Well, I just fired this letter off to the NY Times. I doubt it will be published but it is one of the contrarian opinions I hold about "Fat Envelope Frenzy" (an actual title of a book I recently saw at B & N on Merrimack Street).
I will write more in future entries about this contrary-to-popular wisdom view but it stems from a profound life change that I underwent between my first and second years of high school. Of course, there's a lot more to it, but the immediate-term stimulus for the turnaround was the looming knowledge that the college process was coming, and I had been screwing up -- badly. It all could have ended differently but that's not the point. The point has everything to do with means, and has nothing at all to do with ends. And as far as the means go, I haven't stopped or even looked back since.
If that sounded vague or opaque, no worries, I'll expand on it later.
Anyway, here's the letter:
As your recent article indicates, admissions rates at many of America's most selective undergraduate institutions continue to drop. High school students, however, need not despair.
If you go to the campus of any selective American university and ask "What makes this place great?" you will consistently hear the same answer: "The students."
Therefore, it should follow that if there are more highly-qualified high school students than ever before, there would be more highly-esteemed institutions of higher learning as well. As logic would have it, there are.
A quick mental scan easily yields at least a dozen schools that are considered truly excellent today, yet were not regarded in the same way even a single generation ago.
Just as elite high school students are increasingly drawn to up-and-comer schools like Washington University in St. Louis, Emory, Tufts, and Carnegie Mellon, employers and graduate schools increasingly recognize these and other non-Ivy League universities' enhanced value.
- New Englander