Admissions lottery for college

by North of Boston

When we’ve talked about the admissions process for highly-selective colleges in the past, people here have remarked that choosing randomly from amongst a college’s applicant pool would probably be just as good as a big, high-priced admissions committee hand-picking individuals from that pool. Well, apparently some people who study such things agree that a lottery system would be a good idea:

Why elite colleges should use a lottery to admit students

So, Totebaggers, what do you think? For any college (not just the elite ones), do you like the idea that applicants should just have to show a baseline level of academic proficiency, and then just have a lottery determine who gets in?


128 thoughts on “Admissions lottery for college

  1. Tying into the “luck” conversation: “An admission lottery would send a clear message that admission is significantly based on chance, not just merit, which is actually how admissions works now – it’s just that students think it’s based exclusively on merit when it’s not.”

    A lottery wouldn’t work at many schools, but at elite universities admitting single-digit percentages of the applicants, it’s a great idea. And it doesn’t have to involve just one big electronic hat — different hats could be created for male/female, geographic area, URM status, legacies, donors, etc.

    But ITA that it’s absurd to pretend that admissions staff can make meaningful distinctions among essentially interchangeable applicants.

  2. It seems like it would weaken the school and the alumni network. The “school spirit” has a lot to do with everyone feeling special because the magic sorting hat picked them. If it’s all just random, it kind of looses the magic.

  3. I don’t actually think that would happen, Rhett. An elite college could fill say 40-50 percent of its class with all sorts of categories, even if race/ethic factors are completely disallowed by Court decision, including first gen as a proxy for under represented groups, and also categories for athletes, artists, geographic location, legacy/donor, genius, top candidates from traditional feeder schools, early action candidates. Then it could apply a uniform numerical standard to the rest of the applicants to eliminate the bottom academic quarter or third. Next a lottery to pick the next 50-40 percent of the admission class. Then it could analyze the declared areas of interest or gender breakdown or full pay of the 90 percent versus scholarship and run a weighted lottery for the final 10% and the waiting list. No one would have to know, other than early action, who was admitted and who was not. The lottery pool would probably end up heavily Asian, eliminating the current effects of cloaked discrimination.

  4. Background – as part of helping parents understand about the application process, DD#1s school had an exercise facilitated by some local admissions officers. In small groups, we were each given profiles of 3 students and told we were to admit one, wait list one, and deny one. There was no consensus between the selections of the roughly 15 small groups. The admissions officers told us that while admissions staff rarely have initial consensus on applicants, the admissions staff would often see certain data/behaviors differently than we did as novice evaluators.

    From that exercise, I would agree that, after a certain level of scrutiny, drawing from pool is just as likely as what they actually choose. I agree with Scarlett that it may not be appropriate to be one big pool, especially if you have some programs where you receive many more applicants that you can admit and other programs where you can admit all the qualified applicants.

    I think the point Rhett/Milo make – the process could still have some of those features, but instead of picking the “final” candidates, it would be used to get you into the sorting hat.

  5. If you knew you had made it into the lottery pool, but then didn’t win the lottery, for some reason I can imagine lawsuits. I don’t know why; it’s just a gut reaction on my part.

  6. RMS,

    On what grounds would they sue? It seems a random lottery would be lawsuit proof compared to the current system.

  7. I am glad the information of the de facto quota system has come out. At least students now have the knowledge that probably half the seats at highly selective schools are decided based on things other than academic merit. I think the schools were peddling hogwash with their holistic admissions spiel.

  8. “The “school spirit” has a lot to do with everyone feeling special because the magic sorting hat picked them. If it’s all just random, it kind of looses the magic.”

    Many students, even at elite colleges, already know that admissions are somewhat random, because they know that classmates or CC “friends” with equivalent records were turned away.

    My sense is that the first elite school to try this approach will end up with even MORE applicants, driving the admitted percentage still lower. Keep in mind that applicants would need high numbers even to get into the lottery pool — it’s not as though the lottery approach would result in the admission of lower-quality students:

    “The former president of Harvard, Drew Faust, once said that Harvard could fill the class “twice over with valedictorians.” And as part of its defense in what has come to be known as “the affirmative action trial,” the university has said it could also fill its incoming class of roughly 2,000 students almost twice over with students with perfect scores on the math SAT.”

  9. Rocky – yeah I could see that until it were proven that the lottery results were based on a fair draw vs having a thumb on the scale.

    Using the idea that all the ‘never admits’ were removed from consideration and then everyone remaining was grouped into: first gen as a proxy for under represented groups, and also categories for athletes, artists, geographic location, legacy/donor, genius, top candidates from traditional feeder schools, early action candidates + other (other = lottery). If the real results were 60% Asian 30% white, 10% all other I can see there being pressure to ‘bring those results into line of what we’d really like to see”.

  10. This will just move the big competition to the stage where people are getting chosen for the lottery.

  11. I think it is a farce to pretend that there are real differences between the people picked and almost picked for the most elite schools, so this makes sense. But I do think that it would hurt the “brand” of these schools as Rhett said – so they’ll never do it.

    Can I ask a side question? Any suggestions from the NYC posters on where to eat near Columbus Circle? Both quick lunch places & sit down dinner?

  12. Rhett, I said it was just kind of a gut reaction. The idea would be “I was qualified but they didn’t let me in! It’s not fair!!” because nobody seems to know what “fair” actually means anymore.

  13. You guys all seem to be assuming that SAT scores would be the criterion to get into the lottery. But that would never happen in real life – using SAT score + luck would completely undermine the elite schools assertion that their students are “special”. And it would end up with all of the access problems that the NYC exam schools have – wealthy kids paying big bucks to prep to get into the lottery, etc. But mainly, I think everyone would just start screaming “Our kids are not just numbers!”.

    So the reality is that the holistic admit process would have to move to the lottery qualification step. It would be like Common App on steroids.

  14. because nobody seems to know what “fair” actually means anymore.

    This is where the real problem lies. For instance in the geographic diversity category – is it fair to pit North Dakota over South Carolina ? Or is it fair to give consideration to these two states vs. a student from Upstate NY ?

  15. Ivy – Sit down places: Rosa Mexicana is “fancy” Mexican – definitely get the guac. Gabriel’s is really good Italian. PJ Clarkes – beer and a burger. Super casual NYC diner – The Flame. (We used to go there a lot!) Really depends who’s going and how much you do/don’t want to pay.

  16. Ivy – For lunch, there’s the usual places like LPQ, some coffee/lunch places in Columbus Circle itself. Patsy’s is a good pizza place – great for families.

  17. People aren’t “chosen” for the lottery in this case. The school gets to pick say half the class based on whatever the hell they want that is not illegal. I would expect that 80 to 90 percent of the kids picked in that sorting would NOT be Asian, with some from genius/early action, legacy/donor, artist, elite prep school, first gen. One might be able sue on the composition of the early action pile, but they could even eliminate that and have only a tiny group of irrevocable early decision. Then the lottery pool would be done entirely on a numerical point based evaluation – scores, grades, outside activities, maybe geography, with perhaps a few budding sociopathic never admits already in the reject pool. No one would get a letter saying you missed the lottery. They would bend over backwards not to give lawsuit leverage on how the geography or activity points were calculated. Math team would have to count the same as soup kitchen. Piano the same as lacrosse. The kids who might miss a hypo lottery cut off by reason of grades or SAT scores are already pumping up the extracurriculars or charity work now for their reach schools.

