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As someone who was admitted to Cornell University's undergraduate program, I was disappointed to read the comments made by Cornell, Bowdoin and Rice officials in your article. Students who are "hardworking and motivated" are few and far between. These students have the ability to achieve so much, and such traits should be praised. But the Bowdoin admissions official thought that the description meant the student isn't too smart. And for Cornell's staff to interpret a teacher's comment that a student "cares more about what he learns than what grades he gets" to mean that the applicant might end up on academic probation implies that the college has only one definition of smart. What a shame for prestigious institutions that pride themselves on their diversity: they're looking for only one kind of student. I'm glad I went to Michigan. KAREN MASCIULLI Longmont, Colo.
The point of college is not just to get in; it's to learn and enrich yourself in an academic surrounding. The most intelligent, athletic and talented kid can enter Harvard and not benefit one bit if he only cares about the school's reputation and not about learning. College is becoming a label instead of an institution for learning; we need to change that. STEPHEN GUO Seal Beach, Calif.
As college adviser at Ipswich High School, I work with seniors and parents, helping them plan for college admission. Virtually all of them are anxious and stressed, and your article "Inside College Admissions" didn't help. Bowdoin admitted only 28% of its applicants in 1999, Cornell 31% and Rice 23%. These schools typify only the top 10% of all colleges in terms of selectivity. On average, the other 90% of all colleges admit about 80% of all who apply. You missed a good opportunity to feature a more balanced sampling, not to mention calm some frazzled applicant families, by failing to include other, more accessible colleges. Yes, college admission is stressful for many, but it does not have to be. Please don't add fuel to the fire. LYNN WELBOURN Wenham, Mass.
Terry Teachout's review of the musical setting of Dead Man Walking [OPERA, Oct. 23] was critical of the work. So what if one doesn't go home humming a tune from an opera? That doesn't detract from its many other great qualities. Frankly, I don't remember much that is hummable from Salome or King Lear, and not much from Fidelio, all of which are great operas. To say that Jake Heggie's music "lacks dramatic grip and speed" makes me wonder if Teachout was listening to and viewing the same opera that the rest of us were. Dead Man Walking is a first-class dramatic smash with glorious music and words, a convincing cast and incredible sets. ROBERT GRANDERSON Modesto, Calif.
Whose Vote Counts?
Political pundits endlessly debate and lament the causes for low voter turnout in national elections. At the same time, we are bombarded with information like that in your graphic "What If It's an Electoral-Vote Tie?" [NATION, Oct. 23], which pointed out that most states, including my home state of Wyoming, are already either "solid for Gore" or "solid for Bush." While I will certainly cast my vote on Election Day, you make me wonder why. And you make it harder for me to convince my 19-year-old son that his vote matters. ROY WHALEY Casper, Wyo.