Date of this Version
Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Fall/Winter 2013, Volume 14, Number 2
I beg indulgence for an opening anecdote that will perhaps point the issue at hand in a useful direction. I am descended from an honorable line of traveling preachers and car salesmen. As to the preachers, one forebear in particular would occasionally suffer a certain reluctance among the flock when he made his call inviting potential congregants to come forward and receive the benefits of faith, which—to invoke the other side of my family tree—was not unlike the annual call to view new car models back when model change was real and something people could believe in. In order to instill courage among the reluctant, my clerical forebear would use a plant, his infant daughter, placed at the rear of the crowd. If there were no adults willing to respond when the solicitation came, the toddler would make her way forward, at which point my preacher-ancestor would conjure the weak of heart to heed the courage of even a little child. It never failed, or so I am told, and that is pretty much the business we are in now, enlisting the yet-to-be-converted, students and parents as well as attendant “deciders” (to invoke that disagreeably trendy term) on behalf of a larger community of faith, with the end result being, if not salvation precisely, at least making a sale. To that good end, a little show business never hurts (more about that shortly), which gets to the questions at hand when it comes to admissions standards. What are we offering? Who gets invited? How do we decide? How will we know we have made the right decision? Obviously the third question is the most relevant when it comes to honors admissions standards, but we cannot get there without some notion of the other concerns: our product, our customers, and our after-market results.