  18. wealthy kids paying big bucks to prep to get into the lottery, etc.

    But study after study after study has shown that SAT prep doesn’t work.

  19. “Math team would have to count the same as soup kitchen. Piano the same as lacrosse.”

    Or you could have lots of sorting hats broken down into those categories. Earnest soup kitchen volunteers. Nerdy math/science team. Student body presidents. Sports team captains (not good enough to be recruited). Spelling/geography bee winners. Dancers. Kids who worked 20+ hours/week during the school year.

    That is really what happens now — admissions folks will automatically compare the bright well-rounded student government president with the other bright well-rounded presidents she has already evaluated.

  20. The machinations being described here seem almost as unfair and complex as the present system. I would prefer a lottery based primarily on test scores with grades factored in, but that will never happen.

  21. “I would prefer a lottery based primarily on test scores with grades factored in, but that will never happen.”

    I would prefer that too, but mainly because that system would favor my kids. I am sure that parents of kids with different strengths would prefer another scoring scheme.

  22. Near Columbus Circle: For a quick bite the underground subway shops have a nice food court; I’ve eaten at the Peruvian place. Bar Boulud (famous chef alert) is a French bistro place I liked a lot. He also has another restaurant in the neighborhood.

  23. But Scarlett – the point is that the lottery system has to be lawsuit-proof. After the multiple sorting hat 40-50 percent of the class has been chosen, another 50-40 percent of the class is taken randomly from everyone else who meets a certain base cutoff. The last 10 percent can still be lottery but weighted, likely mostly for resource reasons. Because grades and test scores would be a big factor, and all activities would count with equal weight for the activity score, the large group of math team kids would not be in a separate lottery pool from much smaller group of soup kitchen worker kids, with statistically likely effect on the final ethnic makeup of the class.

  24. I was thinking the lottery would be the same holisitic system used now, just with a lower bar. So rather than taking the top 2,000 for admission (after allocating the legacy, athletes, whatever else), they would take however many based on their subjective criteria with a baseline of “can this person be successful in our school?” however they want to decide that.

  25. “I would prefer that too, but mainly because that system would favor my kids. I am sure that parents of kids with different strengths would prefer another scoring scheme.”

    By “different strengths” you could mean all sorts of activities ginned up by families with the money to be able to do that. I think academic measures are potentially more fair to all kids. (I know that’s probably not a common view here or in many other places.)

  26. I don’t see how all these lottery driven sorting hats add any value vs. the current system.

    I assume what people really want is some kind of rubric so anyone can go online, plug their numbers in and know – in or out.

    For example points needed for admissions – 1000

    SAT Score – 1535 – (435 out of 450 points)
    GPA – 4.2 (170 out of 200 points)
    Class Rank at XYC high school – 16 (200 out of 250 points)
    Club officer roles – 4 (40 out of 50)
    Varsity Sports – 2 (85 out of 100 points)

    You’re at 980 – not admitted.

  27. Thanks Kerri & July. Work trip – so dinner is expense account, but not “internal meeting” not “entertaining clients”. $30 entrees are fine, Per Se is not! We’ll go further for dinner (~1 mile or so), but lunch I think I’ll barely have time to eat before my first meeting, so probably not.

  28. I’m also not seeing the issues with lawsuits. Obviously the more objective the criteria to get into the lottery, the less chance of lawsuits. But a holistic determination wouldn’t be any more prone to lawsuits than the current holistic admissions process.

  29. I don’t see how all these lottery driven sorting hats add any value vs. the current system.

    Right. I see a lottery as replacing the sorting hats. Take the pool of acceptable applicants, and randomly select them until all the available spots are filled. It might need to be limited by major or program, but otherwise no sorting.

  30. ” don’t see how all these lottery driven sorting hats add any value vs. the current system.”

    Because it’s cheaper, for one thing. You don’t need a huge staff, supplemented by hordes of outside readers. It could probably be done by computer, after the human beings decided on the various metrics.

    A lottery would virtually eliminate the possibility of a kid with low numbers but with an awesome personal story from breaking through the admissions wall, but the truth is that the existing system (at least at our school) is heavily weighted against those kids already and it takes a minor miracle for any of them to be admitted.

  31. Ivy – I’ll second Baloud. Gabriel’s and Rosa Mexicana should fit your dinner plans. There are tons of quick lunch options: grabbing a bagel and coffee from a street vendor, to go places, to sit down lunch places.

    Take a look at Open Table or simply Google Maps and if something looks good, contact me offline. Otherwise there are too many options for lunch/ dinner in Manhattan, especially if you’re willing to travel!

  32. Hi from 30,000′ on the way home from SF.

    So, first, I agree that a lottery is never going to happen. And if it were to happen, you’d almost have to pair it with a “match” system like med school, because otherwise everyone would need to apply everywhere, and statistically speaking there’d still be kids who didn’t get in anywhere (IOW, how do you do “safety” schools if all the schools are in the same big hat?).

    But, boy, I wish we had it. The amount of effort and stress that goes into this stuff — I wouldn’t mind if it were actually accomplishing something, but really you’re just running around hoping to tick a few extra boxes, when the reality is that if you’re in the vast sea of “well qualified but not truly exceptional,” what’s most likely to make the difference is whether your admissions reader had a bad lunch and got indigestion. All the churn provides a false sense of control, which I agree leads directly to a false sense of superiority in those who are chosen.

    A lottery also is the only way I can figure out to address implicit bias. This is really in my head right now, because we just went through the partnership decisions, and the difference in the questions asked about the minority candidate really bothered the crap out of me. E.g., they’re working on exactly the same huge matter as a white guy, in exactly the same role from what we can all tell — the whole project is like a giant black box, so no one out of the loop really understands what’s going on. So we walk through the white guy, and the guy running the project talks about how awesome he is and how critical to the project, and everyone goes, yeah, he’s great; he still needs to develop in some other areas, but he’ll do that. Then the minority comes up, the guy running the project says equally glowing things about them, and the questions start: Well, what are they really doing? Is it substantive/intellectually challenging work? That humongo report you mentioned — are they just cobbling together stuff that other people wrote or writing it themselves? Do we need to wait another year to give them the chance to prove themselves in these other areas too? Are we not holding this person to the same “standards” as others? Etc. etc. etc. And I just got madder and madder and madder, because it was the same sort of subtle “well, but is this person really *smart* or just charismatic and well-organized” that so often applies to minorities — and we as a Firm have prided ourselves on doing a shit-ton of implicit bias training and being woke and all that, and it is just such a huge goddamn crock that they couldn’t see what they were doing.

