College-application season is shifting into high gear, and with it comes anxiety and abuses—on both sides of the admissions desk. Some wealthy parents will pay private counselors more than $40,000 for “tweaking” their kids’ essays, on the implicit promise that these consultants have connections inside admissions offices, where many once worked. For their part, admissions directors want more applications so that they can reject a higher percentage of qualified kids. By boosting their rejection rates, they improve their school’s position in most rankings. While the current admissions system works well for a small number of colleges and over-achieving kids, for everyone else, the process is broken. Colleges, government, and the media all share in the blame.
Recently, Inside Higher Education, with Gallup’s help, published its annual survey of college- admissions officers. The report was sobering: 93 percent of the college-admissions officers surveyed said they believed colleges lie about key data they report, such as average SAT scores of admitted students. Why? It makes their schools appear more selective, which attracts more applicants. Sixty-five percent of admissions officers said that their institution did not meet its enrollment goals last year.