While it’s important to celebrate Princeton’s accomplishments in diversifying its student body, recent data shows that there’s still much room for improvement. As was the case 60 years ago, it may be time to rethink the admissions system again.
Many academic awards select winners using predetermined criteria. Committees evaluate students’ accomplishments on the same abstract scale. This approach seems egalitarian: everyone plays on the same field. In practice, though, it ignores substantial cultural divides between fields of study that affect class arrangements, study habits, relationships with professors, the amount of free time they have, and how they spend it.
Teaching styles, grading disparities, high school backgrounds, and departmental politics all play roles in who’s crowned Old Nassau’s top students. I will explore each of these factors in depth for subsequent columns. But first, I’ll give a brief overview of who at Princeton is winning the nine prestigious academic awards to show why their results are so baffling.