    The good news is that I and another person had already had this direct discussion with the Powers that Be beforehand and were basically armed for bear — but the Powers that Be were also primed from that earlier discussion and were totally ready to answer the questions, and the person sailed through with 100% approval without me needing to intervene (which would definitely have been detrimental to this person’s chances, because you can’t basically call someone a racist and expect them to respond with “OMG, you’re so right, I need to change my vote”). But if I had any questions whether implicit bias was a real thing, even among appropriately liberal, well-meaning, supposedly self-aware people who have gone through training and workshops and you name it, that meeting would have set me straight. So I really cannot see how any kind of human-based selection system is ever possibly “fair” to people who don’t fit the expected norm.

    (OK, in my fellow partners’ defense, there are some significant complications with this person unrelated to their work that I can’t really go into, and people didn’t have a lot of time to process that, and we’re lawyers, and so some folks were legitimately hesitant and needed to go through the whole picture sort of methodically and in great detail. But I was really angry that instead of focusing on the complications, they chose to deal with the complexity by focusing on “standards” and “substantive work” and all that crap at a much more detailed level than for any other candidate).

  33. Admissions: remember, folks, ‘test optional’ is a thing. Not for the Ivies/Stanford (yet) but plenty of top (low admissions rates) schools, i.e. SLACs. but notably UChicago, NYU. So that could/would impact some of the ‘are you in the lottery’ calculus.

  34. “So I really cannot see how any kind of human-based selection system is ever possibly “fair” to people who don’t fit the expected norm.”

    And unlike the situation in your law firm, where you had the luxury of having years to observe the candidates and hours to discuss them, college admissions decisions are based on speed reading through interchangeable files and extremely abbreviated discussions. No way can there be any actual nuance involved.

  35. college admissions decisions are based on speed reading through interchangeable files

    I recall someone (maybe it was you) saying that due to the volume 95% of it based on SAT, class rank and GPA. If you’re over the cutoff you get in and if you’re not you don’t. The idea that they are carefully weighting the relative value of band vs. orchestra or soccer vs. lacrosse is a myth. Are these applications really interchangeable or can you pretty much tell at a glance if someone is getting in or not?

  36. Rhett, at our university a low SAT/GPA will keep you out, but there are still more than twice as many high scoring applicants for each spot. Some superstars are essentially auto admits but the admissions staff does need to parse through the files of thousands of applicants in order to fill most of the class.

  37. I always figured that your odds of getting in have as much to do with the state of mind of the admissions counselor as anything else. In other words, is the admissions staff reading the application in the morning after they’ve had their coffee and are feeling relatively fresh? Or is it late in the evening when they’ve reached the “I’ll pluck my eyeballs out if I have to read any more of these applications” and “Lord save me from ever having to read another essay about…” stage?

    I don’t think it will ever happen but I kind of like the lottery idea because it makes the rejection less personal.

  38. Ivy, I was at Columbus Circle recently, for a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert. After the concert we bought a pizza for dinner at a 99 Cents Pizza place a few blocks away on Broadway.

  39. “and we as a Firm have prided ourselves on doing a shit-ton of implicit bias training and being woke and all that, and it is just such a huge goddamn crock that they couldn’t see what they were doing.”

    Apparently most of that training is ineffective.

    Nosek referred to work by Kalev and Harvard sociology professor Frank Dobbin, who reviewed data on diversity efforts from more than 800 U.S. companies and interviewed hundreds of employees. They ultimately found that the positive effects of diversity training often don’t last beyond two days, and may actually entrench biases due to backlash. “When companies get in hot water over bias, their initial reaction is often to do some kind of training because it’s something you can outsource and it’s relatively easy to do and has good optics,” says Dobbin. “The studies that look out six months to a year tend to be equally likely to show increased bias after the training as they are to show decreased bias.”

    Additionally, diversity hiring sometimes creates a situation where the recipient’s abilities are particularly questioned. I think I’ve seen this from both sides of the equation.

  40. Can I tell you how much I hate, hate, hate, the college application process? I’m still triggered from DS1. Luckily, it seems that the process will be much simpler for DS2, as he’s mainly focusing on state colleges (at this point).

  41. “Can I tell you how much I hate, hate, hate, the college application process? ”

    Me too. When I went to college, if you had above a certain GPA/SAT score you were in to a UC. So much less stress.

  42. While the college selection process is not ideal, we tried to take the attitude that we’re not going to change it, so make the best of it.

    DS and I both largely embraced the process, and it gave us something to share through his HS years.

  43. “When I went to college, if you had above a certain GPA/SAT score you were in to a UC. So much less stress.”

    From what I’ve heard, it’s not just the UCs that have gotten more competitive; the Cal Polys as well as the Cal States have gotten more competitive.

    But as DD likes to point out, there are still schools with pretty high acceptance rates, e.g., ASU at about 84%, or Western Washington U at about 85% or Kansas State at about 95%.

  44. In comparison, per Prepscholar, Chico State is at about 67%, Humboldt State is at about 58%, and Long Beach State is at about 29% (!!).

  45. (I ask this in a “what should I brace myself for” way, not a “what could there possibly be to hate” way)

  46. The college admissions process to a selective college is dependent on the child. If you have an academically gifted child whose school work is also good, they’ll get into some pretty good schools. The kid could be shy and not the well rounded person that schools like to tout but that won’t hamper them.
    This is without the parents minute oversight.
    I’ve seen this several times.

  47. I hated the paperwork, deadlines, and stress about getting all the work done on time. Since we didn’t have a college that my kid had fallen madly in love with, the concern about acceptances was not that great. We felt confident he would be accepted to a college that would be acceptable to him, although invariably anticipating responses was stressful. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but really for most kids it should not be an ordeal. Am I wrong? I think some others here have not found it be a horrible process.

    Oh wow, I just learned about ASMR YouTube videos. Basically, they whisper instead of speaking in a regular voice. It’s supposed to induce deep relaxation, but to me it’s like nails on chalkboard.

  48. I hated the not knowing what was actually needed to get into a good enough college.

    My oldest applied to a whole lot of colleges, didn’t get into her first choice and is doing well at her school. DD2 got into almost all the colleges she applied to, didn’t have a clear favorite until she went and met with a professor. He convinced her that she wanted to go to the school she picked. DH and I were very pleased because it cost about 160K less than the second choice.

    Now DS actually has a favorite and I’m trying to get him to look at Corvallis as well.

  49. From the OP link:

    “universities should carefully reflect on what qualities they seek in students. One reasonable quality would be a basic level of academic achievement, such that a student – with the supports available on campus – will be able to handle the academic expectations of the university.

    In order to ensure all young people have a shot, these expectations and supports should accommodate top students from high schools around the country, including the neediest communities with the fewest resources. “

    IOW, the author is advocating that HSS lower their standards to that of the best students at the worst HS in the country. This suggests we shouldn’t have any schools that focus on educating our brightest kids.

    IMO, that would be a tremendous disservice to our brightest kids, and not in the best interests of our country.

