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Exactly but I see nothing wrong with this.

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.




Oxford and Cambridge professors are conducting multiple technical interviews with each candidate for centuries for both domestic and international students.

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.


> And today C and O admit based on comprehensive objective tests just like almost all of the world's elite universities outside the USA.

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 subjective interview is academic, not a tally of your social contacts and social class. Then the "offer" is conditional on your performance on comprehensive objective subject examinations. 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.

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.


> The subjective interview is academic, not a tally of your social contacts and social class.

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.


And there is a cottage industry in helping students perform well in those interviews its why public schools who know how the game is played do so well in getting their students into Oxbridge.

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.


That's cool. I wish I had a headmaster who can prepare me for an interview in which I ended up discussing project euler questions, prolog, how jpeg works and how the way humans sort relate to how computers sort.

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.


Err its more the soft aspects and confidence and knowing the unwritten rules they are coaching - you no longer need basic Latin to go to Oxford or Cambridge.


Exactly but I see nothing wrong with this.

I'm sure those other applicants who were turned down in favor of these are fine with it as well


u must be a communist, right?


I'm not sure if you're joking or not but in case you're not this mindset is exactly what happened under communist regimes where children of the inner "party members" were given every advantage possible over their "prol" counterparts. But no, destroying an ecosystem you depend on in the long term and subsequently your future with it because some cynical foreign money-bags type holds out a few extra dollars they no doubt obtained through lucrative government connections is a great example of ... what is it you would call the counter-example of what you think the above poster is? A capitalist?


At a great risk of going back into the lands of negative rep, let me a) warmly welcome you here, and b) admit that I was, indeed, joking and quite sympathetic to the poster above me; cheers from Soviet Russia ;)


Yes, I am a communist for thinking that complete dishonesty in an admissions essay of all things is pitiful and wrong. Same goes towards those who had theirs heavily edited by family members/friends/consultants etc..


We have an extreme case of the merit system here in India. Students who are trying to get into the IITs are judged solely on a composite score of their IIT entrance test results + school final exam results.

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.


Whatever we do, the elite of a generation from now will consist largely of the children of the current elite. The path to the good life is challenging because there is a lot of competition, good advice and careful preparation help a lot in getting there, and the people in the best position to provide that advice and preparation are the ones who have already made it.

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.




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