taxpayer-funded financial aid of any type.

    I’m guessing that many of these kids graduate in very soft majors, where little is required of them.

  7. We’ll sponsor you and ensure your success. What could possibly go wrong?