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The Bourgeoisie and College Admissions

I spent this past weekend in Ithaca, but somehow only managed to make it on to campus for around 15 minutes or so. While the crisp, pre-autumnal air made me remember how much I miss Upstate New York, the majority of students that I ran into – complete with oversized sunglasses, oversized sport-utility vehicles, and oversized attitudes, reminded me of some elements of Cornell life that I would much rather forget.

Still, on Saturday night I dined overlooking Ithaca Falls, eating fresh bread with brie and gouda, while drinking more expensive alcohol than I ever did during my undergraduate years. The hushing water silenced the night, and any bad thoughts slipped far away into the untouched crevices of memory.

However, I did come across two interesting anecdotes over the weekend:

Last year, close to two thousand applications for undergraduate study at Cornell University were promptly thrown out because applicants failed to mark which college they were applying to. What I don’t know is if the university counted these applications when it announced that a record number of students applied to the university last year, but if they weren’t smart enough to indicate which college they wanted to apply for, they probably shouldn’t be going to any college, let alone Cornell.

I also met a Cornell undergraduate who has made a business out of “advising” the college application process to insecure and wealthy Long Island students who are afraid that their “personal statements” are not up to snuff. While I have heard about such types of services available, I never imagined how much somebody could get for "selectively editing" a student’s essay: a thousand dollars.

Now, if both of these anecdotes are not signs of the hyper-competitive attitudes of upper-middle class students and their parents, I don’t know what is.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on September 11, 2006 (#)

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