  50. What I hate about the college application process is that it takes perfectly smart, accomplished kids and convinces them they are losers who won’t get in anywhere significant. And it dominates and stresses out families. I’m so glad my kids are past the college applications stage and that we didn’t live in a place where you can’t show your face if you haven’t applied to 12 schools.

  51. Finn – I don’t read it that way. I read it as, if you have the raw academic talent but did not go to a good high school the HSS should be able to support you. So, in fact the goal is to support the brightest kids regardless of their schools.

  52. “So they, for example, view a 1525 SAT the same as a 1575?”

    “Pretty much.”

    How about a 1550 vs a 1600?

    We’ve discussed this before, and IMO, there’s potentially a huge difference between a 790 and an 800 on a given test, due to the lack of granularity above 790, that apparently has increased recently.

  53. I’m so glad ….. that we didn’t live in a place where you can’t show your face if you haven’t applied to 12 schools.

    This. Our HS leaves a lot to be desired as I mentioned, but I really like that our kids aren’t caught up in the college madness that a lot of totebag kids have gone through. Our biggest concern right now is figuring out when we can make a visit to WSU. Of the schools on his list, Utah has the lowest acceptance rate at 66%, so we’re not too worried about him getting in to one of his top choices.

  54. This suggests we shouldn’t have any schools that focus on educating our brightest kids..

    Germany doesn’t have that and it seems to do OK.

  55. Pretty much.

    I’d be interested to see how statistically valid that is. While you could say one person getting a 1575 on one day va someone else getting a 1525 on other day isn’t valid. Overall 1575 should indicate somewhat higher levels of cognitive ability than 1525.

  56. “What I hate about the college application process is that it takes perfectly smart, accomplished kids and convinces them they are losers who won’t get in anywhere significant”


  57. The Indicator from Planet Money’s Thursday’s Podcast was about University of Michigan’s HAIL program that sent Packages to high achieving low income students encouraging them to apply and explaining the program, which existed before but people couldn’t easily access it. The transcript is below but it is worth the listen and is only 10 minutes.

    Caleb Adams is a sophomore at the University of Michigan. It’s a university he did not expect he would ever be able to attend back when he was a high school student in the small town of Bark River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
    CALEB ADAMS: I grew up a Michigan fan. I always loved Michigan, but I just never thought about actually going there because getting into Michigan was hard, and it was expensive.
    Caleb was a good student – near the top of his class, says he had about a 38 point average, captain of the football team, National Honor Society. And he held down a job.
    VANEK SMITH: Oh, my gosh. What was I doing in high school?
    GARCIA: (Laughter) Things got serious. But the University of Michigan is an elite school. Less than 25 percent of the students who applied for last year’s class were accepted.
    VANEK SMITH: Caleb’s mother is a bus driver, and his father is a cop. The family is of modest means. And the sticker price for tuition and fees to attend the University of Michigan for four years, even for Michigan residents, is at least $60,000. So Caleb always figured he would end up going to Northern Michigan University instead. It’s easier to get into and has a lower sticker price.
    ADAMS: Yeah. I did not think about it at all. I was pretty set on going to Northern because it was really close to home, and all my friends were going there.
    GARCIA: And I’m Cardiff Garcia.
    What Caleb did not know going into his senior year in high school was that an experiment run by an economist would end up changing the path of his life. And the conclusions of the experiment are promising enough that it could end up doing the same for a lot of high school students just like the one that Caleb used to be – students who would wrongly assume that going to an elite university just wasn’t really an option.
    GARCIA: Sue Dynarski is a professor of economics, education and public policy at the University of Michigan. And she has been interested in the topic of inequality in educational outcomes ever since she got a scholarship to study at Harvard, where she realized how different she was from most of her classmates because she came from a low-income family. And now as an economist, one place where Sue observes a lot of inequality is within the student body of her own university.
    SUE DYNARSKI: The statistics that we now know are that, at most of the top schools – the Harvards, the Stanfords and the Michigans – there are as many students from the top 1 percent of the income distribution as there are from the entire bottom 60 percent of the income distribution, right? So huge overrepresentation of rich students and underrepresentation of low-income students.
    VANEK SMITH: And when there is inequality within the student bodies of elite colleges, that can lead to higher inequality after college as well for a couple of reasons. One is that attending a higher-quality college leads to higher incomes after graduation. That’s not that surprising. And another reason is that students who attend elite colleges are a lot more likely to actually graduate. For example, take Northern Michigan University, where Caleb Adams thought he would end up going. Only about half the students who attend Northern Michigan University graduate within six years of starting. At the University of Michigan, it’s about 90 percent.
    GARCIA: A few years ago, the administrators at the University of Michigan wanted to increase the number of good students from low-income families that applied to the school. So they approached Sue Dynarski to help them out. Now, Sue and her three collaborators – Katherine Michelmore, C.J. Libassi and Stephanie Owen – were already familiar with the current research.
    VANEK SMITH: And what that research shows is that low-income, high-achieving students in high school were often disincentivized from applying to an elite college by three main things. First, these students weren’t sure if they were suitable to attend such an elite school. Like they might have worried that their grades weren’t good enough or that their high school wasn’t good enough. Second, the students overestimated how much it would cost to attend an elite university. Third – and I think this is especially relatable – they were intimidated or confused by the bureaucracy of filling out financial aid forms like FAFSA, which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
    DYNARSKI: The financial aid system in our country is set up such that you don’t find out about the price of college until you’ve actually applied and been admitted, which is bassackwards (ph), right? So it’s like we offered a, you know, a car – an auto rebate and we provided it after people signed the dotted line and agreed to buy the car. That’s essentially what we do.
    VANEK SMITH: Sue and her colleagues ran an experiment. And what they wanted to do was design this simple intervention that could eliminate or at least shrink all of the barriers that were preventing low-income students from applying to the University of Michigan.
    ADAMS: They started by identifying about 2,000 high school seniors in the state of Michigan who met two criteria. First, these students had grades and SAT scores that were good enough that they would probably be accepted into the University of Michigan if they applied. And second, their families had incomes below a certain threshold. They were low-income families.
    VANEK SMITH: The researchers then randomly split these students into two different groups. One was the control group. These students did not get the intervention from Sue and her colleagues.
    GARCIA: The students in the second group, though, who attended a different set of high schools – these students were the treatment group. These students did get the intervention. And that intervention arrived in the shape of a big, glossy packet that the University of Michigan mailed to their homes. The package was decorated with maize and blue colors – the University of Michigan’s colors. And inside was a letter that encouraged the student to apply.
    DYNARSKI: So we decided to push out to people a commitment that they could get four years of free tuition and fees at University of Michigan, and they did not need to fill out the FAFSA or – the profile is another financial aid form that some schools – including, sadly, University of Michigan – require of applicants.
    GARCIA: The students, parents and the students’ high schools were also made aware of the offer, which was labeled the HAIL Scholarship, partly because the Michigan fight song says the word hail over and over again.
    UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Hail to the victors.
    GARCIA: To be clear, there was no extra money that came with this scholarship. These students would have been eligible for the same financial aid anyways. So in that one way, the HAIL Scholarship kind of already existed. It just wasn’t called the HAIL Scholarship, and it required that a high school student would navigate the application bureaucracy to find it. So the intervention from Sue and her colleagues just stripped away that bureaucracy.
    VANEK SMITH: And now we can see how the package was designed to remove those three barriers that often prevented students from applying to elite schools. The package encouraged students to apply, which reduced their uncertainty about whether they were suitable for the school. Then the offer guaranteed that if they got accepted, all of their tuition and fees would be covered. So the student would know how much it would cost before applying. And the package informed the students that they would still have their tuition covered even if they didn’t fill out all those cumbersome and intimidating financial aid forms. Caleb says there is no way he would have ended up at Michigan if he had not received this packet.
    ADAMS: And Michigan was not on my radar at all until I got this packet. It said four years free tuition. And originally, we kind of had thought that it was like – I didn’t – I’d never heard of the HAIL Scholarship or anything like that. And they’re like – what’s the catch to it is what I’d always thought. I’d actually taken it to my guidance counselor at my school, and I was like, hey, have you ever heard of this? And he goes, no, are you sure it’s real?
    GARCIA: So both you and your guidance counselor thought it might be a scam?
    ADAMS: Yeah. Oh, yeah. We had never heard of it before. And we just kind of felt like, you know, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
    VANEK SMITH: But it was not too good to be true. It was actually real. So Caleb applied to the University of Michigan. He got in. And he’s now a student whose tuition and fees are covered, and he wasn’t the only one. Here’s how Sue describes the outcome of the HAIL Scholarship experiment in the first year it was tried on the 2,000 high school seniors.
    DYNARSKI: About 22 to 25 percent of the control group applied to University of Michigan, while in the treatment group, it was about 67 percent. So a huge increase in application rates.
    VANEK SMITH: So the effects of this experiment were clearly pretty huge. And not only were students who received the glossy packet much more likely to apply to the University of Michigan, they were also much more likely to enroll. And the experiment led to an additional 150 low-income students enrolling at the University of Michigan in the first year it was tried.
    GARCIA: Sue does caution that this is just one experiment at one school in one state. She really hopes that other scholars will conduct similar experiments in other places to better understand the findings. Still, it’s a promising start, and for Caleb Adams, it’s already much more than that.
    ADAMS: I do think that that scholarship did change my life drastically from, I mean, I – so I still think I would have had a good life at Northern and I probably would have been a high school teacher and now I don’t I don’t know what I’m going to do to be honest. There’s just so many opportunities and like chances out once.
    VANEK SMITH: Caleb should start a podcast.
    GARCIA: Yeah. I remember what it was like to be young.
    VANEK SMITH: Do it, Caleb. I know.
    GARCIA: And the future seems so wide open.
    VANEK SMITH: And all these doors. That’s awesome.
    GARCIA: Too late for us. Podcast host or bust for us, I think.
    VANEK SMITH: Or ashram.
    GARCIA: THE INDICATOR is a production of NPR. Constanza Gallardo produced this episode, and it was edited by Paddy Hirsch.

