The Pleasures of the Unfamiliar

What kind of person are you?

by Curtis Perry (U of Illinois)

If you read this and come see me at the University of Illinois, I think you’ll find me to be generous and helpful but not chummy.  I am myself a private and somewhat reserved person—which is why I’ve chosen to write about my scholarly rather than my personal life here—but I do like to be helpful and I love meeting earnest students who want to get the most out of their college experiences. Continue reading “The Pleasures of the Unfamiliar”

Exam Doozies and Doubts

What do academics do wrong?

by Warren Goldstein (U Hartford)

The term’s over, thank God, and I’ve finished plowing through my U.S.-sports-history exams, but I can’t forget reading: “Femininity on the other hand was something that girls created after masculinity.” What? Incredulous when I came across that, at Hour 3, with a dozen booklets to go, I needed to vent. I e-mailed an old friend who teaches a similar course. He wrote back immediately, “What the … . Why do we bother?”

His question, however flippant, brought me up short. It’s a good one, even beyond the obvious answers: We have tenure; we’re getting a little long in the tooth to start another career; we can’t live on Continue reading “Exam Doozies and Doubts”

Where is the philosopher of the digital age?

Where is higher education headed?

re: Deborah Spar (Barnard)

In  her essay, In Search of Prophets, Debora Spar, President of Barnard College, asks,

“Where is the philosopher of the digital age?”

Among others, her paper makes four claims:

Claim 1: “Sadly, he or she [a philosopher of the digital age] doesn’t exist.”

Claim 2: “I don’t believe that higher education bears much of the blame for the inequities that now confront our country, or for the gloomy forecasts that have driven our students to the streets in protest.” Continue reading “Where is the philosopher of the digital age?”

Top Colleges Should Select Randomly From a Pool of ‘Good Enough

Is the admissions process a good one?

by Barry Schwartz (Swarthmore)

(Originally published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, February 25, 2005.)


Jane is preparing for a dinner party. For dessert she intends to make a Grand Marnier soufflé. She’s made it before, and it’s come out fine, but she’s been wondering whether all the elaborate steps in the recipe are really necessary. She’d like to experiment, to see if the preparation can be simplified. But she won’t experiment today. Today she’ll follow the recipe as she has before, because she wants to be sure the soufflé works. Continue reading “Top Colleges Should Select Randomly From a Pool of ‘Good Enough”

How My Brother’s Death Shaped My Life

Admissions Essay: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

By Michael S. Roth (Wesleyan)

Michael Roth tells a very personal story about his deceased brother’s influence, and how he strives for goodness as a way of honoring the brother he never knew. His studies and research on tragedy and loss stem from his family’s own experience with death. Read his inspiring essay from the Wall Street Journal.

Michael Roth is the current president of Wesleyan University and former president of California College of the Arts. He is the author of five books, including Memory, Trauma, and History: Essays on Living with the Past, which was published Fall 2011.

How My Professors Shaped Me

Admissions Essay: Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence.

By Catharine Hill (Vassar)

For Catharine Hill, it was more than one person who made an impact in her life. It was two specific professors that encouraged her to take her love of economics and education and merge the two, thus bringing her to the position she holds today. You can read about the influence they held in her essay for the Wall Street Journal.

Catharine Hill is the president of Vassar College and former provost at Williams College. An economist by trade, she previously worked for The World Bank and the Congressional Budget Office.

What I Found By Getting Lost

Admissions Essay: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

Summary of essay by Robert Oden (Carleton)

Robert Oden compares his getting lost in Cairo to getting lost in college; both are adventures where you can learn about life and humanity. Finding his way home from the pyramids reminded him that people are people and we are all here to help each other. Read more from his Wall Street Journal essay.

Robert Oden was a religion professor with The Teaching Company and president of Carleton College from 2002-2010. He is currently retired.

Why You Need To Live The Question

Admissions Essay: Comment on: “At present you need to live the question.” –Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from the German by Joan M. Burnham

By Robert J. Zimmer (U of Chicago)

Robert Zimmer discusses what it means to live the question – to look at the world with wonder. The key to living the question (according to Zimmer): challenge your assumptions, question others and listen. Read more from his Wall Street Journal essay.

Robert Zimmer is a mathematician and former provost of Brown University. He is the current president of the University of Chicago.

What Diversity Means To Me

By Colin Diver (Reed)

Essay Question: What has demonstrated the need for diversity to you?

Colin Diver tells about his experience attacking a mugger and how it affected his views on diversity and community. Was he right for defending a woman against a poor, brown-skinned criminal? Or was he inflicting his white, upper-middle class beliefs on his now multi-cultural South Boston neighborhood? Diver tells his story story in an essay for the Wall Street Journal.

Colin Diver is an attorney who held several positions in Massachusetts government, including special counsel to former Boston mayor Kevin White. He is the former Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and current president of Reed College.

How Nelson Mandela Influenced Me

Admissions Essay: Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

By Marvin Krislov (Oberlin)

For Marvin Krislov, no one made a bigger impact on his life than Nelson Mandela. His desire for social change and equality led him to study Mandela’s life and even visit the prison in which Mandela was incarcerated. Mandela is a major influence for his book on affirmative action in higher education. Read Krislov’s Wall Street Journal essay on Mandela’s influence.

Marvin Krislov is the current president of Oberlin College and the former vice-president and general counsel for the University of Michigan. He is co-author of the book, The Next 25 Years: Affirmative Action in Higher Education in the United States and South Africa.