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Investment Bankers vs. Curing Cancer

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We’re going to leave the substantial issues about college argued in this post on the Volokh Conspiracy aside. It’s not really our thing. We just wanted to bring to your attention they way it equates “ works on a cure for cancer” and “wins the Nobel Prize in Chemisty” with “becomes a prominent investment banker.” So, all you investment bankers out there, email that to the do-gooders in your life because you're just as good as them. Only richer.

Liming Luo is a high school senior who is both a math prodigy and received a perfect 2,400 score on her SATs. New York Magazine asked Katherine Cohen, CEO and founder of IvyWise, a school-admissions consulting company, about her [and other students'] prospects for admission to MIT, the college of her choice. The answer:

Her perfect SAT score is truly outstanding but not a free ticket. She is applying to many technical colleges, so she will be competing against a lot of other high-achieving math/science kids (and a lot of other Asian students in particular). While she may be admitted to MIT early, I am not convinced she’s a shoo-in—I’d want to see more evidence that she’s giving back to the community.

Beyond the Asian issues, what sense does it make to require Ms. Luo to show that she's "giving back to the community?" She's a math genius, and has a perfect score on her SATs. Her name suggests that she is likely the child of immigrants, maybe an immigrant herself. She has a fair number of extracurriculars, but likely is focusing on developing her academic skills. She'll be giving back by creating wealth and knowledge when she invents the next Google, works on a cure for cancer, wins the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, or becomes a prominent investment banker. And some of those careers will allow her, if she chooses, to donate substantial sums to charity. But what's she supposed to be doing now, neglecting her intellectual pursuits and instead volunteering at a soup kitchen every Sunday? That's a very nice and praiseworthy thing to do, of course, but it would hardly be the most efficient use of her time and talents, and should have nothing to do with whether she's admitted to the school of her choice. The idea that Ms. Luo may not be worthy of admission because she hasn't proven herself sufficiently altruistic is the kind of thing that makes Objectivism look almost reasonable.

Something's Terribly Wrong with University Admissions, Judging by This Story [Volokh Conspiracy]