You cannot just ‘correct’ the college admissions process

There is now a general consensus that teens are selfish human beings.

A psychological study from October 2013 from the Wall Street Journal reports that empathy only begins to develop in girls at the age of 13 and in boys at the age of 15. That means that we students have only just begun to understand the plight of others.

For the most part, I agree. Teenagers are pretty selfish, and instinctively I think we need to be. Back before advanced civilizations existed, many of us didn’t live to be adults. We had to take more than we needed. To help others might have led to our own demise. It was the survival of the meanest.

The egocentrism of teenagers, as my fellow seniors know, shows itself during the college process as students compete for limited spaces in the colleges of their top choice.

Noticing this crisis, Harvard’s Graduate School of Education released a report in January stressing the importance of a more humane college process, one that puts less stress on students to be gods among men with perfect GPAs, multi-million dollar businesses and music skills even Beethoven would be jealous of.

The report said that there are three main characteristics that colleges should look for when evaluating a student. The student must be helping others, beyond class and race, and colleges must redefine achievement leveling the playing field for all economic backgrounds. Many admissions offices including Harvard have endorsed this report.

Honestly though, when I look at the report, I really fail to see how this can possibly change anything. In accordance with this report, the Washington Post reports that Yale University has added an essay question that asks the applicant to “reflect on engagement with and contribution to their family, community and/or the public good.” Yale also will support any changes in the extra-curricular section of the common app that makes it more flexible for students to list their activities.

This to me seems a little comical. How will an extra essay question and support for more flexibility change a way of life so ingrained in the American culture, a culture that CNBC reports spends about 400 million dollars a year making sure their Common Apps are the best they can possibly be?

Pressures put upon us by college admission offices won’t change much. Any change has to come from ourselves. And honestly, I think this internal change has actually already begun in the sense that we now realize there are more than just a few colleges out there that will lead to success.
I don’t like the concept of participation trophies where everyone wins, but when it comes to colleges, that might actually be closer to the truth than you think. There are a lot of great schools, and the college you go to does not guarantee success, nor does it guarantee failure.

The way to tone down the intensity of the application process is not through lengthy reports and new essay questions; rather, people to actually realize that their “safety school” will not ruin or even hurt their chances of success.

When my grandpa was a professor at the University of California, Irvine medical school, which at the time was not considered a top-notch medical school, he would always open up the year with the words, “Ladies and Gentleman, for many of you this medical school might not have been your top choice, but I can assure you that all the tools you need for success in medicine are here. Whether you fail to complete your residency or discover the cure for cancer is not decided by this school, but is ultimately decided by you.”

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