William Fitzsimmons, Harvard's dean of admissions, is taking questions on the New York Times' website. So far, 788 queries have been submitted. What do these questions tell us about American higher education? That it can make you crazy, times ten.
1. The Aspiring Teacher's Pet
I am passionately interested in Computational Fluid Dynamics, but at the same time I am deeply involved in an international Peace movement known as "Seeds of Peace," as a volunteer as well as a Peer Support Leader. I would like to go to a university where I would have the opportunity to focus on both engineering and leadership development to enable me to influence the peace process between India and Pakistan. If i were to be admitted, is Harvard the right place for me?
- Sahir Zaveri
2. The Current Teacher's Pet
Dear Dean Fitzsimmons,
I'm a current student at Harvard, and I love it here. Thank you for accepting me.
I don't have any questions.
3. The Angry White Man (Veiled)
How does Harvard's admissions process reward diversity without committing a type of reverse discrimination against potentially strong candidates who lack any diversity?
4. The Angry White Man (Unveiled)
If someone is white, heterosexual, and Christian do they stand any chance of getting into Harvard? Thanks.
5. The Angry Rebuttal to the Angry White Man
Dear caucasian applicants. It's extremely interesting how you can all automatically assume that anyone who is colored is automatically less deserving of admissions into Harvard. I graduated from Harvard Class of ‘00.
I'm a Hispanic female with a disability. Neither of my parents finished grade school, much less high school. I grew up in a household where my parents' combined income was less than $30,000. I could certainly have checked off multiple "diversity" boxes, and I did.
But I also scored a perfect score on the SAT's, graduated salutatorian of my class, was class president, went to Nationals in Academic Decathlon, and found time to volunteer. I was able to do all of these things despite my disadvantages. Perhaps that doesn't jive with many of your perceptions of Hispanic females, but you should all stop blaming your inability to get into Harvard on everyone else. Many of my colored classmates happened to work very, very hard to get where they are. They certainly didn't have parents as obsessed and narrow-minded as the ones here on this board.
6. The Crazy Parent
My children are in elementary school now, and I am almost panicked about trying to get the "right" education for them in order to go to an institution like Harvard. We are not rich by any means, so we are trying to set a path that will open up possibilities for them. What can we do to get them going in that direction?
7. The Guy Testing Out His College Application Essay
Let me tell you my brief story. I was quite honestly an immature kid not ready for college out of high school. I wasn't a particularly good student in high school, and it followed me to the state school in Alabama I attended for three years, failing most of my classes, and never amounting to much grades wise.
However, since then, I've grown up. I've moved to Atlanta, where I've worked in a Congressional office, worked on the executive board of my local Young Democrats chapter, and am currently on staff for a city-wide council campaign. All the while, I've been going to school full time at the local junior college making all As (with a couple of Bs) and I'm re-taking the SAT in January. In short, I've grown up, and I've put together a record as an achiever in both the classroom and the community since my first try at college.
I want to transfer to an elite school where I can be truly challenged and prepared for my next step, law school. In all honest, what would be my chances to be admitted to an elite institution as a transfer student on the less than traditional path.
- Joshua Smith [Ed.—Your chances are slim without copy editing.]
8. The Person Dumb Enough to Ask a Good Question
Why is college so expensive?
9. The Local Yokel Who Also Wants to Ask President Obama About the Broken Stop Light on Her Corner
Why did you only admit 1 Scarsdale H.S. Senior last year?
SHS is supposed to be one of the best public highs in the nation.
The local newspaper runs the issue highlighting recent grads/schools. I am aware some seniors dont submit their names/schools…but 1 seems low.
Back in 80s, 6+ SHS grads headed to Havard
Worried my school taxes are being wasted!
10. The Sane Person
Dear Dean Fitzsimmons,
Don't you think it's absurd that all these people are obsessed with getting their kids into Harvard?
[Full Disclosure: We did not read all 788 questions. Feel free, though.]