Forgery of college admissions essays is rampant not just in China but also in the US (and I suspect in many other places), but actually the problem is really much worse than that. With the boom of the "college consultants" industry, professionals are essentially "forging" entire high school careers on behalf of their clients - telling them what classes to take, which clubs to join, where and how many hours they should volunteer, etc. The end result is that these clients look like amazingly productive students with a superhuman sense of self-initiative, whereas in reality these kids simply followed a script written by some adult their parents paid large sums of money for.
Eventually, after I told him I was sick of doing write ups that were completely unnecessary, he admitted he was taking a marketing class at Harvard. I was unknowingly doing all of his exercises, and he would turn my write ups in to the Professor. Apparently he got an A.
I don't really get this perspective. If colleges are going to base admissions on amorphous things like what clubs someone joined, or what organizations they volunteered for, why shouldn't a student hire a consultant to navigate those waters? Is the student who hires a consultant to tell them what classes to take, or what clubs to join, or what organizations to volunteer for, and then follows through with those, less deserving of a spot than someone that happens to randomly fall upon the right combination of activities? Or, more to the point, has an uncle who went to an Ivy-league school that can give them the same advice?
If anything, admissions consultants level the playing field. Who else is going to tell a bright midwestern student that Ivy-league schools don't respect locally popular clubs like Future Farmers of America? Who else is going to tell a bright lower-income student that they should spend their summers "volunteering" in Africa instead of working all summer to make some spending money? The families with Ivy-league alums already know what boxes to check.
You're not supposed to prep for standardized tests, either. They're trying to function like IQ tests - a measure of who you are and your education as a whole, not how you studied. ACT and College Board have a wealth of data available, and have concluded that engaging in prep activities between sittings moves your score by at most a few points.
Of course, once it's a social expectation that children of elite parents will go to elite schools, they're willing to throw money at gaming the system. Though a natural consequence of the free market, it still feels distasteful.
Providing these sorts of services freely or cheaply as a charitable organization trying to help rural kids/new immigrant families get on their feet is one thing; charging many hundreds of dollars per hour to a clientele of investment bankers who need to impress their colleagues with their children's admissions is different.
Is there any other culture in the world where you are "not supposed to" study for an important exam?
The clubs thing is ridiculous too. If my "natural" selection of clubs makes my admission to good school less likely, it is my natural response to adjust clubs selection. The ridiculous thing is basing admissions on fluff like that.
So instead there's tons of handwaving about how the most important predictor of success in life and in education is experience in the sailing club and the polo club and the chess club. Not because its true, but because mostly rich white kids are in those clubs so if you select those groups you'll get the "right" people wrt race and income.
The problem is someone fakes their social life and interests to get into school, if they make it they're going to be surrounded by a weird mix of genuine upper class kids who really did grow up enjoying sailing and playing polo, and a subgroup (perhaps too small to be self sustaining and supportive) of poseurs who don't care about that stuff other than a means to an end.
There is an analogy in software hiring practices. Obviously everyone knows from studies that higher IQ people are more successful. But implementing IQ tests is a legal minefield. Smart people can learn algos. So google does or used to torture applicants with algo questions. They're not looking for people who know all about red black trees or implying that all jobs there use algos, but are selecting people who passed the "IQ test that isn't an illegal IQ test" filter. "cargo cult" copycat companies who do almost the same but miss the intelligence test part, perhaps by asking brainteasers or similar tasks that don't require intelligence, are comical.
The moral of the story, is if you want to do something wrong or immoral or highly politically incorrect, you can get about the same outcome by playing games with overlapping venn diagrams and pretend that a right, moral, popular activity with a large overlap is what you "really" want. A large part of adult/older human cultural interaction is understanding when someone's talking exoterically or esoterically in order to respond correctly.
Yes, I think that's the general idea. Ideally the criteria are kept secret of course. It's the same as picking employees who do open source or learnt Haskell in their spare time. You want people who independently make certain choices for reasons unrelated to getting a college place or a job, but the signal is much less useful when everyone knows that you are looking for it.
The most equitable solution would be to base admissions purely on grades but that isn't possible when you have grade inflation, because more people get straight As than there are places at top universities.
And your alternative to this is? They're metrics for assessing candidates for a reason, you know. Sure, once they start getting gamed, they're no longer accurate, but that's a different discussion.
Moreover, they create a huge bias in favor of kids who can afford to spend their free time doing unpaid work, and against kids that need to work to earn a little extra spending money, or kids that need to help with the family business. We're not even talking about "poor" people here. The people hardest-hit by these policies are first-generation middle class people, who don't stand out with a sob story about how they grew up in poverty, but aren't in a position where they can do volunteer work and also have their parents buy them a car. Emphasizing these factors also creates a bias against immigrants. A lot of first-generation Americans just don't feel comfortable engaging in the community in that way.
Hate the player and the game. Without players, there is no game.
