Did you know that Harvard sets aside about 20 places a year for students it wants to admit (i.e. students with whose parents or high school Harvard wants to maintain good relations) but who don’t quite make the academic cut? These students — the so-called “Z-list” — are asked to take an extra year to burnish their credentials so that Harvard can admit them in good conscience. This Crimson article from 2002 has much more.
I think the name “Z-list” is actually more insulting than the practice itself.
By the way, that Crimson article has some nice mild number-crunching in it — and the reporter, Dan Rosenheck, now writes about sports statistics for the New York Times. His article this week about the college pitcher Stephen Strasburg is a fine piece of quantitative sportswriting.