I’ve been spending a fair amount of time looking at applications for admission to financial engineering programs. It’s mind-broadening to see how many reasonable students with decent but not stellar GPAs are histogrammed by their faculty into the [top 1%] category of students in their class who went on to graduate school.
The problem then is how, as faculty, do you write an honest recommendation letter or complete an honest admissions form for a good student? The temptation to exaggerate is overwhelming.
It’s another version of the economic adage that “bad money drives out good”.
I suppose it’s possible to be honest and still put someone in the top 1%. You just have to define the subcategories tightly enough.They do this well in two other areas I can think of:
1. Food packages. If something is all fat, they say on the label “No sugar.” If something is all sugar, they say on the label “No transfats”.
2. Amazon book rankings. Suppose you write a book entitled “How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb”. You will soon discover that you’re # 2 in the category Psychology:Training:War:Explosives and #3 in History:Battles:Explosives:Anxiety.