Don't send your kid to the Ivy League

"This system is exacerbating inequality, retarding social mobility, perpetuating privilege, and creating an elite that is isolated from the society that it’s supposed to lead. The numbers are undeniable. In 1985, 46 percent of incoming freshmen at the 250 most selective colleges came from the top quarter of the income distribution. By 2000, it was 55 percent. As of 2006, only about 15 percent of students at the most competitive schools came from the bottom half. The more prestigious the school, the more unequal its student body is apt to be. And public institutions are not much better than private ones. As of 2004, 40 percent of first-year students at the most selective state campuses came from families with incomes of more than $100,000, up from 32 percent just five years earlier.

The major reason for the trend is clear. Not increasing tuition, though that is a factor, but the ever-growing cost of manufacturing children who are fit to compete in the college admissions game. The more hurdles there are, the more expensive it is to catapult your kid across them. Wealthy families start buying their children’s way into elite colleges almost from the moment they are born: music lessons, sports equipment, foreign travel (“enrichment” programs, to use the all-too-perfect term)—most important, of course, private-school tuition or the costs of living in a place with top-tier public schools. The SAT is supposed to measure aptitude, but what it actually measures is parental income, which it tracks quite closely. Today, fewer than half of high-scoring students from low-income families even enroll at four-year schools.

Elite private colleges will never allow their students’ economic profile to mirror that of society as a whole. They can’t afford to—they need a critical mass of full payers and they need to tend to their donor base—and it’s not even clear that they’d want to."

Why would we not be happy that wealthy US people are investing large amounts of their money into raising super performance individuals for the next generation? Too bad it’s not your kid that becomes the next Zuckerberg, but I still want that kind of guy in my country.

Well, it seems a large number of people are voicing a preference for mobility and opportunity over stability and wealth.

The argument you’re making is that these people create a bigger pie so the middle class’s slices are bigger on absolute terms but possibly less on relative terms. From a logical perspective this makes sense but raises two issues. The first is that studies have routinely shown that once a basic threshold is met, happiness is measured by our psyche on a relative basis to our peers and that in youth we often judge their earnings potential rather than actual earnings in evaluating worth of young individuals (dating etc). In this case, sacrificing relative share and potential in favor of absolute returns isn’t going to create satisifaction. The second major issues is a mistrust of a “Royal & Isolated” upper class that stems from a long list of historical precidents where these conditiions led to a disproportionate allocation of power, strengthened class associations and ultimately a ruling class. In this second case, greater financial security through a class system is unlikely to create a more secure overall scenario for the middle class as their stakeholder voice in society is eroding.

There’s not a big benefit to larger society just because a small cadre does well. It’s great that Zuck created FB and made billions, all it created for the rest of us is a way to creep on…n/m.

plus, people in every country gets Facebook.

The second point raised by the article and others such as this one by a former Stanford Dean:

is one that questions the assumption that Harvards and Stanfords contribute to success in graduates beyond merely perpetuating a caste system.

For starters, you bring up Zucherberg who dropped out of Harvard mid Sophmore year. Was 1.5 years at Harvard really what allowed him to succeed? The list of successful college drop outs or people who bypassed college all together in the tech space is an impressive one.

You also have quotes like this one from Greenman’s article that get at the root of a problem where an overly competitive format may harm the learning process:

No one but me knows he fakes being well-read by thumbing through the first and last chapters of any book he hears about and obsessively devouring reviews in lieu of the real thing. He does this not because he’s incurious, but because there’s a bigger social reward for being able to talk about books than for actually reading them.

and this one:

“So extreme are the admission standards now that kids who manage to get into elite colleges have, by definition, never experienced anything but success. The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. Once, a student at Pomona told me that she’d love to have a chance to think about the things she’s studying, only she doesn’t have the time. I asked her if she had ever considered not trying to get an A in every class. She looked at me as if I had made an indecent suggestion.”

