Superfluous Stress: Changing College Admissions

It seems far too obvious from my perspective.  I’m stressed and lucky to go to bed before the next day comes around.  And it’s not just me.  We appear to be monotonous automatons trudging through the morass of schoolwork and daily activities that seem to be the norm.  When I find a sliver of time to relax, I feel this nagging itch that I’m not doing enough.

I wasn’t born with that, and so why has it become the operating system on which I function?  And who is to blame for programming my anxious, tense state of mind?  As much as we don’t want to admit it, the culprit lies in the current state of college admissions.  Something needs to change, and for the first time we may see college admissions departments starting to catch on.

On the heels of so many of our teachers’ and administrators’ responses to the report and plan of action released by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I feel as though a student perspective is necessary to both validate and compound the points made by the likes of Mr. Davis, Ms. Bell, and numerous others.  They’ve each made of a point of connecting students’ situations so common in American high schools to the circumstances we face specifically as St. Luke’s students.

 Ms. Bell, in particular, wrote an email to the entire junior class and their parents detailing her thoughts about the report as well as begetting a timely revolution that needs to happen from both colleges’ and students’ perspective.  Once we get to high school, we find ourselves in an endless, high speed chase, but for what? A quote-on-quote “good college?”  What happened to just growing up, making mistakes and learning from them, and becoming a good human being?  As Ms. Bell so aptly puts it, “Character is more important than critical reading scores.”  And that should make sense.  When have I ever signed up to be defined by a number or statistic?  

But that’s today’s reality, and it’s hard for a society built upon the backs of competition and calculated success to give value simply to the content of one’s character.  One’s value or worth when it comes to applying to college is focused on his or her ability to weather the storm, to solve the puzzle, to be the AP scholar.  The process has lost touch with simply evaluating a student’s character and taking an arbitrary look at one’s room to grow and succeed, and instead focuses more on calculated criteria in order to gain acceptance.

We need to provoke a change.  Here at St. Luke’s, even the faculty’s attempts to provide us with less homework for the fourth quarter is a step that teachers feel will relieve stress and anxiety.  And as small a step this may seem, it’s going to help. It’s going to show that you can ease on the brakes sometimes, and don’t have to flick the nitro switch in order to speed past the kid next to you.  This is the type of concrete change that we need on a larger scale and especially in the realm of college admissions.

The Harvard report writes: “Admissions processes inevitably send messages about what colleges value, messages that young people may interpret as signals of what society values as well.”  The prevalence of guides-to-this and guides-to-that continue to exacerbate the perception that there is a checklist needed to be completed in order to be competitive in the college process.  But outside of taking the SATs or typing away at 2 a.m. with bloodshot eyes after your fourth cup of coffee, in the end, you’re really just a person.  What society really values isn’t the college you attend or whether you have perfect-this and perfect-that.  What society values is the type of person you are, how you take everything you’ve learned from parents, friends, and teachers and turn that into a person that is going to do something great in life.  That’s where it all begins, everything else is truly superficial.  Because in the end, “Character is more important than critical reading scores,” and that will never change.


— Porter Bowman, School News Editor

Posted by on February 1, 2016. Filed under School News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry