When College Admissions Goes Awry

Gene Wilder as Dr. Frankenstein (pronounced “steen”)


I agree with Vox’s Libby Nelson on the subject of the recently exposed scandal about rich people hiring consultants to scam admissions departments so that their kids will get into top colleges. The real scandal, Nelson says, is what is legal.

For instance, it was legal for Charles Kushner to pay Havard $1 million to take his son Jared. Accepting legacy kids has also been been a common practice for decades. Yet affirmative action lawsuits are always directed at people of color, never at the wealthy and well-connected.

Someone on twitter noted a famous literary example of a parental arrangement that goes horribly wrong. Check out how Victor Frankenstein got into college:

When I had attained the age of seventeen my parents resolved that I should become a student at the university of Ingolstadt. I had hitherto attended the schools of Geneva, but my father thought it necessary for the completion of my education that I should be made acquainted with other customs than those of my native country. My departure was therefore fixed at an early date…

Actually, Victor might well get into top colleges even under a blind admission policy. How many other students manage to create life in a laboratory? His study habits turn out to be pretty good:

My ardour was indeed the astonishment of the students, and my proficiency that of the masters. … M. Waldman expressed the most heartfelt exultation in my progress. Two years passed in this manner, during which I paid no visit to Geneva, but was engaged, heart and soul, in the pursuit of some discoveries which I hoped to make. None but those who have experienced them can conceive of the enticements of science. In other studies you go as far as others have gone before you, and there is nothing more to know; but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder. A mind of moderate capacity which closely pursues one study must infallibly arrive at great proficiency in that study; and I, who continually sought the attainment of one object of pursuit and was solely wrapped up in this, improved so rapidly that at the end of two years I made some discoveries in the improvement of some chemical instruments, which procured me great esteem and admiration at the university.

Then again, if you want someone who is well balanced with a good moral center, maybe you proceed with caution when young Victor applies. A diverse student population is far healthier than a class that just has high SAT scores.

But if one goes by the recent scandal, it appears that even brains weren’t the determining factor. Just parental money. If disasters happen, it probably won’t be because these kids spent too much time in the lab.

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