Monday, May 20, 2013

No Room for Introverts at Stanford?

It seems odd to me that anyone, let alone a high school principal, would be surprised that a graduating senior didn't get into Stanford, despite the student having a 4.1 GPA and perfect ACT scores. Nonetheless, the Saturday Star Tribune carried a story just like that about a kid named Tanner McArdle from Anoka High School.

McArdle also runs track, volunteers at two food shelves, and plays in the orchestra, so he's fairly well-rounded. But even so, the expectation that any one student will get into Stanford (or Harvard) seems misguided to me.

The story wasn't helped by its misleading headline: Students Find All A's Aren't Automatic Ticket to College. That's not what the story says at all: It says that grades aren't a ticket to get into the most elite colleges, not college generally. There isn't room for every valedictorian of every high school in Stanford's freshman class, so the odds alone are against you. (There are 38,000 applicants for 1,700 spots.)

The part of the story that disturbed me the most was this, however. A Stanford alum named Fred Bruno acts as a recruiter, interviewing local applicants. He said:

“When I meet with an applicant, I look for interaction, for presence. We assume they have huge credentials. I don’t even ask them about grades. We’re looking at the human side of these kids.”
This approach seems automatically biased toward extroverts. "I look for interaction, for presence,"  says Bruno, a lawyer. That might make sense if you were screening law school applicants, but undergraduates? Yes, some of the great minds of our past had presence at 18, but others probably didn't -- they were just geniuses. It sounds like Stanford is populated by a 100-percent going-to-be-president-someday group of students. It makes me tired just thinking about it.


Update, July 13, 2013 -- I just realized that the attorney Fred Bruno mentioned in this story is the same Fred Bruno who was the defense lawyer for convicted police sergeant David Clifford. Small world.

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