Admittedly it's not a perfect system, but if the existing system is admission essays written by ghostwriters, I'd say it'd be an improvement.
If universities are willing to accept students not based on merit but on a touching story, then they had it coming.
People who admit one to these universities in general are not alumni of that school, did not go through the same experience and are not experts in the subject one wants to study. It is ludicrous to expect them to differentiate good candidates from bad ones.
Also general criticism to above seems to be that it is not feasible to deal with all the applicants. That claim is bogus since Oxford and Cambridge professors are conducting multiple technical interviews with each candidate for centuries for both domestic and international students.
EDIT: Loving down voting without explanation for a reasonable opinion on the subject.
And today C and O admit based on comprehensive objective tests just like almost all of the world's elite universities outside the USA.
US universities could avail themselves of that system, if their priority were academic quality or equality and fairness.
Huh? Qualified students are invited for a subjective interview, and then based on the results of this about half of them are given offers.
The US elite university admission system is mostly based on sports performance, personal relationships ('recommendations'), racial balance, obsequious classroom obedience ('grades'), pedigree (more of your school district than of your family, but both count), popularity in desirable cliques ('leadership'), and avoiding working class activities (farming and trade oriented clubs are very bad for your chances). Uniform national tests barely count at all at any stage.
Maybe, but I'm not sure how you can be so sure. It's an in-person conversation; class is very much apparent.
> It would be vanishingly rare not to get an offer for A * A * A * A if one were capable of scoring that well and few offers that I've heard of are for less than AAA.
When I went it was before A* was introduced, and the standard offer was AAB. But only about half of applicants got the offer; it was not "vanishingly rare" but quite common for someone to be rejected by Cambridge but go on to achieve AAA in the exams.
I know that even back in the 70's our head of 6th form at a comprehensive helped the brighter students cram for Oxbridge - that was when you had to have a Latin O level to get in.
In maths interview, they give you an open question of some sort and want you to have a go at it. It's generally trivial and obscure so you cannot know the answer. How do you prepare for that?
It might work in history but simply not in STEM subjects.
I'm sure those other applicants who were turned down in favor of these are fine with it as well
There are many 'coaching centres' all over the place that aim to teach students how to crack the entrance test. Students pretty much spend 3 hrs/day at these coaching centres, and more during the weekends. When I was in school, you had to pass an entrance test just to get into these coaching centres. Now, they even target younger kids from 8th grade onwards.
Unfortunately, all of this just distorts meritocracy in a different way. Obviously, these coaching centres are very expensive, and their students come from families that can afford it. These students get upto 4 years of coaching to teach them to pass the entrance tests. A poor, but intelligent student (who probably attends a sub-par school) does not have access to facilities like this and is at a disadvantage compared to his/her less intelligent peers.
But I do think we can tune the parameters a bit. We can make sure that everyone has access to decent-to-good education, so the talented poor have a fighting chance. We can make the admissions based on some reasonable proxies of ability so the biggest boneheads among the sons of privilege get sorted out. And we can make the system as transparent as possible, so everyone knows what is expected.
With that in mind, I think the current system in the US fails pretty hard on the first criterion -- the worst schools are just awful. It could also improve on the third; what the elite colleges are looking for in admissions, such as "service", isn't at all obvious.
My sense is that the US has constructed a very complicated system that in the end delivers pretty much the standard result. A simpler, clearer system based on plain tests, such as India's, just might be a better solution in the end.
At a guess, they'll do better in life than the ones that didn't make it but not as good as the ones that were honest and made it but I have zero proof for that. It's just that they will get some of the benefits from these colleges but not all of them while the group that didn't make it gets none.
If this is true, then less-than-deserving children will have successfully used their parents' wealth to artificially improve their station in life. Which means that our higher education system is helping to perpetuate class divides (even though it claims to be greatly interested in not doing so).
80% of American households earn less than $100k and if 80% of the students got their education for free that wouldn't work out well for the universities.
Actually, it would work out just fine (for top-tier universities). They can easily survive on the investment returns from their endowments, along with donations from wealthy alumni.
Also, removing the tuition would make them look cheap to their target audience. In reality, a significant majority of students do end up getting financial aid. It just has to be indirect, so it doesn't harm the school's reputation.
I don't know anything about CMU's financial aid system, but in the Ivies, this situation certainly would not have occurred.
I'm amazed this question is being asked. It's obvious that bullshitters do well.
As they move up in life, they will move up in consultants, so long as they have access to the wealth necessary to pay for it.
I myself can't say that 100% of my extracurricular activities were free from wanting to look good for college applications. My GPA was definitely boosted by my somewhat misplaced desire to get into the best university I could possibly get into, rather than through a pure passion for learning. I totally kissed a teacher's butt in one class because 20% of the grade in that class was "participation", and was entirely based on how much said teacher liked you (she was subsequently let go -- private school). I sold my soul in order to get an A in that class.
And I'm definitely not an isolated case.