A few months ago, Princeton’s Office of Undergraduate Admission received a lengthy, detailed letter alleging that the spouse of an admissions staff member had, in 2011, asked the staff member for a favor. According to a copy of the letter, provided to IvyGate by an anonymous Princeton source, the staff member later intervened on behalf of a waitlisted applicant, currently a rising junior at Princeton, who happened to be a close relative of their spouse’s boss at a private K-8 school in a neighboring town.
The letter indicated that the spouse who requested the favor was afraid of being fired and used their connection to Princeton’s admissions office to avoid termination. The favor would have been extremely valuable: according to The Daily Princetonian, 1.5% of wait-listed applicants, or 19 out of 1,248, were later admitted.
The source described the incident as “an open secret in the Princeton community” — whether among students, administrators, or the town of Princeton, the source did not say — and that, shortly after receiving the letter, university officials hired William Maderer, a New Jersey attorney, to conduct an independent investigation. It is unclear whether or not the investigation concluded. Maderer’s office declined to comment about his involvement with any investigations. (See bottom of post for update.) Read the rest of this entry »
For many people, the college essay is the hardest part of their application, as they seek to define themselves in 500 words or less for a faceless committee of admissions officers. The Columbia Class of 2017, though, has given us an inside look at what exactly it takes to be part of the 6.89 percent to win entry to the school this year. A tipster recently directed us to a Google Drive folder in which newly admitted Columbians are posting their application essays for their peers to see. And, thankfully, they left it public.
Topics range from the deeply personal, to the seemingly mundane, to the blatantly ridiculous. We’ve included a list of some of the more notable entries below; feel free to categorize them yourself:
The sub-prime mortgage crisis, told as a tortoise and hare allegory (“There are regulators at every mile to ensure the hare plays by the rules established by the Security Enforcement Commission.”)
Sketching a nude model for the first time (“As the model stepped out of her robe, I felt unsettled and self-conscious. I was scared. Where was I supposed to look? Was I ready for this?”)
Arrested Development getting renewed (“So ‘Arrested Development’ is the epitome of all things—good, bad, or ironic—coming to inevitable conclusions.”)
Imagining literary lunch dates with fictional characters (“Generally, my peers don’t understand my compulsion to inhabit the worlds I read, or my overactive imagination’s ability to project those worlds into its own reality.”)
However, some of the essays deserve a closer examination. Here are our personal favorites:
The IvyGate award for “Most Original Essay (For Better Or Worse)” goes to a mock script of a conversation between the applicant, musical theater heavyweight Oscar Hammerstein II (Columbia Class of 1919), and composer Tom Kitt (Columbia Class of 1996). The alums lead our author on a journey of self-discovery as he finds that, yes, he should pursue his dreams and doggone it, people like him. Here are the opening lines, which subtly set the scene for the author’s insecurity:
Hammerstein: Ok, kid. You’ve seen the school. Now what? Noah: (HE knew this was coming) I—I really don’t know…Major in Drama and Psychology or choose something safe…Economics? Kitt: (Bombastic as always) Oh cut the crap, why don’t ya? You worked your ass off for years to get to this point, and now you finally have; if you get in, you’d have all the resources you could possibly want— Noah: (Frantically) BUT, I don’t know how to use them. I don’t know how to use them or what to do with them. Musical Theater is my life; I love it more than anything else I’ve ever done. To be up on the stage—the songs—the emotion…but as a career? Hammerstein: Kid, breathe. Pursue it. Noah: But that’s easier said than done! It’s just so—so… Kitt: (Like the Hindenburg, exploding) Christ! SPIT IT OUT! Noah: …Hard. Read the rest of this entry »
Shocker: Of the 31,127 students who applied to the University of Pennsylvania last year, some were not “Penn material.” And thanks to one brave Princetonian, we now know who wasn’t up to par.
The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that former admissions officer Nadirah Foley, Princeton Class of 2011, was fired by the university late last year after she was discovered mocking applicants’ essays on Facebook. According to The DP, Foley also shared these essays over College Confidential, prompting responses such as “This loses my respect for UPenn and for the general admissions process SOOO much.” Everyone in the admissions department must be devestated.
Here are some of the students who proved worthy of Foley’s scorn:
A student who had “long and deep” connections to Penn because he had been circumcised at the school’s Hillel.
A student who overcame his fear of going to the bathroom in the great outdoors.
In the first batch of application numbers released by Dartmouth since all this hoopla, the college saw a severe drop in the number of people who voluntarily want to be in Hanover. The Dartmouth reports that just 1,526 students applied early to be a part of the Dartmouth Class of 2017, down 12.5 percent from last year’s pool of 1,744.
12.5 percent is a serious drop, especially considering — as The Dartmouth points out — that early application numbers had been rising fairly steadily the past several years. And, although only two other Ivies have reported their early application numbers — Brown and Penn — both showed increases. While Andrew Lohse may be the most public case of Dartmouth’s bad reputation, he’s certainly not the only example.
Helping those with primarily low academic qualifications into primarily academic institutions makes as much sense as helping the visually impaired become pilots. How would you feel if you were assured before going into surgery that your surgeon was the beneficiary of affirmative action in medical school? I do not see why higher academic institutions should lower their standards for admission.
