Secret World of College Admissions

Download Audio
photoLife is filled with little mysteries. For high schools seniors and their parents, the bizarre and secret world of college admissions is one of them. Each fall, seniors put their fate in the hands of the admissions gods and pray. And for good reason. Nowadays, even perfect scores and varsity letters won't necessarily cinch a spot in the freshman class.

New York Times national education correspondent Jacques Steinberg dove deep into murky waters of college admissions. He spent eight months observing the process at Wesleyan University. He says "College makes their admissions decision behind a cordon of security befitting the selection of a pope."

This country hasn't always been so college crazed. Until the late 1950s, admission to America's elite schools was reserved exclusively for bluebloods and graduates of certain select schools. The civil rights movement helped pry open the gates and so a 1978 Supreme Court ruling giving schools a green light to consider race a plus in admissions decisions. The SAT exam also helped more students get in the elite college game. Competition to gain admission to a top tier school has grown even more intense over the past two decades.

So what's the admissions experience been like for your family? Dream come true or a nightmare? Can a fair process be fair to everyone? In this pre-recorded program, we go inside this secret world.


Jacques Steinberg, national education correspondent, The New York Times, and author, "The Gatekeepers"

Ralph Figueroa, former admissions officer, Wesleyan University

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst

This program aired on September 30, 2002.


More from On Point

Listen Live