Sam is finishing up his U.S. college applications. What a pain. In order to apply to UK universities, one fills in a simple, straightforward form and receives a simple, straightforward response a few weeks later. There are no SAT exams and only one recommendation. Get the right grades in school and you get into your UK college choice. Sam already has received a thumbs up from the strong athletic and academic Loughborough University.
How different in the U.S.. Students suffer through multiple entrance exams, must arrange for multiple recommendations, write multiple essays, and then waits to be accepted or rejected. Often, despite these numerous steps, the system seems cooked. Even at the most academically prestigious universities, the recipe for athletes to achieve acceptance is to be recruited. If I understand correctly, each golf coach is able to write letters for two candidates, and if their SATs are acceptable, they receive early entrance. Unfortunately, Sam has not managed to get the coach from my alma mater Yale or anywhere else to write that magical letter for him.
My brother, a Dartmouth alum, just told me a frightening story. He interviews prospective students. Recently, he gave the lowest possible rating to a an athlete-candidate, who answered all his questions with monotone single syllable answers. But the athlete was accepted anyhow. He wonders what chance his own son, not an athlete but a strong musician, will have when he applies in three years.