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Just What We Need Now

Crispus Knight Comp.jpgBeating Andrew Lohse to the punch in detailing his years of beer-soaked pong playing at the College, Crispus Knight ‘03 has written a book that will not add to the College’s luster: Three for Ship: A Swan Song to Dartmouth Beer Pong. Here is his recipe:

1. Take one “young man who scored in the 98th percentile on his college entrance examination boards with no Kaplan classes or even serious prep work beyond a few home administered practice tests. A student enrolled in all honors and AP classes who finished with near a 100% weighted average. A national merit scholar and AP artist who had never been drunk or done drugs of any sort right up through his senior year of high school.”

2. Add a college where the social pressures to drink, drink and be merry are such that beer and pong trump classes every time.

3. Bake for a few years and you will end up with a dissolute alcoholic who flunks out.

That said, Knight did eventually earn his degree. Should culture, if not history, repeat itself, he will undoubtedly become a U.S. Senator.

Addendum: The chickens of several decades of mis-administration are coming home to roost. Ask the mothers of America if they want their children to study at the College after reading books like Knight’s, not to mention the recent nasty NYT article, which is the first thing to come up if you do a search for “Dartmouth” on the Times’ website:

NYT Search.jpg

Needless to say, the administration is terrified that this kind of publicity is going to hammer applications again this year. As a result, Admissions is pressing hard to get students, anyone!, to apply to the College. The Huff Post reports:

“Jeffrey, you deserve a one-of-a-kind college experience.”

“Jeffrey, what will you do after Dartmouth?”

“Jeffrey, simple acts can have extraordinary results.”

For six weeks starting in the middle of August, the office of admissions at Dartmouth College sent email messages like this to my son Jeff, a soon-to-be high school senior, inviting him to join the college mailing list and sign up for a campus tour…

“Mom, I can’t get into Dartmouth,” my son said. And he’s right. Jeff is a white kid living in a well-off New Jersey suburb. He’s not a jock, has no family legacy at Dartmouth, has never visited the school, and has combined SAT/GPA scores that fall comfortably outside the college’s lofty admissions standards…

[A Dartmouth] admissions officer who spoke to me explained that Dartmouth’s pitches were designed to make sure they got the most talented applicant pool. Was there some kind of baseline criteria, some minimum SAT or PSAT score that Dartmouth used to determine who they’d go after? “We don’t share that information,” she said, directing me to the public affairs desk.

But first I decided to check with a colleague I’ll call Adam, a college counsellor at a prestigious private high school. He had a less benevolent explanation for Dartmouth’s recruiting drive. Last year, Dartmouth was the only Ivy to have a higher acceptance rate in 2013 over the previous year; it took about 10 percent of its 22,416 applicants, compared to 9.43 percent in 2012. In short, Dartmouth was the lone Ivy to be ever-so-slightly less selective last year than the year before, having received fewer applications. “Once I saw that, I guaranteed that Dartmouth would triple its marketing and recruiting budget,” Adam said.

Why does that tiny shift in selectivity matter so much, particularly given the flood of applications elite colleges like Dartmouth receive — roughly double the number of applications it took in just 10 years ago? As with most of the nonsense that drives college admissions, it all goes back to the U.S. News and World Report rankings. “Colleges are looking for applicants because it helps their U.S. News numbers,” Marilee Jones, the former Dean of Admissions at MIT, told me. [Emphasis added]

Addendum: The D is now reporting that Early Decision applications rose 6.7% this year.

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