June 22nd, 2004

WATCH: The Best And The Brightest

Amherst College is one of the country’s most prestigious institutions. And it competes with Harvard, Yale, Stanford and other universities for the nation’s brightest and most talented students.

This year, 5,400 high school seniors applied to Amherst, hoping to snag one of just 423 spots in the freshman class. The competition to get in is decidedly high.

So how do highly selective colleges and universities decide who gets in and who does not?

Amherst let us take a look behind the doors of the admissions process to find out how important grades, S.A.T. scores, athletics, family connections and other factors really are.

We produced two podcasts related to this piece: access them here and here.

Download transcript (PDF)

This program is made possible by the following funders:
Grade Level Reading Fund of the Tides Foundation, The Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki Foundation, The Wallace Foundation, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

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I think you did a wonderful job presenting the complexities of the issue. I really enjoyed the way you presented the switch from Amherst being highly selective, to students being in the position of selecting schools. And I was totally surprised and delighted to see a clip from my classroom!

It was very enlightening to see the complex process come down to a simple vote. My son Andrew, a high school freshman, was totally surprised to hear of the rejection of the boy who had one tough semester. The reason given, parental pressure, turns the whole idea of pushing our students toward ever-greater achievement on it’s head. He was also surprised by the number of students who reject Amherst after being accepted. I take issue with leaving spaces for athletes in such a small school, but that’s my bias.. Hopefully, there is the ‘perfect-fit’ college out there for most everyone, even if it’s not the most prestigious.

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