How to get your kid into a better college

by on June 2, 2006 at 3:51 am in Education | Permalink

The only out-of-school activity that increased the likelihood of a
student ending up enrolled at an elite college was parental [sic] visits to
art museums.

That is correlation, not causation, but I believe you can thread out the implied lessons.  Read more here.  How about this?

Two types of participation made it more likely students would end up at
elite colleges: yearbook or school newspapers and “hobby clubs.”  …Numerous activities had no apparent impact on whether or not students
will end up in college – elite or otherwise. School plays,
interscholastic individual sports, intramurals, cheerleading, academic
honor societies, public service clubs – no impact is clear from any of
them.

Here is one author’s home page, full of fascinating material.  Here is the other guy.  What do you all think of these results?

elambend June 2, 2006 at 7:40 am

If a parents activities have more impact upon acceptance to elite colleges, coule this be a form of institutional knowledge, not taught, but passed down, generation to generation?

Ronald Brak June 2, 2006 at 9:36 am

Here in Australia it’s pretty much your grades only that get you into university. Recently I heard an
advertisment on the radio for a private school that has no sport or extra-curricular activites. The idea
being that these are distractions that just get in the way of getting good grades. Personally I think the
U.S. would be better off if it were more like Australia in this reguard, but that’s just me.

hamilton June 2, 2006 at 11:00 am

I think I agree mostly with DK. Here’s my alteration in the discussion: you can be neither terribly talented or terribly committed and participate in the activities that had no effect, but to do something as thankless and tedious as the yearbook and school paper, you have to at least have commitment. As for the ‘hobby’ groups (and yearbook/school paper, to a lesser extent), could these be an issue of sample selection (i.e., only talented geeks apply?)?

Thelonious_Nick June 2, 2006 at 12:24 pm

>>“A chance mention of the new Bertolucci film or the Ruscha show at the Whitney may tip an applicant from one pile to another,† the authors write.<<

Let’s make it known that it’s name-dropping, and not art museum attendance, per se, that leads to the high admissions rate. The last think I need is a bunch of bored, giggling, resume-padding high school kids standing in front of me. Oh well, at least they’ll all be headed for the Impressionist room, where bad art goes to get famous. Nobody at any museum in Europe or NA has ever bothered me in the Northern Ren hall.

Also, Tyler, “better college” is not the same as “elite college.” I would venture that the way to get your kid into a “better college” would be to get the child to forget about harvard and apply to a school where he has a chance of meeting a professor before he’s a graduate student.

Omar Wasow June 2, 2006 at 1:59 pm

In the last 15 years Stanford has changed its undergrad admission strategy from one rewarding “well rounded students” to one that privileges “angular” students. The idea is that people who obsess about a few things tend to make more significant contributions than those who are above average at lots of things (but not necessarily exceptional at any one). This change poses two questions: first, how can studies account for changing admissions criteria and second (echoing earlier comments), how might one measure intensity of participation (i.e. obsessiveness) rather than simply participation.

quitacet June 2, 2006 at 11:22 pm

^ autocorrelation – hs students likely to read MR (or others) are also more likely to be enthusiastic about the subject matter. As much as I value TCs and ATs posts, I doubt there’s a significant independent effect of reading them relative to self-selection.

What you should be concerned with is the increasing trend towards rewarding early specialization. There is simply no incentive to being a BWRK vis a vis HYPSM+++.

Paul N June 3, 2006 at 6:46 am

I did all that extracurricular crap for my college applications but had trouble getting in anywhere fancy and ended up at my state school.

For my grad school aps I literally put “none” under “Interests”, “Activities”, and “Awards” and I got in everywhere I applied.

I disagree that colleges want well-rounded students. They want empassioned freaks who are really good at something.

Anonymous June 3, 2006 at 4:27 pm

Here’s a simple formula: do one or two things (academics + sports or arts or hobby) really, really well and you’ll probably have your choice of schools. I’ve never seen the benefit of involving yourself in a plethora of activities and doing them all with average results.

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