John Merrow noted the intense media attention on the recent college admission scandal, where rich parents found ways to buy higher test scores or pay for guarantees of admissions by pretending they were star athletes or paying off coaches to ask for them to be admitted or hiring a ringer to take the SAT for them.

He offers eight ways to repair the college admissions process.

Here are a few of his recommendations.

1) Elite colleges should stop participating in the annual US News & World Report college rankings process.  Just stop!  Because US News uses a college’s rate of rejection as an important measure of its quality, many colleges have stepped up their efforts to recruit applicants–just so they can turn them down.  After all, the more it turns down, the better US News says it must be.  If Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, MIT, Stanford et alia just said NO to US News, that would be a step in the right direction.

2) Get rid of the common application.  It’s now too easy for high school students to apply to dozens of colleges with one keystroke, and many kids do just that, particularly if their parents don’t mind paying the fees.  If we want to level the playing field, then colleges should do more reaching out to high schools in low- and moderate-income schools and help students apply.

By the way, the US News frenzy and the common application changed the admission process dramatically between our coverage of Williams in 1986 and Amherst in 2004.  In 1986 prior to the common application, every application was read by at least two members of the committee, and the entire committee met as a whole for days (often arguing passionately about particular candidates). However, by 2004 the flood of applications had forced Amherst to establish a SAT/ACT cutoff point; applicants below a certain number were rejected without a reading.  In 2004 Amherst had what amounted to two committees, which met and admitted and rejected candidates separately.

3) Administer–free of charge–the PSAT to all high school sophomores and juniors, because that test is a good indicator of talent and potential.  It might be an eye-opener for many kids in low income areas, because now many of them don’t even try to apply to “elite” colleges because they feel they don’t or won’t qualify; their PSAT scores might help change their minds.   Always remember that talent is randomly distributed, while test scores are closely related to parental income.  

There are eight in all. Read them and see what you think. Equitable funding of all high schools is another.