After the the admissions scandal made the headlines there have been a lot of articles about how rich kids get help getting into elite colleges, including having professionals write or help write their application essays:
The Moral Wages of the College Admissions Mania
Wait, How Did You Get Into College?
How to weasel your kid into an elite college without paying bribes
I helped get rich kids into elite colleges. Obsessive parents drove me away.
Most of the articles talk about how the admissions process could be made more fair, but in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal column Kids, Don’t Become Success Robots (behind a pay wall, unfortunately) Peggy Noonan has a different take:
A few years ago I worked for a few months at an Ivy League school. I expected a lot of questions about politics, history and literature. But that is not what the students were really interested in. What they were interested in—it was almost my first question, and it never abated—was networking. They wanted to know how you network. At first I was surprised: “I don’t know, that wasn’t on my mind, I think it all comes down to the work.” Then I’d ask: “Why don’t you just make friends instead?” By the end I was saying, “It’s a mistake to see people as commodities, as things you can use! Concentrate on the work!” They’d get impatient. They knew there was a secret to getting ahead, that it was networking, and that I was cruelly withholding successful strategies.
In time I concluded they’d been trained to be shallow, encouraged to see others as commodities. They didn’t think great work would be rewarded, they thought great connections were. And it was what they’d implicitly been promised by the school: Get in here and you can network with the cream of the crop, you’ll rise to the top with them.
She points out that this emphasis is sick and harmful to the students as well as to our society. She recommends students find a good second tier college that is genuinely interested in education and helping its students.
Avoid elite universities if you can; they’re too often indoctrination mills anyway. Aim at smaller, second-tier colleges, places of low-key harmony, religiously affiliated when possible—and get a real education. Every school has a library. Every library has books. That’s what you need.
You’ll be with a better class of people—harder-working, less cynical, more earnest. First-generation college students who are excited to be there and committed to study. Immigrants who feel grateful to be there. Home-schooled kids with self-possession and dignity, who see the dignity in others.
Do not network. Make friends. Learn about the lives of others.
Good for you, Peggy!
March 17, 2019