Let’s Make College Admission Fair, While Celebrating Non-Selective College Products Like My Brilliant New Boss


She had more ideas. Preferences for the children of former students must disappear. She doesn’t believe applicants should get extra points for participating in sports that are primarily accessible to privileged kids.

It was suffocating for me, but maybe that’s my middle class upbringing. I would mourn the end of official cheering on sunny afternoons to play tennis or softball.

Federal courts seem to be heading for the day when the usual methods of selecting college applicants could be replaced by accepting diverse ethnicities in the same proportions found in the candidate pool. In the future, schools may even have to admit students based solely on reading and math test scores as the only quantifiable measures of academic ability.

We will see. What bothers me most about our current obsession with college admissions is that it overlooks the glorious power of what happens when those new admits arrive on their campus, whatever that may be. They get off the bus, park in the parking lot or say goodbye to their parents. Suddenly they are free. Regardless of the college, their choices are many. They begin a life of new friends, new interests, love, talks, and who knows what else.

Instead of trying so hard to regularize how students are admitted, we might wonder why America’s colleges, both famous and obscure, work so well for so many people. Even some of America’s greatest adversaries, like Chinese leader Xi Jinping, couldn’t resist enrolling their own children on American campuses to soak up their depth and variety.

We Americans should celebrate more than we do the many successful people out of college who don’t get top US News and World Report rankings and who don’t reject the vast majority of their applicants.

Here at the Washington Post, we have our first managing editor, Sally Buzbee. It’s nice to finally have a woman leading the editorial staff, but I haven’t seen anyone mention anything special about her background. No one in this big job has ever graduated from a university as unselective as his.

Here are the editors I’ve worked for and their latest acceptance rates at their alma maters: Ben Bradlee (Harvard, 5%), Leonard Downie Jr. (Ohio State, 68%), Marcus Brauchli ( Columbia, 6%) and Martin Baron (Lehigh, 50%). Some of these places are not so selective, but Buzbee beats them by far with an undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas. In 2020, it accepted 91% of its applicants.

Seventy-four percent of American students attend public institutions, many of which are underrated like KU, with 28,000 students. Many of these undergraduates have great potential, just like Buzbee. Public campuses also include community colleges like Pasadena City College, just down East Del Mar Boulevard from my house. The CCP has 25,000 students. His former students include Jackie Robinson, Kenny Loggins, Octavia E. Butler and Jaime Escalante.

Klein of the Los Angeles Times is right to worry about the injustice of selective college admissions. But why not pause to give thanks for the exhilaration young people find in self-run schools? They are usually located in college towns or neighborhoods full of books, music, and crowded restaurants at night. They have their own brilliant teachers, loud debates in the dorms, and deafening basketball games on Saturday nights. All of this enriches American culture. Drive through Davis, Calif., Tuscaloosa, Ala., Grand Forks, ND, Burlington Vt., or Lawrence, Kan., and see what I mean.

People like my new boss who come from more welcoming educational institutions will often be smarter than me and, I guess, happy to help me improve my work. They may not have been admitted to the most selective schools, but what difference does that make?


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