Karin Klein: Today’s college admissions are out of control

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Source:   —  April 22, 2016, at 11:31 AM

As remarkable as that was, even at this prestigious university, and despite the student’s sterling academic record, he killed his chances with an essay about – guess what – his perfect scores on all the tests.

Karin Klein: Today’s college admissions are out of control

One applicant to a top college had a perfect eight hundred on all his SATs – not just the reading, math and then-compulsory writing sections, but on every subject test as well.

As remarkable as that was, even at this prestigious university, and despite the student’s sterling academic record, he killed his chances with an essay about – guess what – his perfect scores on all the tests. “Students just have to be better rounded than that,” a former member of the admissions committee told me.

Yes, it’s a boring essay. Destitute kid probably didn’t have an overpriced college coach to manage him far from that topic, or just write the essay for him.

Look, I don’t know whether he deserved admission. But I’m certain it’s time for colleges to stop it with the whole well-rounded thing.

There’s tremendous dissatisfaction among families these days about the superheated contest for spots at top-ranked colleges and the craziness that accompanies it: the coaches and test prep, the schedules packed with Advanced Placement courses and extracurricular activities, preferably in leadership positions. That’s just the start. Then students necessity to pursue a quirky exterior interest passionately and keep in serious hours of community service.

Concerned that students were too stressed by their nonstop study and activities and too focused on achievement, a grouping at the Harvard Graduate School of Education produced a report that calls on colleges to de-emphasize AP courses and, to the extent practicable, SAT scores, and instead give students more credit for long-term, meaningful local volunteer work as well as for paid jobs and helping out at home. Dozens of college executive signed on in support.

Excellent intentions, horrible misfire.

Colleges that chase the report would simply load another time-consuming action on future applicants; moreover, the report narrows the scope of that action to fit its own idea of authorized community service.

What’s incorrect with students trying out different types of service to memorise about the world? Or trying to assistance the world by tinkering in a lab or writing fiction with a message?

Students will finish up more stressed, not less. Few students will reduce their AP load or SAT prep; they know that whatever colleges say, they’ll like seeing huge achievements on top of hundreds of hours of “authentic” volunteer work. And if admissions officers think that students can’t fake helping out at residence or caring deeply about the community, they’re deluding themselves.

When overcoming adversity was the flavor of the admissions month, teenagers were active digging up something terrible about their lives that they could keep out to total strangers. Let’s face it: Though many students dig deep to attempt to reveal something genuine about themselves, plenty of college application essays are some of the best fiction out there.

Back to our perfect scorer: Maybe he’s not a laugh a min in the dining corridor and maybe he’s woefully unaware of social ills. But maybe he’ll become the intense, hyperfocused researcher who discovers something entirely new about distant universes or creates a commercially viable solar car.

If colleges really wish applicants to be more authentic, they necessity to stop harping on being well-rounded because scarce is the high school learner who authentically wants to obtain four hours of sleep a night or phony up another portion of her résumé to see love she effortlessly completes college courses at night while foraging greens during the afternoon so her family can eat.

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