The Absurd Lies of College Admissions

Megan McArdle:

All right, children: it’s time for Aunty Megan to bore you with how things were In Her Day. Way back in 1989, when I was applying to college, there was a certain amount of creativity applied to college applications. The particular school I attended was structured to make you look good on college applications: athletics were practically mandatory, extracurriculars were strongly encouraged. The essay seemed to require an epiphany, whether or not you’d actually had one, so we did our best to emulate personal insight.
But the things that we achieved were basically within reach of a normal human being who was going about the business of growing up: playing a sport, perhaps badly; taking classes; occasionally volunteering as a candy striper. Most of us took the SAT without the benefit of test prep services, and the “test prep” we got in class consisted of–learning vocabulary and algebra. People like me, who were painfully unathletic and had hashed some early high school classes still had a shot at an Ivy League School