It’s that time of year when college acceptance letters are going out. I’ve enjoyed some of my students’ triumphs – we’ve had acceptances from Harvard, MIT, Duke, Rice, and other prestigious, highly competitive schools. And we’ve had our share of rejections. It’s a difficult time when you simultaneously act as counselor, friend, listener, adviser, crying post, cheerleader to lots of 17 and 18 year olds.

Here’s a story from India, where IIT, the Indian Institute of Technology, is almost a guarantee of a way out of poverty. 560,000 applicants for 10,000 places. Our most competitive colleges boast of an admissions rate of around 15-20%. This helps shed a little light on the arguments about comparative educational quality. The top students are probably better – the competition forces them to be. But we overlook the vast numbers who never complete their educations.