Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lisa or Eddie

I haven't read Andrew Ferguson's Crazy U, but I did read his article "How to get your kid into the Ivy League," which was published in the March 18, 2011 issue of The Week.

Crazy U: One Dad's Crash Course in Getting His Kid Into College

I read stuff like this all the time because "getting kids into the Ivy League" is what I do for a living. Or, at least that was people think/hope I do.

Actually, I'm a former admissions officer who worked at two hyper-selective and desirable universities. I'll post more on that later.

My take-away from Ferguson's article is at the end when he says that the highly competitive admissions process forces kids to eschew being Lisa Simpson. Rather, in applying to college, applicants become charmers, like the character Eddie Haskell in Leave It to Beaver.

I see it all the time and my heart sinks when a bright student comes into my office to discuss his college essays. He'll read the essay prompt and ask me, "What do they (meaning the college admissions committee) want to hear?"

My response to that question is, "What do you want to tell them?" That question usually draws a blank, hopeless stare from the student because like so many, the student sitting across the desk from me has spent his high school years trying to figure out "what looks good" to colleges. Thus, at the crucial point of applying to college, he has no idea what he thinks about anything.

Yes, there are exceptions. I do have some "Lisa Simpsons" coming in to chat. These are the students who get in to the Ivy League. The "Lisa's" aren't looking over their shoulders attempting to figure out their next move by imitating what others are doing. These students have passions and ideas; they have lively minds and are in possession of intellectual vitality. Not only do they read books and complete assignments and participate in class discussions and do interesting things outside the classroom, thinking about what things means comes naturally to these students.

Therein lies the difference between Lisa Simpson and Eddie Haskell.

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