  58. I clicked through a link on the page referenced by the OP, and found this interesting tidbit:

    “In one study, I found that over half of Korean-Americans and 42 percent of Chinese-Americans took an SAT prep course prior to college, compared to 35.6 percent of white students, 32.4 percent of Hispanic students and 40.4 percent of black students. ”

    According to that study, a higher %age of black students than white students took an SAT prep course prior to college.

  59. IMO, the college applications process is needlessly complicated. Make the entrance requirements and process uniform. In short a Common App without the essay part and the same requirements for each college.
    If this was the case, you wouldn’t need to separately reach out diverse groups of students. It’s weird, this making things complicated and then having the outreach to get diverse students to apply.

  60. Information request for people familiar with Boston: Are you familiar with the Boston Park Plaza hotel? I’m looking to book a hotel in the area, and their website is showing rooms for as low as $42/night, and their website photos make it look like a pretty decent hotel.

    Is it too good to be true? Is it because the location isn’t that good?

  61. Laura, that was depressing, but I genuinely appreciate a true look at what my kid is up against.

  62. The Park Plaza is an older hotel in a prime area. All hotels in the downtown area charge a lot for parking, but if you are not renting a car it should be fine. The run of house cheapest room is a European (that is, large closet) sized single. I assume that is what is available at 42 dollars. You might want to go up a notch.

  63. Finn The hotel is at Copley Square. Not what we locals would refer to as “downtown”, which is the financial district, but in Back Bay, the luxury shopping area. Nothing sketchy about the area or the hotel itself. Public transit at the door.

  64. “First, these students had grades and SAT scores that were good enough that they would probably be accepted into the University of Michigan if they applied. ”

    The key to the HAIL program’s success, compared to other free-college programs, is likely the academic requirements for recipients. It makes good sense to encourage and help high achieving low income students to attend elite schools.

  65. Not related to lottery schools, but related to the general college theme – my school district is piloting a program to allow high school students to graduate with an associate’s degree. I think this is one of the best things that could be done to help low- and middle- income kids get college degrees. Having to only cover the cost of two more years is a huge win, and they would have some sense of whether they could handle the coursework. (I have acknowledged before that I had a hard time with DS decision to attend community college, and I will say I have been pleasantly surprised with the quality of his courses and the expectations of professors. I have been duly humbled for my occasionally condescending opinions.)

  66. Becky, there is a program here in NY which is similar, although I don’t think kids can earn associates because they can’t take enough college level courses. We participate in it, as do a number of NYC schools. My oldest kid also did one course that way. One problem my university faces is finding schools with teachers who are qualified to teach the courses.

  67. Would the classes be taught at the high school by high school teachers? I wouldn’t expect that to work.

    There was at least one school in North Carolina that was the last two years of high school and the first two years of college.

  68. Seattle has a program that allows high school students to take classes at the community colleges. DD took math and physics her senior year at a community college and it was a really good experience for her. As with anything, quality and rigor varies. The 3 quarters of physics were great; math was rigorous but teacher quality varied from one quarter to the next; the language arts class she took first quarter was very easy. I have to think it made DD’s transition to college much easier as she’d already had experience with college level classes in a college setting – but she was able to take them with her best friend which provided added support (they spent lots of time together on the math and physics homework and studying for exams).

  69. RMS said “Would the classes be taught at the high school by high school teachers? I wouldn’t expect that to work.”

    Yes, and that is why it is hard to find qualified teachers. But they do exist. My oldest took his HS physics as a dual enrollment course, and said it completely prepared him for the next physics course which he took in college last semester.

  70. Our local CC offers dual enrollment to high school students. There are some classes taught at specific high schools, e.g., there is an English and Math course taught at DS’s school and Spanish at another school. Most of the courses are taught at the CC with a few 100% online. DS took Spanish last semester at the CC and most of his classmates were high school students. Most of the CC summer school students are in high school. The popular classes to take are Languages, English and History. There are a variety of high school specialized academies and those students tend to need to take CC classes to fit in all their required courses. DS liked his Spanish course and looked into getting his AA alongside his high school diploma. The difficulty is that he still needs to have a minimum number of course hours at the high school, and he would have to spend his summers taking science lab courses. He prefers to do high adventure camping in the summer, and he is doing Lacrosse this semester, so I think his choices have taken the dual AA off the table. There is a local program that provides 2 years of CC classes for free, so that is becoming a popular option for a lot of families that we know.

