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Susan Williamson – The College Scandal

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Susan Williamson

The outrage is beginning to die down, but we are still hearing about the parents and “admission coach” who bribed and faked the way for many rich students to enter choice colleges. I think the part of this that bothers me the most is that fake sports prowess in water polo or rowing or sailing make a particular student more attractive to an ivy- league or other highly desirable school. The investigation showed that these students did not participate in the sport once they enrolled. But why does a university consider adeptness at water polo or rowing criteria for enrollment?

Back in the dark ages when I applied to college, I applied to three schools. I had good grades and decent SAT scores. Bucknell University accepted me but Allegheny College and Swarthmore did not. Was I beaten out by someone who could row or play water polo? Somehow I think not.

In my sophomore year I decided to transfer to the University of Kentucky because I wanted to major in agriculture. When I hadn’t heard anything by early summer, I was worried and called UK. Of course you will get in, they said. Were my classes easier at UK than at Bucknell? Did I have a lesser quality of instruction? Yes and no. The competition for grades was easier at UK and the curve less steep, but the instruction was excellent at both schools.

When I applied to grad school I was accepted at all three choices and chose the one which offered me the most money for a fellowship, the University of California at Davis. Many of my classmates at Davis were trying to get into vet school or medical school so the curve steepened. The instruction was again excellent and I was well prepared for it.

I never felt that I was handicapped by not attending a “top tier” school. I didn’t hobnob with a lot of now rich and famous people, but that was neither my nor my parents’ goal. My goal was to get a good education and take the maximum number of classes in order to get the most for my tuition. Twentieth century American novels and technical writing were not required for an ag major, but those classes no doubt helped with my writing career. And my father’s advice to earn a BS (and later an MS) led me to several teaching opportunities.

Looking back, I feel fortunate to have had the educational opportunities I did. I never earned a huge amount of money, but I had several fulfilling jobs. When it was time for our daughter to attend college, we told her we could send her to any state school in North Carolina where we lived at the time. She chose NC State and I believe received an excellent education. She applied and was accepted on her own merit—I cannot imagine doing otherwise.

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