Admissions: Focus on experiences, not exclusivity
Colleges across America continue to be increasingly competitive and exclusive, with an increasing amount of applicants on the rise. More students today consider college than ever before because a college degree is typically the bare minimum for employment in an equally competitive job market.
Acceptance rates for colleges get lower each year as universities across the nation push higher requirements to offset the increasing amount of qualifying student applicants. Expectations from our students today are significantly higher, and more stressful, than the last decade.
The attitude that has trickled down from colleges to high schools is that an acceptable student must be well-rounded, able to speak a secondary language and have an extensive amount of volunteering experience or extracurricular activities — all accompanied with top grades and standardized test scores.
The application process for college admission is rigorous and will continue to become more rigorous. High school students have adapted to this new landscape of academic competitiveness.
“My sister, now a senior in high school, spends about twice as much time on homework than I did six years ago,” said art history senior Hilary Schuhmacher.
Driving this need to perfect students’ college applications is the perception that there’s only the “right” courses, extracurricular activities and knowing the “right” college or university.
According to US News, many parents and students are under the impression that the process of applying to generally any college in the United States follows the same approach to applying to an Ivy League university like Harvard.
“In addition to spending seven hours in school, my sister will spend anywhere from two to six hours in soccer on top of needing a minimum of three hours for homework,” Schuhmacher said. “That’s been normal for teenagers for the past decade, and it’s still becoming more stressful for the younger generation.”
While the increasingly rigorous process unfolds, teenagers are also examining what universities their friends and peers are applying to. Depending on who rejects or accepts you, a value is placed on the letter expected in the mail.
Finance junior Mitchell Wilkey said he tries to encourage his younger siblings to approach college with “an open mind.”
“What’s right for their friends might not always be the right pathway for them,” Wilkey said. “There’s more to consider than just the name of a school.”
According to the New York Times, this college admissions mania that is taking place across the country is irrational and unwarranted. It’s all an illusion; having success, happiness or a meaningful life isn’t forced on someone by the prestige of college if they’re already seeking those things out for themselves.
“I think the frenzy over the admission process distracts from the benefits of applying to colleges a student should attend,” said biology sophomore Lily Kwong. “Both parents and students are focusing on the notoriety of a university instead of looking at the academic programs and the opportunities available.”
“It’s all dependent on someone’s circumstances,” Wilkey said. “Students should be taking into account potential scholarships, post-grad programs and what area they’re going to study in.”
What matters more isn’t the institution that a student attends, but the resources available that are taken advantage of by students.
According to the Huffington Post, the reason Ivy League universities are so coveted is because they give their students exclusive access to top tier professors, greater access to possible funding to study in different fields and a lifelong alumni network. Tier One public universities are also providing the same benefits that these “elite” colleges provide.
In addition, parents are inducing stress on kids who don’t have control over the situation after submitting all the admission materials.
“Parents are comparing their own kids to other people’s kids when all of the focus and attention should be on their children,” Kwong said. “College is an experience specifically for the individual so it shouldn’t matter what other people are doing.”
Tuition will continue to rise along with the minimum requisites and students will adapt. College admissions mania does not need to be a prominent staple in parents and students’ lives.
A person’s value does not need to be correlated to which university a student is admitted to. Value and self worth come from the experience a student has gained from going to school and figuring out who they are and what they want to do.
Opinion columnist Gemrick Curtom is a public relations senior and may be reached at [email protected]