As a Yale ’91 graduate, I am well aware the “Varsity Blues” admissions scandal has people talking about those who muscle their way into Yale through deception. As CEO of the College Board, I have learned a lot more about cheating than I would like, and we have taken steps to prevent the specific abuse “Varsity Blues” uncovered. But I am not writing today about testing, or what things should be part of the admissions process. My work at the College Board has a more interesting dimension, which is that I have gotten to know admissions officers around the country and witness their work, their craft.
I say craft because the character of Yale is no accident. It is easy to pick high-performing students, much more difficult to forge a diverse, thoughtful, passionate class. While the “Varsity Blues” investigation is getting a lot of press, I wish as many people noticed the historic growth of first-generation and low-income students admitted into Yale this year. The greatest thing the University can do is to better represent the full range of income in our country; much has been done and so much remains to be done. Finding and admitting superb lower- and middle-income students requires not just reviewing applications but the harder work of making space for them — of giving up scarce seats.
The recent News article on admissions talks about how valuable seats at a school like Yale have become — doesn’t that make it all the more impressive that a much larger percentage of them are held by low-income and first-generation students today than ever before? That takes courage.
And before we impose new rules and reforms lightly, please consider the art of admissions. Consider how challenging it is, but how essential it is, to try and design a class that will build a healthy, exciting community. The Yale admissions office is not looking for the best kids based on a test or other measure alone; it is looking to forge a remarkable community, including students who may have done less well on tests or other measures, but have achieved so much more in their lives. Yale and all admissions officers are looking for students for whom they believe their college can make a difference, and who also can make a difference at their college, and perhaps to our world.
My memory of Yale, and my knowledge of its current admissions leadership, gives me immense confidence that everyone at the College and outside of it should be proud of the work done in admissions and financial aid every day. Look around at your classmates — they are a wonder.
David Coleman graduated from Yale in 1991 and is the current CEO of College Board.