Whether it is fiat America, negative society, or two faced America, the gap between what we consider ideal vs. the real in America is growing. A great example is the entire structure of selection, education and employment with regards to our top tier education system. The common folk have no clue. Those involved in the process have a clue. Today, I'll reveal the ideal applicant to Harvard University.
First, let us ask the man on the street what the ideal applicant would be in winter 2013 for those upcoming application due dates. Your common man would envision:
A valedictorian with great SATs, an athlete, an artist of some sort, volunteer in the community in secular, sports or Church groups, possible mentor role for younger kids through a school program, and an all American well rounded young man or woman that you can see as a leader of tomorrow.
That is nice. Smart, balanced, can work alone or in a team, and seems to be a positive, young contributor to the community. This is who the common man wants to think comes walking out of Harvard University with the diploma in hand and credentials to lead tomorrow's people. They are confusing the idea of best student or candidate with best applicant. This is why so many parents of good students pushed their kids down the extracurriculars and volunteer work path. They are onto the game of roughly a generation or two ago once Harvard and other top tier schools replaced their entrance exams with using the SAT and knocked down barriers to all groups. You did need an edge, and with how many smart kids there are in the world, you wanted no dent in the armor.
Here is the real ideal candidate for Harvard. Acceptance would be assured.
A wheelchair bound, black lesbian who was raised to be Christian but found atheism as an early teen due to her questioning why an omnipotent, loving God would disable her, and the progressive spark was at an Occupy protest. He work was raising awareness for environmental issues and a straight-gay alliance program at her high school. No one attended meetings except a handful of students. Her application essays would be about her coming out and dealing with prejudice (I'm a minority within a minority within a minority), her progressive enlightenment at the Occupy protest, and her rejection of Christianity and the friction it caused in her family.
I did not mention grades or SATs because she'd just have to score within the 10% range of the Harvard SAT spread and get As + Bs in whatever courses she took in high school. Accepted, go directly to Harvard Square, collect your $200 and complain about oppression for the rest of your life.
Those two students apply the same year. Who are you betting on making it through the bottleneck of admissions?