... I wonder if disclosure might help even out the playing field. First, it would discourage excessive packaging. Wealthy parents might want to give their kids a leg up by hiring a consultant to help Junior package himself for Dartmouth, but will they want to do it if Junior has to admit in his application that Ivywise was hired to help him out? Disclosure would help admissions officers, too, by giving them some useful context to evaluate applications.I would not add the complexity of disclosure and the new set of problems it brings. I've put many years into law school admissions work, and what's important is to try to understand the person behind the file. Someone from a privileged background tends to produce a slicker file: you take that into account. Someone else lets us know -- because we specifically ask -- that they are the first person in their family to graduate from high school (or college) or that their family was on public assistance. If that person's file does not crisply highlight the kind of facts that matter in admissions decisions, I would consider it my responsibility to look very hard for them and to compensate for that person's disadvantage in preparing the file. It's the job of the person reading the file to weight factors properly and not to be impressed by superficial things that money can buy. Professional help preparing the file is one of those things. It's not really much different from having sophisticated parents to guide you. It's the job of the admissions official to use the file as evidence and to form an accurate picture of the person who stands behind it.
Of course, disclosure wouldn't work perfectly. For example, lots of applicants would probably misrepresent the help they received. And it's not easy to figure out what kind of information should be disclosed and what shouldn't. At the same time, disclosure might take us a tiny step forward in evening out the playing field for admission to competitive colleges.
May 10, 2006
Orin Kerr thinks students applying to college ought to have to disclose whether they received professional help preparing their applications: