I originally put this in a comment, here:
but on thinking about it, it needs a bit more visibility. So here’s a repeat:
Dr. Ben Carson and the West Point story.
In the news today is a “hit piece” on Dr. Carson claiming he lied about turning down a scholarship to West Point.
At first I thought “Oh no! He LIED?!”. Looking into it, not so fast.
In this case I’m reaching to that bastion of Left Wing Talking Points, the New York Times:
Quoted in full as sometimes articles can’t be read more than once and I don’t want to be accused of ‘distortion’ (though I did trim a bit off the end about earlier in Dr. Carson’s life). Hopefully my experience (down below the quote) will help educate folks about how things work when you score high.
Ben Carson Admits He Was Never Accepted to West Point
A report on Friday said Ben Carson has acknowledged never having applied to the prestigious military academy at West Point, raising questions about his repeated assertions that he had turned down a scholarship to attend.
According to the report, in Politico, West Point had no record of Mr. Carson having applied to the academy. When Politico approached Mr. Carson’s campaign with the information, his campaign manager, Barry Bennett, in a statement, explained Mr. Carson had considered an offer to receive help with an appointment to the academy, but he did not ever apply.
In repeated references to West Point over the years, Mr. Carson has strongly implied that he had a standing offer to attend.
In his statement, Mr. Bennett said, “Dr. Carson was the top R.O.T.C. student in the City of Detroit.”
Referring to Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the Army chief of staff at the time, Mr. Bennett added: “In that role he was invited to meet General Westmoreland. He believes it was at a banquet. He can’t remember with specificity their brief conversation but it centered around Dr. Carson’s performance as R.O.T.C. city executive officer.”
“He was introduced to folks from West Point by his R.O.T.C. supervisors,” Mr. Bennett said. “They told him they could help him get an appointment based on his grades and performance in R.O.T.C. He considered it but in the end did not seek admission.”
Mr. Carson recounted the episode of being offered a scholarship at various points in telling his triumphant personal story. (Technically, West Point does not offer scholarships; it is free to attend.)
In his recent book, “You Have a Brain,” Mr. Carson described how he decided which college to attend: “I still had the scholarship offer from West Point as a result of my R.O.T.C. achievements.”
More recently, in a Facebook post in August responding to a question, he addressed a question about whether he was offered a slot at West Point, writing that he was “thrilled to get an offer from West Point.”
“But I knew medicine is what I wanted to do. So I applied to only one school. (it was all the money I had). I applied to Yale and thank God they accepted me. I often wonder what might have happened had they said no.”
So he WAS top of the list for West Point. He DID meet with some mucky-mucks. They DID try to woo him. It IS “free to attend” so there’s a kind of scholarship aspect to it.
So what this all comes down to is a high school kid being a bit unclear on “you qualify for free” vs “we pay for you”… and exactly what IS the difference?
Now I’m biased in all this in that I have a similar story. I was working at the time, but thought maybe an MBA would be a nice next step. I took the GMAT.
My scores were, er, a bit excessively high… a fellow workmate who was not at all slow had also taken the GRE. She asked to compare scores (on a ‘me first’ basis to me…) and I agree. I told her mine, then she absolutely refused to share hers. Now she had perfectly fine scores, and went into an MBA program. So they were not weak. Only later did I find out what my number really meant.
I was solicited by Wharton School of Business. They sent a letter saying basically, we want you and don’t worry about the money, there are ways to take care of that (and listed several things from scholarships to guraranteed loans). For anyone who doesn’t know, Wharton is a Name School.
But I was making what for me, then, was “big bucks”. I had just ‘met a girl’ (now my wife). It was a $50,000 / year ticket to ride their bus, and a couple of years. So we’re talking cashing out of about $160,000 of income and taking on $100,000 of expenditures AND living expenses (you don’t get through Wharton working 40 hrs / week on the side) and blowing off a promising love.
In theory, I’d make back the money side in about 4 to 5 years out of Wharton as they make big bucks. But the kicker for me was the “dump everything and everyone and move to the other side of the country”. So I declined.
Now, were I to write a book I’d likely put in it that I was invited to Wharton and offered financial aid to do it. But decided no.
You will NOT find an application from me to Wharton. (Though I do think I have the offer letter saved in some old box of mementos in the garage… somewhere).
You will NOT find an offer of financial aid from them (as we didn’t reach the acceptance step).
You will NOT find anyone who remembers this but me.
How is this any different from Dr. Carson’s circumstance?
Basically, when you score high enough, you take a special inside track that has far less formality required in the early stages. SOLICITATION, sometimes in person, and only once you say yes, do they bother with the formal application…
So what is In The News as a “He LIED!!!” story looks a whole lot more to me like a “He was solicited and maybe a kid from the poor side of town didn’t understand all the fine points” story. Confounding a “solicitation and offer of no cost” with a “standing offer and scholarship”.
Sure sounds more like splitting hairs to me.