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Affirmative Action for Affluent White Kids

Part of: Politics

Breakfast: Banana

Happy Earth Day!

I usually don't write about politics here, but I had to share this beautiful connection with you. I also think this subect is an important one. I originally published the following piece on last Sunday in response to the Times piece. In today's Times there is a follow-up to the original article and my piece.

In last Sunday's New York Times:

“How I Spent Summer Vacation: At Getting-Into-College Camp”

How far can the frenzy over college admissions go? Far enough, apparently, to have high school students flocking to a brand-new kind of summer program — college admission prep camps. No campfires. No hiking. Just hours a day of essay writing, SAT preparation, counseling, mock admission interviews and a potpourri of workshops and college visits, all intended to give high school students an edge on the admission process.

This summer, three companies are offering college admission prep programs on seven campuses from Los Angeles to Boston. Two of them, Academic Study Associates and Musiker Teen tours, have long experience in teenage summer programs, and the third, Brighton, is a start-up founded by a former employee of Academic Study Associates.

While there is nothing new about high school students spending summers at a college, taking both academic and test prep courses — and perhaps visiting other campuses in the process — this year's offerings go further, building a whole program around the admission process.

At first glance, I figured that this article was about how kids can further become the cookie-cutter conformists that most high schools strive to create. But, wait: We are all just test scores and paper.

The smart P.R. copy for Brighton’s program reads:

Colleges don’t accept people, they accept applications.

The school’s director explains:

These kids, all the kids are there with their great grades and their great SAT scores, so those factors that used to be secondary, like how well rounded they are, and whether their essays really say something, are a lot more important.

Director, David Allen, needs to get his story straight. Perhaps his own statements contradict Brighton’s PR catchphrase, because it’s impossible to predict what colleges are looking for. But since he obviously doesn’t live in a world where he thinks average people can’t afford his program, I don't know why we would believe he knows what he's talking about.

An article on illustrates his point:

Q: Aren’t programs like these an expensive luxury for most families?

DA: Getting help with college applications is not a new concept. Many of our students would have hired an independent counselor and a writing tutor, spending more à la carte for episodic help than for a complete program on campus that includes room and board, campus visits, hours of individual counseling, group counseling, interview practice and expert help with their personal statement. Even more than most summer camp programs, this experience is an investment that yields clear dividends.

David Allen isn’t the only program director who has an elitist approach to his program. I looked at Academic Study Associates website expecting to see a lovely multicultural ménage of faces, but only cheerful white ones stared back at me. There was the token Asian guy, but he probably has wealthy parents and he’s Asian, so he must be smart. There was no mention of any kind of financial aid or scholarships available for their program. Musiker Teen tours website had more of the same.

These are privately owned companies and have the right to be exclusive, but wouldn’t it be beneficial to be more inclusive. I’m not saying these organizations are racist, but couldn’t they save a spot or two for bright kids whose parents can’t afford $2,295+ for their kids to get an edge on college admissions.


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