Good press doesn’t necessarily mean good advice

Which article about college interviews would you be more likely to read?

Option 1:  "College deans advise: Just relax and have a good conversation." 


Option 2:  "College deans advise:  Girls, don't show your cleavage.  Boys, don't scratch yourselves." 

Today, The New York Times chose option 2.

Today's entry on The Choice, a blog I usually enjoy and often recommend, led with the entry, "Advice for the College Interview: Girls, Dress Discreetly; Boys, Mind Those Hands."  Turns out there's very little useful advice other than don't text during the interview, don't burst into song, and don't talk about how much you like to light things on fire.  Seriously.  They might as well have just entitled the article, "College deans advise: don't be rude, stupid or dangerous."

Sure, it's accurate advice.  But most teens don't need the New York Times to remind them not to scratch themselves during their college interviews.

The job of the press is to entice readers and sell papers.  That's why every spring, there will be another round of front page articles about the rising competition of Ivy League admissions.  There will be stories about seemingly perfect kids who were rejected from all their colleges.  There will stats about rising wait-list numbers, decreasing financial aid, and families who are spending tens of thousands of dollars for tutors and private admissions counselors.

It's important to remember that just because these stories end up on the front page doesn't mean they encapsulate the reality of college admissions.  It's just that "Nice kids who work hard always end up OK" will never sell as many papers as "Valedictorian with perfect SAT scores now living in parents' basement after receiving rejections from 12 out of 12 colleges." 

The press isn't being deceitful here–they're just doing their job.  But if you want college admissions reality, rely your high school counselor or a college admissions officer before you rely on the front page.   

PS: In the spirit of always talking about other people as though they were there in the room with you, I submitted this comment to "The Choice."


  1. Arun says

    As is so often the case, thanks for your post, KM. Those kinds of posts on The Choice are just painful and useless. But I do want to note that the SoCal rep for SMU actually sends students an email preceding the interview with virtually the exact advice on The Choice and perhaps in even more inarticulate terms:
    “Casual attire is fine as long as it is appropriate. If you are dressed as if you are going out for a night on the town, PLEASE reconsider what you are wearing. (Okay, there is no other way to put this. Girls you need to make sure your dress/skirt is long enough so that you do not spend the entire interview pulling it down. Also, your top/blouse should adequately cover yourself – say NO to cleavage. And that means boys you need to pull your pants up.)”
    Really? REALLY!? If a kid can’t figure this stuff out on their own, as an admissions officer I’d want to know so I don’t accidentally admit them to my school. For the other 99.9% out there who use, ummm, COMMON SENSE, the advice is simply demeaning and patronizing.