Elite colleges ask more of homeschoolers

Are Elite Colleges and Universities Discriminating Against Homeschoolers? asks Paula Bolyard, a recently “retired” homeschooler, on PJ Lifestyle.
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Homeschooled student “enter college with significantly higher test scores than their public (and even private) school peers,” she writes. “They graduate from college at a higher rate­—66.7 percent compared to 57.5 percent—and earn higher grade point averages while in school, according to one study.”

Princeton seems to get it, she writes. Applicants who can’t supply a traditional transcript can submit an outline of the homeschool curriculum.

Yale wants to make sure homeschooled kids are not socially awkward:

We look for evidence of social maturity from all our applicants and especially from home-schooled students. Your personal statement, interests and activities, and letters of recommendation should speak to your ability to integrate well with other students and tell us about your non-academic interests.

But elsewhere Yale says “academic strength” is the “first consideration” with “motivation, curiosity, energy, leadership ability, and distinctive talents” in second place.

“We’re going to want to know what the reason for homeschooling is,” a Dartmouth admissions official told Lindsay Cross at the Mommyish blog.

“Was the student busy with another demanding pursuit, like playing music? Were they traveling with their family? Was there a lack of resources in their area? Somewhere in the application, they’re going to need to explain.”

Private school students aren’t asked to explain why they didn’t attend public school, Bolyard points out.

Some elite colleges ask homeschooled students to submit additional SAT II test scores. That strikes me as reasonable. A straight-A student who’s been graded by Mom will need objective evidence of achievement.

But what about a teacher’s recommendation when Mom is the teacher?

In addition to a “not-so-subtle interrogation about the family’s choice to opt out of public education,” Brown also asks for “letters of recommendation from instructors who have taught you in a traditional classroom setting and who can speak to your abilities and potential in an objective way.”

Brown “would prefer not to receive letters of recommendation from your parents, immediate relatives, or from academic tutors in the paid employ of your family,” unless the applicant has no classroom instructors to ask.

Higher ed is due for creative destruction

Higher education is due for some creative destruction. Professors will resist, but online education will transform postsecondary ed, leaving only the most elite colleges and universities relatively untouched.

To get into college, be perfect — or lie

Elite colleges are looking for genius tigerkids, the ethnically and sexually diverse  – and liars, writes Suzy Lee Weiss, a high school senior in Pittsburgh, in  To (All) the Colleges That Rejected Me in the Wall Street Journal.

Colleges tell you, “Just be yourself.” That is great advice, as long as yourself has nine extracurriculars, six leadership positions, three varsity sports, killer SAT scores and two moms.

Weiss worked at a pizza place and ran last on the track team.

Worse, she is white — not even 1/32 Cherokee — as well as middle class and heterosexual, the antidiversity trifecta. And she didn’t redeem herself by starting a “fake charity.”

Providing veterinary services for homeless people’s pets. Collecting donations for the underprivileged chimpanzees of the Congo. Raising awareness for Chapped-Lips-in-the-Winter Syndrome. Fun-runs, dance-a-thons, bake sales—as long as you’re using someone else’s misfortunes to try to propel yourself into the Ivy League, you’re golden.

Teens without traumas of their own are supposed to write their admissions essays about their trip to Africa — “spending that afternoon with Kinto changed my life” — but Weiss went to summer camp instead.

With a 4.5 GPA, 2120 SAT scores and a stint as a U.S. Senate page, Weiss was rejected by Princeton, Yale, Penn and Vanderbilt. Critics complain she’s whiny, but I read her as sarcastic and quite funny.

Admissions directors should stop demanding that applicants tell absurd lies, writes Megan McArdle.

 These days, a nearly-perfect GPA is the barest requisite for an elite institution. You’re also supposed to be a top notch athlete and/or musician, the master of multiple extracurriculars.  Summers should preferably be spent doing charitable work, hopefully in a foreign country, or failing that, at least attending some sort of advanced academic or athletic program.

