ivy league admissions vs. ivy league job prospects
Two conflicting themes about elite institutions:
1. Many Ivy League students are selected on political grounds – legacies, athletes, and various “well rounded” kids:
Researchers with access to closely guarded college admissions data have found that, on the whole, about 15 percent of freshmen enrolled at America’s highly selective colleges are white teens who failed to meet their institutions’ minimum admissions standards.
This report is about minimum standards. Lots of other kids probably meet minimum requirements but probably wouldn’t be competitive if it weren’t for being children of alumni.
2. Recruiters from elite law, consulting, and investment banks exclusively focus on about three or four elite colleges. See Caplan’s review of Lauren Rivera’s ethnography of elite firm recruiting for details. The take home points:
- Elite firms have no time to sort through people.
- Nearly all applicants from low status schools (e.g., the “public Ivies” like Michigan or Berkeley or any other non-HYP school) are tossed in the trash without review.
- There’s a signalling of habitus – applicants need the right interactional skills, the right major, the right extra-curriculars, showing similarity to the recruiter
- There’s modest amount of evaluation based on performance (SAT or GPA), but not a lot.
So what gives? Are elite firms stupid? Do they not know that a huge chunk of Ivy league graduates simply don’t have what it takes to get into Ivy League colleges without the help of mom and dad? If they do know, why do they keep hiring these people?
A few answers:
- These firms are selling legitimacy. Buyers want the comfort of the Ivy League brand, so there’s a premium. For this story to work, you need to believe that these services – investment banking, consulting – can be easily taught to people who aren’t geniuses.
- Heterogeneity. Yes, Ivy League schools have dim kids, but they do accept lots of brilliant people as well. So just hire a bunch of them and fire those that fare poorly, which is the strategy for many investment firms.
- Opacity. It’s hard to assign credit to specific people in these industries. So the whiz kid math majors who do the mental heavy lifting have to share credit (and paychecks) with the legacy kids. That allows the system of hiring by college to survive.
Add your own explanations.