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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The die is cast: College admissions by lot deserves a closer look

    It’s no secret that the college admissions process is becoming increasingly competitive – Harvard College, for instance, recently rejected 91 percent of its applicant pool. But there might be a solution for highly selective colleges like the Ivies to make their process fairer, and it might even benefit less selective schools like the UA.

    Earlier this month, Swarthmore College psychology professor Barry Schwartz argued that there’s really no way for Harvard, Yale or Princeton to accurately measure the difference between two overachievers applying to their school.

    “”The tragedy of all this selectivity and competition is that it is almost completely pointless,”” Schwartz wrote in The Los Angeles Times. “”When comparing the qualifications of people who are bunched up at the very top of the curve, the amount of inherent uncertainty in evaluating their credentials is larger than the measurable differences among candidates.””

    So Schwartz proffers a rather counterintuitive approach to the college admissions process: admissions by lottery, because “”college admission is already a crapshoot, and our failure to acknowledge this is a collective exercise in self-deception.””

    How would it work? As Schwartz envisions it, highly selective schools would separate their applicant pools into a “”good enough”” pool of students and everyone else. Then, they would randomly select their freshman class from the pool of “”good enough”” students.

    As Schwartz sees it, knowing that the chance to get into an Ivy is the same as everyone else’s would relieve the pressure placed on high school students who inflate their grade point averages, pad their resumes and approach the admissions game with a cutthroat mentality.

    Thus, while Schwartz’s unorthodox approach remains to be tested, it’s worth a shot, especially since it might end up benefiting less selective state universities like the UA.

    The connection might seem hazy, but if Schwartz’s method were to be adopted, a randomized admissions process would render obsolete the U.S. News & World Report annual college rankings, the current gold standard for prospective high school students.

    Forced to look beyond the narrow (and often misleading) methodology of the U.S. News rankings, students might very well discover that a less expensive public university would better serve their particular interests.

    With record numbers applying to four-year universities, it’s important for both college administrators and students to understand the ramifications of the intense demand. Students will eventually realize that not everyone can get into Harvard (or that they don’t want to go to Harvard in the first place). And the UA’s administrators should be poised to accept them with open arms.

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