  71. I took some CC classes about 10 years ago when I was going back to school and I had some very good teachers.

    DS is taking two concurrent enrollment classes this year – college algebra and software engineering. They are both taught by HS teachers.

  72. From what I am inferring, the courses are at the community college, and to take enough courses to graduate with an AA or AS they will have to take some summer school. Students have to apply for the program in eights grade and pass some placement tests freshman year, so it won’t be for everyone. But I think given the concerns that many students are priced out of college, it is a nice attempt on the part of the district and the community college to offer an alternative for motivated, qualified kids.

  73. I’m not against the idea in principle, I just think it would work better if the setting were the community college and the teachers were community college teachers. It would help change the mindset of the students.

  74. I agree RMS, and that is how the pilot seems to be structured in my district. If it were in the high school with the high school teachers I think there would be more pressure from parents to give out A’s or complaints about volume of work. I would also think that would create accreditation problems for the community college.

  75. I like our dual enrollment program — our system has really made a point of emphasizing making college affordable, and so they do push dual enrollment. The way ours works is that you can take up to 4 CC classes tuition free, and as many others as you want at half price; kids are also eligible for financial aid just as they would be if they were regular college students. They seem to offer college correlates for most, if not all, of the main classes from about 10th grade on up, so if you were really focused on it, you could get probably two years of college credit under your belt that you could then transfer into the UMd system. I think it’s a fantastic benefit for the kids for whom paying for college is a struggle, and I like how they are actively pushing it across the board at the HS.

    Of course, we’re also across the street from the CC, so that helps with logistics. ;-)

  76. My last university used to allow HS students into certain classes. But many schools have qualms about the practice because most HS students are minors, and university policies are predicated on the idea that students are adults. I think there are some liability issues as well as issues of what you can say in class.

  77. The early College route was under serious consideration from the Totebag type middle class parents here. Two points emerged – they were concerned that their students would forgo the traditional high school experience and their teens would be in CC classes with older students. The entrance to these programs is competitive where you had to be a solid student to get in.

  78. My impression is that many high schools have dual enrollment programs, but few offer a specific path to an associate’s degree as Becky’s schools do. I often see discussions as to whether taking an AP class or a dual enrollment class would be a better option for both getting college credit and for quality of the class.

  79. I have reservations about this trend. Saving money is great. But it seems like we’re pointing out that high school is useless and we need to get the kids into college as quickly as possible. Now that might very well be true. But it gives me pause.

  80. I did our taxes yesterday and overall our tax amount is about the same as last year. Fortunately we adjusted our withholding mid-year to account for the lower withholding rates. The thing that really jumped out is that 17 year old children are now only a $500 deduction.

  81. In a Totebaggy high school where there are advanced courses and many other people who will attend 4 year college, attending high school is reasonable. DS1 will finish the math sequence as a sophomore and then probably continue at the community college. It makes sense to dual enroll when a high school doesn’t have enough students to justify offering a class. I just saw data that Oregon’s high school graduation rate (79%) is 49th ahead of New Mexico and D.C.

  82. I’m spending the day with my in-laws. We’re going through some papers and helping them throw out some stuff. My FIL is a hoarder.

    Everyone should throw out stuff. Live the Rhett life and stop accumulating stuff. This process is already so hard without having to worry about tons of junk to dispose of after they’re gone.

  83. DS1 will finish the math sequence as a sophomore and then probably continue at the community college.

    I don’t suppose you’d encourage him to take any literature or history classes, would you? The fact that your Iowa high school sucked at those topics doesn’t mean literature and history are bad or stupid.

  84. Good luck, Lauren! I feel your pain. Dealing with our parents’ stuff was deeply traumatic for me, as I’ve posted before. DH and I are heavily into the decluttering process. We are wondering when we will be able to stop measuring our discards/donations by “truckload” or “car load” and get down to bags. Not there yet.

  85. “We are wondering when we will be able to stop measuring our discards/donations by ‘truckload’ or ‘car load'”.

    It could be worse. When I had to clean out my mother’s house, I had to get a dumpster. One of the big ones. “Traumatic” really is an appropriate word to describe the process.

  86. My FIL was bragging that he has 1000s of old magazines. He has a whole office filled with magazines. He also has books from the 60s. They’re yellow and falling apart. 100s of VHS tapes that he said he bought on sale about 20 years ago. 99 percent are in the wrappers.

    MIL is not a hoarder. She is his second wife and she lets him keep his collections in this one room. In the end, he only let us throw out ten magazines. We did get all of the info we needed from my MIL so it was very worthwhile (but sad) day.

    She finally has another scan at the end of this week so she will get more info about her cancer. It’s been the longest month ever because she has no idea if the medicine is working.

  87. NOB, my next door neighbors are on their second dumpster in anticipation of moving. I’ve never been in their house – now I think I know why! You’re right, I should be thankful for small things.

  88. I pulled 3 of the 18gal Rubbermaid containers of clothes we have in the basement out of the closet and we went thru them. Netted to roughly 1/2 donate, 1/3 keep, pitch the rest. I also cleaned out the shelf and floor of the mud hall closed: pitched a pair of shoes, donated a bunch of winter hats, gloves, scarves. Things look a lot better in the closet and, though relatively minor progress was made in the basement I’m still happy.

  89. Junk: pretty sure I win. The lady who sold us this house had a solid month of garage sales, and it still took her four dumpsters to clear out the rest before she left.

    So we went car-shopping this weekend; DH took his car in to his mechanic and confirmed the $3K repair price, so with his car probably currently worth $8K total and needing tires and brakes soon, he is not inclined to throw more money at it (I think he’s just PO’d and holding a grudge over the stupid design that requires removal of the engine for the repair, but whatever). Initial hybrid SUV impressions for any who are interested:

    Mercedes: very nice, very smooth. Interior design is very clean/simple vs. blingy/luxe. Everything is controlled through a tablet, but it’s not a touchpad — you need to use a fidgety controller thing to scroll (biggest design miss by far). Interesting discovery is that cabin width is the same in both the medium and larger SUVs; DH thought the GLS350 felt tight, so we sat in the larger one, but there was no difference. Surprisingly comfortable rear seats with sufficient legroom. Drove the GLS350 e-matic, and it felt solid without being heavy, zippy without being jerky or torque-y. Really nice and comfortable. It is a plug-in, but the electric-only range is only 10 miles, which seems relatively useless. On the plus side, you can plug it into a regular 120v socket and so don’t need a special dedicated circuit and all that. Comes out around $50K after tax and hybrid tax credits and such.

