Today, Peter Temes writes with characteristic brilliance about the competitive process for getting into universities in the U.S. Part of his message is that the admissions process for elite schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton is very good for those institutions and potentially destructive for the talented young people who strive to enter them — and even for many who succeed at that:

For better or worse – mostly, for worse – the most elite colleges spend millions of dollars a year to spread the appeal of their schools. They encourage bright students to apply, in order for as many as 95% of them to be rejected. And they know the ugly side of their business. They feel badly about it. But they serve the interest of their schools by keeping the selectivity of their admissions process as high as possible and razor sharp.

He lays out four observations to help young people and their parents and advocates navigate through the snake pit of university admissions, including

  • The importance of discerning the “easily observable criteria” for admissions at the top schools
  • The not-so-easy-to-understand role of diversity in admissions
  • The value of finding the best school for what you want to study
  • And the little understood “back doors” to some great schools.

AB — 2 July 2011

Many people think of YouTube as a big time-waster with nothing but videos of animals dancing and guys getting whacked in their privates.

But as time goes on, I become more and more conscious YouTube as a great resource in many respects. For example, in my work as a writer and analyst, I’ve been making good use of corporate videos on YouTube, where it’s possible now to access in-depth presentations by company executives, scientists, and other experts.

Thanks to a mention yesterday in Boing Boing, I’ve learned about Khan Academy, which now has over 1,200 educational videos on YouTube. Using a very simple “chalk talk” format, Salman Khan, an engineer and manager, provides 10-20-minute video presentations on a huge variety of topics, including science, history, math, finance, economics, and more.

These videos would be useful as quick reviews or knowledge fill-ins for students, both adult and child, or for parents who are trying to help their kids with their studies. I also find them useful as a writer who needs to be able to get up-to-speed quickly on economics and finance topics.

Khan creates his videos on a tablet computer with pen input. Here’s an example of a video explaining the basics of banking:

AB — 8 June 2010

Here’s a nice bit of science education, especially appealing to us golden-retriever-fans:

AB — 22 Nov. 2009