Thanks for your informative and judicious article about the perseverance of alumni interviews at Princeton. Having loved my four years as a grad student there, I was happy to join the Princeton Schools Committee in my home town. Even though I experienced the University only as a graduate student, I had exposure to undergraduate life as a teaching assistant and as a beneficiary of the many undergraduate activities. Having interviewed prospective students at the institution where I taught, I took pleasure in learning about these young people — their interests and talents, their dreams and expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting all the candidates for admission to Princeton. After eight years, however, I was ready to quit.

The sentence, “But for some it was hard getting used to long dry spells of writing glowing reports on students without any being admitted,” resonated with me. After meeting dozens of energetic, hard-working high school students and seeing only one ever accepted (a delightful 16-year-old who turned down Princeton, Harvard, and MIT to go to Cal Tech), I wrote our local Princeton Schools Committee that these interviews had seemed a dispiriting waste of time for both me and for the many talented, smart young people applying. The low percentage of acceptances in Lancaster County suggested to me that the system and culture of elite institutions placed our young people at a disadvantage. Almost none of the ones I interviewed had access to tutorials preparing them for top SAT scores, school counselors helping them craft jazzy application essays, or the parental resources to pay for private counselors or for summer enrichment programs enhancing their academic or service profiles; many of them worked 10 to 20 hours a week after school and many more hours in the summer. 

Although I always looked forward to speaking with the applicants — and many of them wrote me lovely thank-you notes for a good conversation — I considered it dishonest for me to pretend further that any of them had a chance of being accepted to Princeton.  

Cecile Zorach *76