Naturally, this selects for kids who are extremely affluent, with extremely motivated parents who will steer them through the process of “founding a charity” and other artificial activities.  Kids who have to spend their summer doing some boring menial labor in order to buy clothes have a hard time amassing that kind of enrichment experience.

In her day, applicants faked epiphanies about themselves. Now they have to fake epiphanies about the suffering of others, preferably foreigners. “This proves that they are really caring human beings who want to do more for the world than just make money so that they, too will, in their time, be able to get their children into Harvard.”

Solving the smugness problem

Elite colleges can solve the smugness problem by admitting community college transfers.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Here’s how to succeed in community college and beyond, writes Isa Adney in a new book geared to first-generation college students.

Community is back on TV, but will its characters ever graduate?

Elite colleges don’t boost most graduates’ pay

Graduating from an elite college doesn’t boost most graduates’ pay, concludes a new study by economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger. But there’s a big exception for black, Hispanic, low-income and first-generation college students, notes David Leonhardt in the New York Times.

Graduates of elite colleges make more money than graduates of less elite colleges, even controlling for SAT scores and grades. However, the new study added a variable: Where did students apply?

Someone who applies to Duke, Williams or Yale may be signaling that he or she is more confident and ambitious than someone with similar scores and grades who does not apply. Someone who is accepted by a highly selective school may have other skills that their scores didn’t pick up, but that the admissions officers noticed.Once the two economists added these new variables, the earnings difference disappeared. In fact, it went away merely by including the colleges that students had applied to — and not taking into account whether they were accepted. A student with a 1,400 SAT score who went to Penn State but applied to Penn earned as much, on average, as a student with a 1,400 who went to Penn.

The average SAT score at the most selective college students apply to turns out to be a better predictor of their earnings than the average SAT score at the college they attended, Krueger told Leonhardt. However, “attending a more selective school increased earnings significantly” for disadvantaged students.

Perhaps they benefit from professional connections they would not otherwise have. Perhaps they acquire habits or skills that middle-class and affluent students have already acquired in high school or at home.

It’s not clear how the research applies to unselective colleges, Leonhardt notes. He wonders “what happens to students who try to save money by first attending community college, with plans to transfer later, even though they were admitted to a four-year college.”

Elite students don’t need elite colleges

Elite college graduates earn 40 percent more than graduates of non-elite schools, but is it the chicken or the egg? Top students who go to second-tier universities do as well in life as top students who go to elite colleges, concludes research by Princeton and Mellon Foundation economists.   Only students from disadvantaged backgrounds get an edge from attending an elite school.  From the New York Times:

. . . they compared students at more selective colleges to others of “seemingly comparable ability,” based on their SAT scores and class rank, who had attended less selective schools, either by choice or because a top college rejected them.

The earnings of graduates in the two groups were about the same — perhaps shifting the ledger in favor of the less expensive, less prestigious route.

The super-elite schools tend to have large endowments and the ability to discount tuition significantly for middle-income students.  I wonder why non-wealthy students still choose second-tier and third-tier private colleges where the sticker price is close to the real price.

My stepdaughter Susie’s boyfriend works in admissions for a private, non-elite university, where he’s known for rejecting applicants who aren’t prepared to earn a degree.  Colleagues call him The Dream Crusher.  Of course, he’s also The Debt Preventer.

Update:  More on the “higher -education bubble.”

Elite colleges admit few veterans

When Princeton undergraduates discuss history, political science or foreign policy, they won’t hear the views of a classmate who’s fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, writes Wick Sloane on Inside Higher Ed. Not a single Princeton undergrad is a veteran. The same is true at Williams College, labeled the best liberal arts college by U.S. News. Harvard enrolls only two veterans; Yale has another two.

Sloane teaches “young men with canes” at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, which enrolls 367 veterans. He proposes that elite colleges admit as many veterans to undergraduate programs as they admit varsity football players.