    Lexus: The NX, which I think is the best-looking exterior of the bunch, felt small, cramped, and uncomfortable — as a passenger, my left leg was up against the console in an uncomfortable way. The RX was better, but boy do I hate their interior design, just a lot of horizontal lines that looks dated, like my parents’ old Scan furniture. Also controlled through a tablet with a controller that makes the Mercedes’ look intuitive. Drove more like what I don’t like about how SUVs drive. Not a plug-in. I did. not. like. at. all. But it’s not my car. Similar price to the Mercedes.

    Took our last 5 minutes to sit in a Panamera. Big, big mistake — I love love love and NEED DH to get that vehicle. Best-looking interior this side of the Tesla; the kind of tech that feels integrated and intuitive, instead of “look how hard I’m trying to be cool.” E.g., it also has a tablet-type screen, but theirs is integrated into the dash and looks like it should have always been there, instead of the other two, which look like they just stuck an iPad on the front of the dash. Feels luxe without trying. 18-way seats with moveable bolsters for legs, sides, and lumbar support. Very nice trunk room, although DH worries that the lower roofline will limit ability to pile multiple large suitcases. Is a plug-in with 35-mile range, which basically covers all of our daily/weekly trips; the engine will also recharge the battery at highway speeds and then kick back over to electric power when it’s charged. Twice as much as the other two and probably then some. Ugh.

    On cost-efficiency basis, the Mercedes wins between those three. If price were no object, it’s the Panamera, hands down, without even driving it (well, we have both driven it on the track, but I don’t think that counts). Still need to get to Volvo and probably Lincoln.

  90. RMS, if either the high school or the college offers a literature survey course that includes traditional literature like Homer, Herodotus, Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, etc., I’d definitely encourage that. I really enjoyed my Shakespeare class at the now-defunct local private college. I would encourage him to take AP English if the high school offers that, because that’s a good curriculum. I don’t regret my decision to test out of freshman composition at Iowa State and if DS1 can test out of freshman composition at the community college, I would encourage him to. I know a freshman composition instructor there and the skills they teach are pretty fundamental. At Iowa State, few literature classes were offered and the single section conflicted with the single section of my required chem e class.

    I don’t care whether he takes history as an AP at the high school or at the community college. It will depend on schedule, teacher competence and social reasons. In my high school’s defense, there was a good AP English class but the teacher wouldn’t let people take the (anonymous) test to get in unless they were going to be seniors, because she preferred to teach a class of all seniors. I took the admission test and got the highest score in the school’s history but since the class time conflicted with engineering physics, I chose engineering physics. The AP English teacher then changed the rule so my sister was allowed to test in as a sophomore and take AP English as a junior, then engineering physics as a senior. I think my two younger brothers did that as well so all’s well that ends well.

  91. LfB, DH is also looking for a car, so we went to the auto show Thursday and sat in a bunch. The Mercedes SUV was my favorite because it felt like a soundproof bubble. I could have stayed in there all day. Alas, we are going to end up with a truck, which is not my first choice. At the moment, the Honda Ridgeline is the front-runner. I was gobsmacked at how many $70K trucks are out there. It’s a truck. It rides like a truck. I just can’t see paying that kind of money. If I were choosing, I had decided I’d get another Miata.

  92. “At the moment, the Honda Ridgeline is the front-runner.”

    My dad has that, and has enjoyed it. If all of one’s varied reasons for wanting a truck do not include towing more than 5k lbs (and, as usual, limit that to about 80%), I think it’s the best option. It’s practical, rides like a car/crossover because it’s a unibody construction.

    Hoarding and storage rentals: In our area, they can’t build these things fast enough. Nice looking places, too. Modern buildings, all climate controlled, glass exteriors where you can see the interior corridors. It’s a long way’s off from a parking lot with a bunch of aluminum garages.

    Separate topic: I put on all my ski clothes, including ISIS-style balaclava and goggles, and took the boat out on Friday. With the right gear, it was such a nice day to be out on the water — sunny and breezy. The engine was due for some scheduled maintenance, so I took it over to the marina and waited a couple hours while they pulled it out and worked on it. Now we’re all set for warmer weather. We’ll be debuting a new inflatable towable this year — Christmas present from in-laws.

    On Saturday we were visiting DW’s great-aunt who, in her late 80s, went from being seemingly healthy two weeks ago to now in a nursing home under palliative care with advanced cancer. But I ended up talking to her roommate, who’s 94, for about a half hour. The nursing home is near Vienna, Va. I thought of this board because the woman, who remains surprisingly sharp and alert, was very eager to tell me about the numerous advanced degrees each of her kids had earned. And then she wanted to talk about how she had an Ivy undergrad and an Ivy MBA, from a time when that was not common for women. (She didn’t say “Ivy,” I’m just leaving out the specific schools.)

    I was thinking this is soooo Northern Virginia. The obsession is truly life-long.

  93. “She is his second wife and she lets him keep his collections in this one room. In the end, he only let us throw out ten magazines. “

    Lauren, it sounds horrible but your MIL seems to be doing a good job keeping the hoarding in check and not letting it disrupt their entire house and life. Referring to the comments about quantities of junk, it’s amazing how a tightly organized closet or attic can create so many bags of junk after decluttering. For example, once I created about ten garbage bags after cleaning out my walk-in closet. (Including stuff like about a dozen pairs of black pants that were in very good condition.)

    Colleges Mine Data on Their Applicants
    To determine ‘demonstrated interest,’ some schools are tracking how quickly prospective students open email and whether they click links

    Schools use this information to help determine what they call “demonstrated interest,” or how much consideration an applicant is giving their school. Demonstrated interest is becoming increasingly important as colleges face a rising number of applications and want to protect or improve their yields—the percentage of accepted applicants who enroll….

    “If we ask someone for an interview, we look at how they respond, how quickly they respond or if they don’t respond at all,” said Mr. Eichhorn. “It helps us make a decision.”

    At Seton Hall University, in South Orange, N.J., students receive a score between 1 and 100 that reflects their demonstrated interest, said Alyssa McCloud, vice president of enrollment management. The score includes about 80 variables including how long they spent on the school’s website, whether they opened emails and at what point in high school they started looking on the website (the earlier the better).

  94. I still read the WSJ and that was the first article that I read this morning. It is so depressing and creepy. I still do alumni interviews and I didn’t fully understand what the admissions officer meant when she said that my alma mater does NOT track the number of touches. The reason that they don’t track it or consider it in admission decisions is that they think the kids from UMC, highly educated homes etc., know how to work the “touch” system.

    I’ve been listening to all of you for years so I was prepared for the craziness of college everything in HS, but it really stinks. DD registered to attend a conference in DC. She is going with a group from my synagogue, but they will join a much larger group once they are in DC. They will have to miss 2 days of school in March. A very busy time and all I could think about was how missing school might impact her grades in those classes. Even though I know that the trip will probably be 100 times more important than anything that she will learn in school on those two days. It is so hard for me to bite my tongue because the college admissions thing is such a machine.

  95. Not surprised, but many people are unaware of this as they are of many other aspects of the college application process. The article made the point that technology has caused this practice to ramp up considerably.

