As universities adopt a “portfolio” approach to admissions, I fret that real talent will be left by the wayside. The ability to detect true genius is orthogonal to the portfolio admissions system, for a person with great talent in a single, unfunded area would never make an admissions cut. We will admit more of the “above average” kids of the world and fewer of the truly gifted.
However, it is also undeniable that the portfolio approach de-emphasizes in-depth test-taking ability, and this is a good thing. A range of talent is often missed in monoline tests. What we really need is a set of “general” yet “non-standard” tests – though this may be very hard to implement. The problem today is that kids spend way too much of their lives taking classes to prepare them for tests, or doing parentally imposed “portfolio” activities. Children are being robbed of their childhoods.
But mostly, the portfolio approach biases admissions in favor of kids of privilige. Poorer families just do not have the time and resources to enable their children to build a reasonable portfolio.
A “lexicographic” admissions approach might be better than the “average” portfolio one. Children should make it on a few cuts, and the ability to sort kids is not distorted with the lexicographic model. Maybe its time for campuses to give this a try. As long as kids know they need to do a few things well, parents will relax, and the “arms race” in portfolio building should cease.