If you follow such things, you probably are aware that elite universities are fond of applicants who can pay the exorbitant tuition fees to attend--some $55,000 and up. Full-paying customers and the endowments of grateful alumni together make possible free or subsidized tuition for poorer applicants. However, as they fill the balance of their student bodies with scholarship applicants, admission officers tend to favor minority groups of various kinds. They used to favor women over men, but, since women are now a majority on many campuses, that emphasis has relaxed.
So what categories of students are not favored? Are there some that actually are discriminated against? Well, as you might also suspect, those effectively pushed away at elite universities are the very kinds of cases the schools might have sought out a half century ago, such as Asians, poor white students and middle class white students from rural areas and small towns. If they are demonstrably Christian--which might be revealed by essays submitted by applicants, or from leadership roles the applicants report having held in Christian youth groups--that is often a minus. So is excelling at activities regarded at retrograde, or at least unfashionable by the colleges, such as 4-H or ROTC.
The latter folks, the squares, who are rejected by admissions offices at the Ivies and other elite institutions, may well wind up in military academies and less prestigious state schools. They may become generals, entrepreneurs and small businessmen, rather than college professors and lawyers.
Ross Douthat (a Harvard grad) has a column today daring to expose the matter publicly. He concludes, "If such universities are trying to create an elite as diverse as the nation it inhabits, they should remember that there's more to diversity than skin color -- and that both their school and their country might be better off if they admitted a few more R.O.T.C. cadets, and a few more aspiring farmers."
Meanwhile, a friend who counsels students seeking graduate school admission tells me that cautions them to remove from their applications references to religious participation or activities. Thus, a church mission to build an orphanage in Guatemala, for example, should be reported simply as a "humanitarian trip to Guatemala to build an orphanage." Tutoring disadvantaged youth under a church program should become merely "tutoring disadvantaged youth."