Admissions: Tom Sawyer at Brown

"We deliberately admit a number of students who are not objectively qualified" says President Barnaby Keeney of hard-to-crack Brown University, expressing the Ivy League's growing doubts about pure grades as the gauge of who gets in. Keeney wants to find out what kind of "academic risk" is really worth betting on.

This week Brown—with $155,000 of Ford Foundation money—launches a pioneering study to survey all of its 3,300 graduates between 1947 and 1952 to measure their success in life. The goal: an answer to why many did resoundingly well despite poor school records. After analyzing the qualities...

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