Perhaps if we were forced to pull back from affirmative action, we would put the effort into improving K through 12 education of disadvantaged students. Improving K through 12 education would be a more difficult path, but I suspect that societal and individual rewards would be much greater than affirmative action.

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I learned a lot from this article, and I agree with Mr. Gupta's conclusions. However I think there is another fundamental issue that needs addressing--the inordinate value put on degrees from the supposedly "elite" institutions. The student populations at these schools have not increased in proportion to the country's population, making this "resource" increasingly scarce, and requiring all sorts of unpalatable administrative contortions to manage admissions. Mr. Gupta was well served by a non-elite university, as would everyone. Such schools have excellent faculty and a quality student bodies.

We need a devaluation to the prestige associated with degrees from "elite" universities as indicating some intrinsic statement about the abilities of an individual. As one possible approach, why not make admission to some universities by lottery among the academically qualified? No implication of differential personal value is associated with admission-- the admitted were just lucky.

In practice admission now is a crap shoot, but a biased one as Mr. Gupta indicates. Why not just recognize it, and remove the bias? Whether a formal lottery would cause more to apply just to take a chance, or fewer because there were great alternative educational opportunities elsewhere would be interesting to determine.

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Nov 28, 2022·edited Nov 28, 2022

I agree with Ravi Gupta's argument that class rather than race or ethnicity should be at the basis of any preferential treatment in college admissions. I am uncomfortable, however, with an apparent distinction between "disadvantaged" minorities and (sotto voce) "privileged" whites. I have read that the students least likely to be admitted to prestigious colleges are poor white students, in competition in a racial classification with white students from the upper and upper middle classes, or "legacy" white students. Those who get in often come from backgrounds, like military service, that render them atypical and therefore interesting to admissions officers. This is not to discount what looks like a strong case showing discrimination against Asian students, but rather to try to nudge the conversation away from racial stereotyping and toward circumstances, like poverty or lack of good public education, that affect students of all races.

On a separate note, the idea that applicants are evaluated on personality at all, much less on traits like "effervescence," is appalling. A friend of mine once remarked that true diversity is diversity of mind. Surely that diversity should include personality.

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"For much of its early history, Harvard’s admissions process was based solely on academic performance."

This is laughably untrue, legacy admissions were even bigger in the past than they are now. For the first hundred years it trained Puritan ministers, and for the next two hundred it was a finishing school for WASP aristocrats.

Otherwise a very solid article and I agree with the author's points completely.

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I was an admission officer at Brown for a year back in 1981. I left because I felt the system was broken and wrote a NYT oped on the reasons why(bit.ly/3F9nopB). At that time, the rationale for excluding  students from highly competitive academic high schools, or any student who excelled in academics, was that they did little to enhance the lived experience of other students because they were one-dimensional. The mantra was, "We could fill the entire class with the top .5% of students at the Bronx High School of Science, but you'd never see anyone on campus except in the libraries." 

That was often applied to second-generation applicants from international backgrounds who had perfect SAT scores, 5.0 GPAs and had checked a couple of extra-curricular boxes to show they were "well-rounded."  Given that we each had to read thousands of applications in a very compressed timeframe, admission officers looked for reasons to say "No," not reasons to say yes. Most applicants got an initial read of 2 minutes or less. Is that unfair? Absolutely, but how do you distinguish among hundreds or thousands of applicants whose profiles are almost exactly the same? When an applicant broke the mold, as the OP did, that might be enough to give a reader pause.

As I noted in my op-ed, academic strength was assumed (outside of athletics). Schools like Brown were looking for people who had depth in an area beyond that to build "a balanced class." I'm sure Harvard will be making similar arguments when the case comes to the Court. I'm not defending this practice, just attempting to explain how the mechanics of admissions actually works. My experience was 30 years ago, when 12% of applicants were accepted. Now that number is under 8%, meaning there is even more incentive to find a way to reject an individual who is academically strong, but doesn't have a "hook."

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We'll have to figure out how not to set students up for failure if we indeed use the system you mentioned based on family income. So long as the student is a super-achiever academics-wise, they'll survive in the elite environment of the ivies. If not, they'll likely drop out. The statistics are dismal when well-meaning folks give elite college opportunties to disadvataged students who then can't cut it, i.e. compete, once they arrive.

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Nov 29, 2022·edited Nov 29, 2022

"...if they can get an edge in admissions at the expense of people who grew up middle-class like me, I’d gladly make that trade." So their lives are worth more than yours, correct? That's your moral choice, Mr. Gupta. But your kind would make that choice for the rest of us. Our children and grandchildren, under your new class-based progressive system, would not have equal opportunity.

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