Thoughts On the Harvard Admissions Lawsuit

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Have you heard about the lawsuit against Harvard, brought by an Asian-American who didn’t get in (and other interested parties, of course)?

I admit that I’ve sorta been paying attention to it, some days more than others.  I also admit that I did find it interesting when part of the Harvard admissions handbook was released into evidence, then “leaked” across the Internet.  My thoughts on that document in a minute.

The gist of the issue is that Harvard factors in all sorts of “stuff” other than grades and test scores when it decides who gets in and who doesn’t.  The plaintiff was denied despite having perfect or near-perfect academic credentials.

The other stuff includes, obviously, race and ethnicity, whether the applicant is a recruited athlete and other “tags or “selects.”

The legal question is whether Harvard, as an educational institution that receives Federal funds, can consider these other factors in its decision to admit students.  Of course this is commonly referred to as “Affirmative Action.”

Kids with superior academic credentials (and their parents) who fail to get into their top choice colleges have another word for it:


I don’t have much to say about the legal aspects of the suit, but my best guess is that the court will uphold Harvard’s methodology as permissible.

On the other hand, I have plenty to say to kids and parents who complain that this isn’t fair.  Namely:

Who said it was SUPPOSED to be fair?

If you think that all it takes to get into your Dream College is high grades and scores, you need to know how it really works, here on Planet Earth.

College isn’t a meritocracy.

When I reviewed the 18 pages of Harvard admissions manual submitted into evidence, I was struck by how little attention grades and scores received throughout.  The vast majority of the manual was devoted to all sorts of social engineering considerations, including the afore-mentioned recruited athletes, ethnicity and so forth.

Which made me think, for the zillionth time, that it’s a fool’s errand to build a college list based on Naviance or other high school programs that predict your chances of admission based on academic factors only, and how you stack up against other kids in your high school. (My private college advising clients use a different, proprietary software, truth be be told.)

If anything, the Harvard manual reinforced that you need WAY more than superior academic credentials to have a fighting chance there, or any elite or highly competitive school, for that matter.  Virtually all competitive colleges evaluate candidates in a similar manner.

So understand that some considered factors are out of your control (ethnicity, at least for the time being before all colleges all you to self-identify), but many are IN your control (extra-curricular activities, leadership, character, demonstrating interest, more).

Final comment:  I don’t blame you if you find this unfair or even distasteful.  Personally – and perhaps ironically, given my profession – I have problems with it too.

However, I have chosen to learn the Rules of The Game and abide by them. I urge you and your child to do the same.

We’re trotting out our ACT and SAT small group classes in a couple of weeks.  They are guaranteed in a meaningful way, that other test prep companies don’t do.

Right now we’re running a $100 off promo for each class – use the coupon code “CRUSHER”  to qualify.


Have a great week!

-Andy “Affirmative Action Jackson” Lockwood

P.S. Marissa, our tutor, also has an extremely limited amount of availability for 1-on-1 tutoring, email me or message me if interested.

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