Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The mad career of college applications....

We heard back from Boston College and Notre Dame. Boston College received a record-breaking 28,000 applications (at $70.00 per app) for fall 2007. They accepted 2,250 students. Johannah wasn't one of them. Yet, her ACT score, high honors student GPA, and extra curricular activities which included six years of acting in a Shakespeare Company earned her an academic scholarship and membership in the Honor's Program at The Ohio State University. All that - not good enough for BC. Notre Dame also declined her app.

One of my current students earned a 1550 on the SAT. He's one of the best writers I've ever taught. He's earned A's in all his core subjects. His app was declined by Harvard and Georgetown. Instead, he's taking the full ride scholarship to University of Cincinnati where his academic achievements are not only noticed but honored!

Do you ever wonder how you got into college after you hear stuff like this? Back when I went to UCLA, I had a high GPA and low SAT. My roommate didn't even crack a 3.0 when she was accepted. Today, UCLA is one of the most demanding admissions of state schools in the country. 4.0's are a given.

We're thrilled for Johannah, of course. She's going to love OSU - the size, the collegiate feel, the spirit, the diversity in the student body, the variety of courses. I love that she's an honor's student there, not just barely admitted.

But I can't help but wonder if the current admissions climate and academic achievement requirements are just a bit out of control! Notre Dame revealed that its middle fifty percent of incoming freshmen in 2006 earned between 31-33 on the ACT. I know that there are many, many other colleges that don't require such high standards. Still, I'm pretty amazed at how competitive it's all become.

More, it seems that kids are being driven to perform at increasingly high levels and are forced to take many more AP courses and core classes with a deeper anxiety about how they mesaure up against the competition than we ever confronted. I can't imagine that's healthy.... What do you think?

13 comments:

jo(e) said...

It's not healthy at all. Kids from wealthy families are especially under all kinds of pressure -- the parents hire tutors, etc. And for many of the prestigious colleges, connections are what get kids accepted, not their merits. Smart kids from poor families often don't have a chance. It's not a fair process.

brian said...

The system is set up so that the rich get richer. I don't know why it has to be so competitive. But, it doesn't seem healthy for the kids nor fair for the ones who can't afford the prep to make the grades and to the extracurricular stuff to get into the schools where the connections are made that will launch their careers.

Dave said...

I have never seriously entertained the idea of going to an Ivy League school, nor do I consider it a possibility for my children, simply because the path isn't accessible to people like us (low end of the middle class who pretty much raised a family from paycheck to paycheck.)

My kids are all very bright but reports such as this only confirm that I made the right choice by not investing in that effort. I'm pleased for your daughter and for the others you mention who could get into good state schools, but this whole phenomenon you describe just illustrates to me the elitism that is so deeply ingrained in our society. I have a hard time imagining that every young person admitted to BC or ND "outperformed" Johannah - it seems like there are other criteria being used to decide who gets in or not.

NoVA Dad said...

Saw on the "Today" show this morning an interview with a psychologist and a former college admissions officer who were talking about this very topic. Both of them were pretty much in agreement that the record number of applicants who are being turned down by colleges is much more of an indictment of the admissions system, and not the kids themselves. Both were also emphasizing that parents should let the kids know that rejection is all part of the growth process, and that it's not something to be ashamed of. With a four-minute segment, it was difficult for them to really get at the heart of the matter and address the very good issues such as those that Joe, Brian, and Dave have raised here.

Your daughter should be very proud -- OSU is a fine university, and I think all of your regular readers (who are lucky enough to get glimpses into your family) know that she will do an amazing job there.

julieunplugged said...

Thanks Matt.

Johannah is thrilled with OSU (it's really where she wants to go). What I found intriguing about the process, though, was considering just how exclusive these private colleges have become (and the Catholic ones even!). I've loved my Xavier eperience and thought Johannah might like that atmosphere as well (she got interested in BC and my dad is an ND alum so that was a given in terms of applying there).

But to think that these schools really do cater to highly educated, moneyed, most likely white Catholics is pretty interesting to me. It makes me wonder if the college atmosphere (where so many are like you) is a very good introduction to the world as it is - in other words, should admissions only consider academic performance? What about creating a diverse community of students? (Not that white middle class Ohioans add any diversity to any community! LOL)

Anyway, just some of my musings.

