Higher education admissions programs play a critical role in advancing institutional mission through processes that should be rigorous, calibrated, and fair. Every year, college admissions professionals make tens of thousands of decisions that result in educationally sound matches of institutions and students. Unfortunately, the reality of that decision-making is often misunderstood and frequently controversial. Issues surrounding admissions and aid policies and practices, in fact, are “among the most visible” and reflect an “area where those outside the academy feel most justified in launching attacks.”
The opacity of the perceived “black box” of decision-making and ill-conceived notions of “merit” contribute to this skepticism, stemming in substantial part from “the conflicts among appearances, an abstract standard of equity, and the realities and pragmatism known by insiders to be part of the complex admissions task.” Such controversy is particularly notable regarding debates on issues like “affirmative action” that are often ill informed; and others like Varsity Blues, where alleged fraud in admissions by privileged parents and coaches are legitimately scorned.