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Puzzle Pieces

Selective Admissions

• • • • • • • • • • July 17, 2023 • • • • • • • • • •

Years ago, when I was in college, our University Center decided to sponsor a themed dance. In our innocence, we called it a computer match dance.

The idea was that we would ask everyone to answer a series of personal questions that would then be matched. The matched pairs would then be announced at the dance; they would be a "couple" for the rest of the evening.

We spent hours devising questions that would divulge unique characteristics and personality traits that would add value to our party.

What is your special talent?
How have you demonstrated leadership?
What hardships have you overcome?


There was one small problem. Although we called it a computer match, we did not have a computer. Yup, it was that long ago.”

You know, the kinds of questions you always ask when trying to decide who to take to a college dance. 

The good news was we limited the answer to one sentence to make it easier to score.

We also asked some easier questions.

What is your favorite book? If there was no answer to that, we added a bonus question, have you ever read a book?

We sprinkled in questions about favorite songs, favorite dance, favorite color, and favorite ice cream. We knew that these were real criteria that college students used for a first date.

Then we sprinkled in some data questions: Number of brothers and sisters? What state do you live in? How tall are you?

Then the fun began. The computer match. Who would be matched? We were all really anxious to find out the results.

There was one small problem. Although we called it a computer match, we did not have a computer. Yup, it was that long ago.

We had planned to put all the answers in different piles sorted by answers, and then some magic would happen. It didn't. We had piles and piles of surveys with no simple way to make a selection.

We finally determined there was absolutely a simple way to do the sorting.

We matched everyone by height.

This mysterious computer run left everyone at the dance looking eye to eye at a partner, trying to find out what they had in common.

And that, my friends, is how selective admission policies were born at elite schools in days of yore.

Carol Kocivar is a children’s advocate and lives in the Westside. Feedback:

July 17, 2023

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