PLOT TWIST: the author is—hiss, hiss!—a legacy:
In a way, I am the product of a sort of affirmative action, and it takes a terrible psychological toll. My father went to Harvard College, which makes me a legacy. I am kept up at night by the thought that simply because my father has attended and donated to the University, I might have taken the spot of a more qualified applicant. My name is not exactly “Sarah Wigglesworth Hurlbut Coop,” but I am still a legacy, and the thought of its bearing on my admission is somewhat terrifying.
May blogs diagnose new disorders? The author appears to be suffering from the delusion, largely indigenous to New England and the Tri-State area, that life is like the Harry Potter universe, where young wizards are admitted to Hogwarts by way of pure destiny and magical envelopes, rather than SAT tutors and enormous parental donations. This legacy actually seems to believe that she could not have attended any other school, or just not applied to Harvard in the first place, thereby saving her years of suffering, of thinking she doesn’t actually belong at Harvard.
And to answer the burning question: of course she took the spot of a better applicant. Probably a far better one. What else are legacy admissions for? Rescuing endangered animals?
This weekend, Business Insider posted excerpts from an interview with a former Dartmouth College admissions officer, who revealed some trade secrets on how to get in to an Ivy. The full transcript is worth a read, and can be found here, but here are a few of the best lines:
“It’s much easier to be admitted during Early even though most schools tell you it’s just as competitive, it’s simply not true … it is much more difficult to be admitted during regular.”
“There weren’t many people I knew at Dartmouth who were white middle class. A lot of student come from the top quartile of the income spectrum, which makes it an elite institution not just in academic quality but also in pedigree.”
“Athletics can be a powerful vehicle into an elite institutions … Athletic admissions drags down academic quality as one could argue does minority admissions.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger is involved with a college-admissions company that, according to a ream of company documents and the testimony of several tipsters, promises admission to prestigious American schools—including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania—in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A tipster tells us that the former governor of California plans to visit Beijing in the second week of September to meet with wealthy Chinese families, who are the company’s sole market.
Schwarzenegger’s new venture is called the Panda Club, which portrays itself as a hybrid study-abroad/business-networking/cultural-tour program aimed at Chinese students planning to go to college in the United States. We’re told he was recently named its “honorary president,” a position held by “a celebrity from the United States Government,” according to the company’s handbook.
Using a sister company in China called Oxbridge International, the Panda Club’s “VIP” program supposedly connects seats annually slotted to certain “funds”—companies, donors, and so forth—with families willing to pay for them. One tipster, who identified himself as an educator based in Beijing, gave us an account of how this works: Read the rest of this entry »
Last night on Late Night with David Letterman, viewers learned a little trick on how to get into the Ivy League: the ol’ “train an unexpected animal to break a Guinness World Record,” unfortunately underutilized by today’s applicants. As Melody Cooke and her skateboarding goat Happie showed Letterman, this won’t just get you into Penn, it’ll take you all the way to the “Wharton Business School in the University of Pennsylvania” (her words, and further proof that Wharton students see themselves as a different species than the rest of Penn).
Unfortunately, it seems Happie had a little bit of performance anxiety on her first trip to the Big Apple. Although Cooke tried her hardest, Happie just wouldn’t get up on the skateboard, probably picturing the judging eyes of a national television audience.
Or we can just chalk this up to senior slump, as it’s now obvious Happie was just skateboarding to get Cooke into the best possible school for amateur goat trainers. With her work ostensibly done, Happie seems a little pissed to not be traveling to Philadelphia to experience the wonders of Wharton, while her trainer sails in on her goat’s achievements. One could even say that Cooke really got her goat’s goat.
You can check out Cooke and Happie on Letterman here (they come on at 12:30, 27:20, and 30:40). If you want to see Happie in happier times, you can check out her record-breaking skateboard performance below, where she coasts to an astounding 118 feet:
It turns out Barbara Walters isn’t the only to get into Columbia. According to the New York Post, Kazakhstan native Daniyar Nazarbayev, Columbia class of 2010 and the nephew of the president of Kazakhstan, allegedly conned his way into the university by forging paperwork from a high school in Kazakhstan he didn’t actually attend. In truth, Nazarbayev had been shipped off to get his schooling in Switzerland, but failed to graduate.
A “knowledgeable source “ tells the Post that these allegations had been reported to Columbia, but that it was “unclear” what, if any, action had been taken. Seeing as he graduated and all that, we’re going to go ahead and assume that either these charges are totally bogus or Columbia didn’t do very much. Read the rest of this entry »
The numbers that are the dick-measuring contest known as Ivy League admissions are finally in, and IvyGate could think of no better way (we didn’t try that hard) to gauge the different school’s reactions by taking to the streets to interview students and determine their (hilarious) reactions to the statistics.
Brown University rolls in (alternatively, “wraps up”) with an admission percentage of 9.6%, a .6% increase from last year! When asked about this rise, I was met with stony eyes and this response: “Brown recently discovered that admitting more students meant more money from tuition. The following year admissions rose higher than for any other Ivy League institution. Where do you think we got the money for our new pool?”
Columbia coasted into a .5% increase from 6.9% last year, on which a student commented,
I’ve never looked at Columbia’s admissions the way others look at it. Others look to decrease the number to appear better. Columbia has always let in more than they can, because we’re not looking to falsify our admissions statistics, though they will automatically be low, as it is an Ivy League school.
IvyGate has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, New York Observer, Newsweek, New Yorker, and other publications, as well as NBC, MSNBC, Fox News, Drudge Report, Gawker, The Huffington Post, Wonkette, Jezebel, The Awl, and many more. Most are horrified.