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College Admissions:

In case you missed it, this article by Malcolm Gladwell from The New Yorker last month on college admissions at "elite institutions" is quite interesting (he has a passing comment on law school admissions as well). One interesting tidbit that I hadn't been aware of is that male athletes that graduate from these institutions tend to go on to earn more after graduating that non-athlete peers.

By the way, I recently finished reading Gladwell's Blink, which I found to be quite enjoyable.

Guest3 (mail):
Interesting article. I am in the middle of Karabel's book and Karabel and Gladwell certainly look at the same data quite differently.
11.30.2005 2:18pm
DK:
Well, I can give you one data point on why athletes earn more. I get a lot of alumni networking email from my ivy league college. A _huge_ number of the career postings are basically "high-paying finance job in (private equity| investment banking| whatever); prefer applicants with 0-3 years experience and "leadership" in sports". Usually, these postings are followed by lots of outrage about the clear age discrimination and the less clear gender discrimination.

What is clear though is that a lot of people managing lots of money prefer to hire ivy league college athletes. I am biased, but I see this as sheer stupidity on the part of hiring financial firms. But if the people trusted to manage multimillion dollar investment firms prefer to hire 3.0 GPA ivy league lacrosse players, who am I to say they would be better of with 4.0 math majors?
11.30.2005 5:30pm
DK:
Hmm. On reading Gladwell's piece, I would have to say that he is 100% right that athletes admitted to Ivy League schools are more likely to adopt wall street careers, based on my experience as a princeton alum who has worked on wall street.

What is really weird, though, is that (as Gladwell reports) a lot of admission offices see this is being "more competitive" or "team players". My experience at Princeton was that a lot of the athletically-inclined people were more likely to just enjoy life, quit the football team after using it to gain admission, and find a nice high-paying wall-street job without making any trouble. A lot of the non-athletes were much more ferociously competitive, and much more likely to decline wall street in order to dream of nobel prizes, major scientific contributions, or legal cases that change the world.

It is ultimately about what you value more. And if the Ivy admissions offices think they are choosing for competitiveness rather for getting-along-with-people, they are wrong.
11.30.2005 5:54pm
E S Cioe (mail) (www):
"If you let in only the brilliant, then you produced bookworms and bench scientists: you ended up as socially irrelevant as the University of Chicago (an institution Harvard officials looked upon and shuddered)."

Interesting quote. I guess it is the truth here, even to this day; but we do have a number of what I call "wheelers and dealers," the kind of social extroverted salesmen (thinking Frankfurter) that Harvard seems to love.
11.30.2005 6:48pm
Columbia Undergrad (mail):
I'm an ivy league undergrad athlete and everyone on my team is aiming for finance. Alumni connections do help a lot for them but they should not be overestimated.

DK: I have to say though that the ones who quit the team arent the ones who are working in finance and those are the people that have generally been unsuccesful.

And what am I thinking trying to go to law school???
11.30.2005 8:13pm
Columbia Undergrad (mail):
I'm an ivy league undergrad athlete and everyone on my team is aiming for finance. Alumni connections do help a lot for them but they should not be overestimated.

DK: I have to say though that the ones who quit the team arent the ones who are working in finance and those are the people that have generally been unsuccesful.

And what am I thinking trying to go to law school???
11.30.2005 8:13pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Interesting. I have an Olympic Gold Medal Winner in my class. I look forward to seeing how much more cash he makes than I do. I guess if I don't like it, I can get up every day at 2 am and win myself a medal too.
11.30.2005 11:43pm
ANM (mail):
""If you let in only the brilliant, then you produced bookworms and bench scientists: you ended up as socially irrelevant as the University of Chicago (an institution Harvard officials looked upon and shuddered)." "
Well, guess which school erected de facto Jewish quotas, and which did not? Which school began/added to the trend of recognizing extracurriculars, legacy (which was Yale's invention I believe, though Harvard followed suit), "character," and any other such nebulous trait, in the name of limiting Jewish enrollment? Extracurriculars &legacies, like public schooling and the Davis Bacon act, owe their existence to hatred. The University of Chicago is proud of the fact that it did not discriminate against Jews (it says so in its diversity statement).

Harvard was careful to maintain its image, so that it not appear too Jewish, or for now, too Asian. As The Economist notes in a review of The Chosen (A reference to the great Jewish writer Chaim Potok), "Even today, efforts at Harvard to place more emphasis on the sciences (potentially replacing some wealthier white students with nerdy Asian-Americans) have attracted criticism that they might make the student body too one-dimensional instead of iconoclastic and well-rounded—exactly the same style of disparaging argument used to justify the Jewish quotas of yesteryear."

Is subtle prejudice masquerading as "diversity?"

This all implies that Harvard's 'brand' is tied to a certain image, a certain whiteness even, that it would be self-destructive to skew the pool of their students too much. Had Lawrence Summers not put himself in the imbroglio that he did, he might have been capable of changing Harvard. Perhaps he still has the bargaining power to do so. Perhaps not.

Discrimination will only truly cease when colleges stop asking for applicants' race (and sex). And that can only happen if the Department of Education closes up shop. Until then, you must take them on their faith that they do not discriminate.
12.1.2005 3:18am
DK:
Columbia Undergrad: Good point, but, (1) you will see the value of alumni connections more once you are an alum; and (2) we are both subject to observational biases. I spent too much time in the library/computer lab, so most of the athletic "quitters" I met were very studious, while as a member of a team, you may either see a wider range of quitters, or hear stories emphasizing the unsuccessful quitters.

"Quit" may have been the wrong word. Most of the people I knew who left ivy league athletics were people who were not the most naturally brilliant (i.e. were admitted due to their athletics and not their test scores), and left/quit the team later b/c they wanted to concentrate on academics or suffered injuries. They showed tremendous drive and competiveness in academics, and they often achieved greater success (and pay) than either naturally brilliant people who didn't study or apply themselves as hard or committed athletes who spent their off-field time drinking themselves into oblivion.

IMHO, athletic participation is a poor proxy for the real factor here -- work ethic. Most but not all athletes have great work ethics. Many unathletic people on the student paper, student government, the drama club, or in research labs have equal work ethic and competitive drive.
12.1.2005 10:14am
Jeremy Pierce (mail) (www):
There's also the fraternity/sorority factor. Some of the Ivies outlaw fraternities and sororities (though in some cases there's something to take its place), but my experience is that athletes at Ivies with fraternities and sororities tend to be in them, and it's well known that those sorts of connections can easily help someone land a better job.

Another factor is that athletes have to keep a busier schedule. Those who do that and still get good grades are seen as more responsible and harder working.
12.1.2005 10:38am
agog:
DK: Good points. I second your experience with 'quitters', my buddy who left college athletics after an injury and reallocated his work ethic to concentrate on school is hands down the hardest working guy I've ever met (I know more than a few ibanking-types). He's not in finance, and most people at his firm work a little overtime, but this psycho puts in at least 80 solid hours per week.
12.1.2005 3:00pm