A Rebuttal To Frank Bruni, On The Essay In College Admissions


To the Editor, New York Times:


While I agree with Frank Bruni’s basic premise (Naked Confessions of the College-Bound) that too many students resort to questionable measures in seeking admission to the “warped wonderland” of hyper-selective elite colleges, I believe more context is needed.


The New York Times is not alone in paying disproportionate attention to those elite colleges who, by the bushel baskets, deny admission to our country’s best and brightest.  The media hype can almost make you feel sorry for those student (and parents) who opt into this frenzy to affix the tell-all decal on the family car’s rear window. In reality, fewer than 3% of students enrolled in college today attend schools that admit fewer than 30% of its applicants.  Lessons learned by these students do not reflect or inform the admissions process experienced by the vast majority of college-bound students.


The article also leans too heavily on insights from the seemingly recession-proof cottage industry surrounding hyper-selective admission.  What happens when test preparation companies can’t raise your scores high enough? You engage an “I’ve been there” expert who promises to unlock your secret qualities through the essay. For those of us on the college side of the desk, we know genuine from contrived and always weigh the essay, strong or weak, in relation to the student’s much larger body of work.




Bill Conley

Vice President for Enrollment Management

Bucknell University 


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