Monday, October 20, 2008

Smart Idea? Cowardly? Something Else?

I must admit that doing this never occurred to me:

In the competition to get into the most selective colleges, some students and their parents are resorting to a tasteless tactic: bashing other applicants.

The letters, mailed to college admissions offices, typically arrive without a signature. They say rival applicants cheated on exams or got suspended for underage drinking. Sometimes, they include an unflattering newspaper clipping or a sly suggestion to check out pictures on a student's Facebook page...

The e-mail exchange began with a simple query: "I just heard a horrific story from one of my students, and I wanted to see if there is any validity in it," Sue Moller, a high school guidance counselor on Long Island, N.Y., posted on a message board for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. She wrote that a student told her that parents were writing letters about the "bad" conduct of other students "to help the chances of their student gaining admission."

My first thought is to say that anyone who resorts to such tactics must be the lowest of the low. However, I've modified that belief to state that those who do so anonymously are the pathetic cowards. If you provide valid information to a school and sign your name to it, then I have no problem with it. I haven't put an extreme amount of thought into this, though, so I could be swayed to change this opinion if given a good argument.


neko said...

It sounds to me like the students in question have a promising future in politics.

Anonymous said...

It sounds to me like the students in question don't understand the numbers involved ...

Consider a "highly selective" place (like Harvard?) that takes only 15% of the applicants. I'll pretend that there are 10,000 applicants for 1,500 slots.

How can removing *one* of these applicants (even assuming that the applicant was going to be admitted) help you in a non-trivial way? You've created *one* new slot with 8,500 people trying to get it.

This sounds like it is more useful as "payback" for some high school slight rather than useful as a tactic for actually getting admitted yourself.

Or these students just aren't very bright ...

-Mark Roulo

ricki said...

I had a different yet somewhat related experience this summer. A student (who had had a bad attitude all semester, was disruptive in lab, skipped lecture) wound up getting a grade that was lower (by a couple percentage points) than what he felt he deserved.

So he e-mailed me, claiming that some of the other students in the class had "openly talked about" cheating. And therefore, he deserved a higher grade because even though he did a poor job, he did the poor job "honestly."

When I e-mailed him back, commenting that that was an unusual way to attempt to raise one's grade, and pointed out that it was ILLEGAL for me to discuss others' grades with him, he sent increasingly hostile e-mails. I finally told him his grade was remaining what it was and I had notified my department chair.

That stopped the e-mails but it was a decidedly uncomfortable situation.

Nick Lopez said...

There was a "scandal", if you can call it that, like this for people graduating my year. Someone printed off several scandalous facebook pictures of 5-10 people and sent them to a whole bunch of colleges with write-ups about what terrible kids these kids were. They weren't, not really.

One girl, I know, got in to Duke early and it was sent to Duke. I don't think anything came of it, though.