Here’s my column from today’s paper, on the unfair advantages children of the rich and famous get in college admissions:
For instance, at Harvard the admissions rate for legacies is four times the rate for the hoi polloi. Is it because those kids are unusually smart? Nope – they actually have lower average SAT scores than other admitted students…
[Author Daniel Golden] shows how Al Gore’s son earned a questionable admission to Harvard, and how presidential niece Lauren Bush got into Princeton despite below-average SAT scores, mediocre grades at her Houston prep school and not bothering to apply until a month after the deadline. I’d like to see a working-class kid from South Dallas try that trick…
Mr. Golden writes about how, beginning in the 1970s, Duke – which comes out of this book looking awful – targeted the wealthy parents of Dallas prep schools because the university was looking for rich families to turn into donors, no matter how mediocre their kids’ academic records were. “We really worked Dallas,” a former Duke associate director of admissions told Mr. Golden. It was all part of Duke’s hunt for members of the “socioeconomically high-end.”
It’s also easily the most personal column I’ve written. (Not that there’s much competition for that title.)
Golden’s book, titled The Price of Admission, is really quite terrific. I say that as a reader, but even more so as a journalist — it’s remarkable how much he gets people to open up about some fairly nefarious things. (I guess they don’t give Pulitzers to people who can’t report.)
In case you think Golden can do this sort of reporting because he’s “of the rich” — what you might call the Dominick Dunne Theory of Reporting on the Aristocracy — it ain’t so. I’ve met him a number of times, and he’s kinda schlubby.