  96. We’ve spent much of the past few weekends sorting stuff and tossing stuff out. I got rid of lots of ancient cookbooks, for example.
    My husband is a terrible horder. If I find a piece of unidentifiable plastic in the house (common problem here since the kids haul lots of weird doodads in), my default action is to throw it out, and his default action is to stuff it into a random drawer or put it on any available counter, saying we might need it. And when he buys things, he often doesn’t take the items out of the bags for months, but just stacks them in the bedroom. I have found year old shopping bags with new shirts stuffed on shelves in the closet.

  97. Lauren, my son is going to take 2 days in March to travel to Wasihngton as part of a group doing pediatric cancer advocacy. On the one hand, I worry about him missing classes – AP Chem is really hard for him. On the other hand, I realize that participating in this trip will look good on his college applications. It stinks because everything is through the lens of college applications.

  98. Re: cars – my Mom has a 2015 Lexus NX, and regrets it. Her previous one was an RX and she thinks the NX is too small, she’s ready to go back to the RX. She offered it to us as a car for DS (we would buy it, she wouldn’t just give it to us) so I drove it this weekend and it was a quick no for me. The problem with it is the visibility – you really can’t see out the back or sides. I also felt cramped it in, and DS is 4 inches taller than me and still growing.

  99. Re: clutter – DH and I pride ourselves on not having a cluttered house, being good about getting rid of things or minimizing what we bring into the house in the first place. And YET. We are having our foyer/living room repainted this week, so spent yesterday clearing it out. Holy cow. How have we fit so much into one discrete place? We have a large secretary-type desk in our living room, and DH was cleaning out the drawers, which contained such useful items as the box for a flip phone and an unopened box of CD-ROMs. I am convince the only way to truly clean out is to fully empty a room every 10 years or so.

  100. LfB – are these the small SUVs or do they have a 3rd row? I am starting to look at replacement cars for our beloved MDX – its road noise is getting worse and starting to bother me (I am sensitive to noise, close to misophonia if not exactly that). I drove a new MDX and it was nice, 6-7 dB less than our current car on regular roads and 4-5 dB less on the highway. Looked at a Suburban but didn’t have time to drive it – it is much larger than the Suburban I drove in the 90s, which was basically the 50s-style Chevy truck body. I want to also look at a Pilot and a large Lexus with the 3rd row.

  101. I think of ourselves as no clutter, throw it outers but when I took a look at my closet and the kids, it was clear that there were things that could be given away or thrown out.
    On college admissions, my DS and DD are different. The colleges each will get into are likely to be at different tiers. I have to parent each kid differently and that’s the hard part.

  102. “To determine ‘demonstrated interest,’ some schools are tracking how quickly prospective students open email and whether they click links”

    Oh %$#@^&% [please infer massive eye-roll]. These guys just need to get over themselves. DD gets probably 50 emails a day from different colleges — and most of them are entirely irrelevant to anything. Her entire inbox is like a spam folder, to the point it is difficult even to notice the important ones. For ex, Wake sent emails at least weekly, if not 2-3x/week, none of which contained any useful information at all (“here’s reason 873 to come here!”). DD loves Wake’s small engineering program, but after about the third email you start to tune them out. And the emails she really cares about and needs to respond to? Those take longer — because she wants to wait until I get home to talk about exactly what she should say to get it “right”!

    This is Sabermetrics run amok. Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should; just because you can gather information doesn’t mean the information is meaningful.

  103. @L: We are generally not looking at vehicles with a 3rd row, since we’re not going to need it any more. But the Lexus he drove was the RX model, which comes with an extended option with a 3rd row. I think the larger Mercedes also has a 3rd row option.

  104. “an unopened box of CD-ROMs.”

    We found one of those 2 weeks ago when cleaning out the area around the main computer. True to form, my DH was adamant that we not throw them out. I asked him when the last time was that he burned a CD-ROM, and he said maybe 10 years ago. But the box remains. Sigh.

  105. “…the only way to truly clean out is to fully empty a ___________ …”

    This is me, and pretty much everyone else in the house hates that approach. But it’s the only way I can wrap my head around what really “should” stay because I have to actively decide to put it back into the room/closet/car/whatever vs just decide to leave it there. Makes it a lot easier (for me certainly) to just sort into toss or donate piles.

  106. Fred -taking everything out and putting it in a pile is the Marie Kondo approach. Once you see how much is there and more importantly since you have done the work to remove things you are less likely to put it back into the closet and more likely to throw/donate it.

  107. I should have written a book…

    (But realistically, I’m not a ‘fluff’ kind of guy, so It’d be more like a pamphlet at most:
    1. Take all your stuff out of the place you want to organize
    2. Put it in a different room
    a. better yet, if you’re cleaning out an upstairs closet, take the stuff to the next floor down, then you’ll be even less tempted to keep things because you’ll have to schlepp whatever back upstairs
    3. Sort into keep, donate, toss
    4. Immediately move the toss stuff to the trash
    5. Then sort the donate if you think if should go to different places (women’s shelter, homeless men, church for refugees, whatever)
    6. Pack that up and move into the car
    7. Take a break, do something different for a while
    8. Carefully look at all the keep stuff one more time…you’ll find some more stuff you can get rid of
    9. Take what you’re keeping back to the place it now goes.
    10. Feel good!)

    Really…people need a book?

  108. Fred – since you are the no fluff kind of guy, you have forgotten the “spark joy” and thanking things part ;-).

  109. Yabbut Fred, the formula for losing weight is pretty simple too, and you could fill the Library of Cogress with all the books on the subject.

  110. “taking everything out and putting it in a pile is the Marie Kondo approach. ”

    Taking everything out and putting it in a pile has been the advice in every “how to get organized” article ever since I was a kid. My mother knew to do that! It is not Marie Kondo’s invention.

  111. When we moved here ten years ago, DH had all of the stuff in his office boxed up. Most of it went to his new office, but a bunch of boxes were marked for ‘home” and landed in the basement. After five years, they had not been touched (except to move them out of the way for more stuff.) I asked him whether he would ever sort through the stuff, and he said “eventually.” So I did it myself. I made the executive decision that he would never need to access at least 90% of it (including drafts of dissertations written by his students who themselves now have tenure), countless floppy disks, and publications that are now all online. Every week, I tossed a large garbage bag full into our trash bin. And then it was all gone.
    I did the same thing with the records I had obsessively stored from our first two houses, the supporting documents for tax returns from the last century, VHS tapes (Goodwill will take them!), back issues of Wine Spectator, and any random plastic thing that I could not identify.

    Goodwill will also take any old computers or electronic gadgets. I found two computers and a printer in the basement, and at least three laptops in closets.
    My goal is to prevent my kids from having to rent a dumpster down the line.

  112. ““And they are also more managed/coached than they were in the past.”
    Again, this is a UMC thing.”

    Yeah, when I’ve had occasions to be out and about near schools, especially not in UMC neighborhoods, on school day afternoons, I’ve seen a lot of free-range kids, reminiscent of my school days.

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