Wednesday, October 17, 2007

First-Generation Domer's Lament

Have you ever, in the course of a stultifying talk with another student, wondered how your conversation partner got into Notre Dame? I've had this experience so frequently throughout my career here that I became curious as to how so many intelligent people are rejected from Notre Dame in favor of so many dimwits. Eventually I settled for the answer that most of the less acute people had extremely strong extracurriculars -- you don't need to have an IQ of 140 to be a concert pianist or to found a soup kitchen.

In coming to that conclusion, I gave the admissions folks the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, the truth is not as flattering:
"...many of the applicants who were rejected were far more qualified than those accepted. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, it was not the black and Hispanic beneficiaries of affirmative action, but the rich white kids with cash and connections who elbowed most of the worthier applicants aside.

Researchers with access to closely guarded college admissions data have found that, on the whole, about 15 percent of freshmen enrolled at America's highly selective colleges are white teens who failed to meet their institutions' minimum admissions standards."

Notre Dame is one of the schools specifically mentioned in this Boston Globe article, along with Harvard, Duke, and others. Apparently, it's far easier for legacies to get in than I had imagined, not only here, but at elite colleges throughout the US.

The article presents this as a bad or unfair practice, but I'm not entirely convinced. I'm a first generation Domer, and I benefit enormously from below-average legacies attending ND. First, they are accepted because they are cash cows for the school. Indirectly, they also subsidize my education. Without the donations their parents exchange for their acceptance, tuition would be a lot higher than it currently is. Second, multiple generations of families attending school here imbue it with the tradition and familiar atmosphere that make Notre Dame attractive. Third, having below-average students brings down the curve, meaning it's easier for me to get the grades I want. Based on the Globe's figure of 15% of students being unqualified "rich dim white kids," I estimate that my getting an "A" is 15% easier.

So by all means, ND admissions, keep the cash cows coming.

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