Lastly there is this exerpt from the link I posted above from a former Stanford Dean on the impact of hyper competitive recruiting and the resulting over partenting:

"We treat our kids like rare and precious botanical specimens and provide a deliberate, measured amount of care and feeding while running interference on all that might toughen and weather them. But humans need some degree of weathering in order to survive the larger challenges life will throw our way. Without experiencing the rougher spots of life, our kids become exquisite, like orchids, yet are incapable, sometimes terribly incapable, of thriving in the real world on their own. Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life, which means they’re not prepared to live life on their own? And why do these problems I’m writing about seem rooted in the middle and upper middle classes? "

I’m not hating on the elite universities, just saying that there has been a fair amount of discussion on this lately, although it may be triggered by the time of year and the admissions process as freshmen prepare to start school.

isn’t the article arguing for sending your kids to the Ivy league considering all the benefits provided (e.g. once you’re in, you’re in)? fighting inequality is about income distribution not about school choice. creating a greater number of good public grade and secondary schools through greater taxation/redistribution of the rich/corporations so that high-flying middle class kids can still compete with these superelite kids is the only way to go about closing the gap, if that is even necessary. other than that, providing loans to poor brilliant kids to enroll in top schools is all you can do.

that said, $100,000 family income is not exactly what i’d call a meaningful threshold. i live in a somewhat wealthy city in Canada and maybe 60-70% of households with kids make over $100,000. virtually none of these households would be considered upper class but most would be upper middle. most kids have access to all they need but there are clear differences between kids’ natural abilities and parental motivation/expecations.

its obvious that well-groomed kids with a well-ingrained priority to pursue more schooling would represent a larger % share of top college enrollment than a group of poor, unmotivated kids. it’s more about parental expectations and the kid’s sense of duty when the kid is 5 years old than family income. those expectations and sense of duty evolve into a sense of purpose and curiousity as the child ages.

To add to that, why would high earning parents work hard for their whole lives in the first place, if not to facilitate a better future for their kids? I would probably stop working right now if future dependants were not a consideration.

Yeah, look I’m not demonizing the participants even though it may come off that way. I completely understand the draw and if my kid got accepted to Stanford I doubt I’d discourage her from going.

In a lot of ways its a natural case of what you encounter in economics where optimization for the individual may run contrary to optimization for society (which is usually where regulation steps in). Again, not recommending regulation, just commenting.

The other point I would maybe make is that a lot of the points by the article with the former stanford dean make the case that your progeny may not in fact be better off from hyper parenting, I liked her orchid analogy.

I see this very similarly to the way I see affirmative action. I won’t blame anyone for taking advantage of it. I would have done the same. But by and large, I think the affirmative action “system” is broken and needs to be scrapped. (Please don’t debate affirmative action here. It’s just an analogy.)

Similarly, the “affluent WASPS” of the world have their own affirmative action program. It’s called “being born on third base”.

However, as egregious as it may sound, I’m not sure that private institutions (whether for-profit or not-for-profit) should have a duty to admit “lower class” individuals. The fact of the matter is this–they need money, either by tuition-paying students or donors. And when you start to let in the “lower class”, you’ll probably get less of both. (BTW–since I grew up poor, in rural Texas, I consider myself to be one of the “lower class”.)

I’m sure facebook is a net negative contribution to global GDP.

21mins * 365days * 935mio users = 120bio man hours

facebook posted 701mio NI

thats 0.6cents per user hour it’s generating… What a complete waste of the worlds time…

If my kid got accpted to Harvard and Rutgers, and choose Rutgers, I’d disown them.

^Shocker, since it seems you were handed your Harvard admissions letter around the same time you were conceived. I’m sure it will be the same for your kids.

And I’m sure they won’t have the “can’t afford Harvard” problem.

Itera, did you go to Harvard? I didn’t know that.

Huh, I always figured itera was a Yale man.

itera did not go to Harvard… Anyone who goes to such schools is no longer impressed by the notion of getting accepted there…

This is what I was thinking.

I bet Itera went to Cornell.

don’t see the connection at all between what i said and your opinion.


Neither do I. Rutgers vs Harvard is a no brainer. It’s not about being impressed about a Harvard acceptance or not.