Sandie said...

I never thought I was going to go to college, not really. My mom worked for them all my life. But I hated school with such a passion that I turned down a full scholarship to Bellermine. It is now almost impossible to get in there too and it is not IVY League. I barely graduated highschool, but I was one point from a perfect ACT.

On an individual basis, I think it is much more important to match the student to the school. When you do that you have a better chance of getting in anyway and succeeding once you're there.

On a general note, yes requirements are out of control. It is causing widespread cheating, parents lying for kids, stress that is through the roof, forging of 'offical' papers and a college drop out rate that is staggering. Last time I looked less than 80% of the freshmen who enter college will finish.

carrie said...

I guess it won't come as a surprise that I think the ivy league colleges are huge rip-offs. I don't think the education is better there (not as good as many other places, imo) and the money you need to go there is ridiculous.

There are very, very good alternatives out there. Many of the UNC system schools are always in the top tier of universities and colleges in the US News rankings, yet in state tuition is still doable, plus scholarships are available. You make it even less expensive by doing one or two years at the local community college in the college transfer program. The classes in the program are approved by the UNC system and use the same texts and syllabi. In fact, they sometimes have the same teachers! Tuition is under $600 a semester for full-time. You get guaranteed transfer of credits to the UNC system school if you meet other entrance requirements. Oh...and you don't even need to take the SAT or ACT tests. The universities have no interest in the scores once you've taken college level classes. They are suppose to be predictive of college performance, anyway. (The student may need to take the tests to qualify for scholarships, however.)

My kids are bright, but not super motivated. I am glad we have the CC system to feed them into while they grow, mature, and decide on their future.

BTW- congrats again to J!

Cheryl said...

I attended a small, public, liberal arts college in Alabama—how much further from Ivy League can you get?! :)

However, I received a solid education, have been working in my chosen field (graphic design) ever since, and am making good money, both full time and freelance-wise.

I know that, depending on the major, the Ivy League names can help get a foot in the door, but if you're talking about a future than translates to money, then hard work and experience will certainly take you further than the college you attended!

I think the Ivy Leagues "exclude" so that they will seem like the place to be!! It's similar to Studio 74's brilliant marketing strategy in the 70's disco era. They let only "select" people in, which in turn, caused a lot of people to stand in line for hours, hoping to be chosen and paying ridiculous admission prices—all for the honor of being one of the "in" crowd. What a crock!

In my mind, it's the same thing. Granted, I speak as one who didn't attend an Ivy League school. But frankly, it never really crossed my mind. I applied only to local state schools, got a full-tuition scholarship to one of them, and was blissfully happy. (Much like Adam seems to be. College was where I think I first became "me." I was away from my folks, meeting new people, learning new things—it was wonderful!!)

Congratulations, Johanna! You're gonna love OSU...except for the fact that they can't seem to beat Florida in anything!! ;)

Cheryl said...

Oops! I didn't mean "Adam" above. I meant "Noah." I knew it was something biblical. :)

julieunplugged said...

You know, Notre Dame, Georgetown and Boston College aren't Ivy Leaqgue (just wanted to point that out). they're all Catholic colleges, GT and BC being Jesuit schools in the same consoritum as Xavier. I love the social justice emphasis of the Jesuits.

But the point remains. I just hadn't realized how competitive even these Catholic Universities had become.

carrie said...

I knew they weren't ivy league, just like Duke isn't ivy league, but I guess I lump a lot of the tier one private colleges together!

BC is where Peter Kreeft teaches. I'd love to go there just to sit in his classes!

Cheryl said...

You're right! Thanks for the correction. Like Carrie, I've lumped the "upper-tier" colleges into an Ivy League category where they don't belong.

I should have just referred to the competitiveness aspect instead. But it doesn't change my thoughts on the matter. :)

goin2college said...

This year all different colleges have had a record number of applicants. They cannot accept everyone so some schools have had their lowest acceptance rate of all time. This applies to state schools, ivy leagues, and other various private schools. I applied to 12 colleges, which I personally thought was alot. After I sent in my applications I then found out there were people who applied to more schools than I did. Someone I know applied to 18 schools. I think that the common application is causing high school seniors to apply to an excessive number of schools. I used the common application when I applied and I would not have applied to 3 of my schools if I was not using the common application.