Editorial: Leveling the college playing field


Chronicle Staff

There is no doubt that Harvard-Westlake is centered around college admissions. We have deans for that specific reason, along with some of the best college acceptance stats in the country and a student body that expects that their hard work should yield high-ranking college acceptances. As the college process ends for many seniors this month, eager sophomores and juniors look to see where they will fit in next year’s “game,” an endless cycle fed by college talk and competition.
A big side effect of this college culture is the competition and intense stress that comes from failed expectations, something the deans are hoping to change.

With the current application system, students who apply to schools that follow the Restricted Early Action policy, like Harvard College, Yale University, Princeton University and Stanford University, are not bound to their school if accepted. However, the Harvard-Westlake administration is considering treating these four schools as a binding decision for several reasons.

At first it may sound unfair for the hardworking students — the “high flyers,” as Head of Upper School Audrius Barzdukas calls them — to not be allowed to apply to as many schools as they would like to, or even deserve to, in order to have choices come May. A student’s opinion is also undoubtedly skewed by how their admissions process went or how they believe it will go.

However, in many cases, a student who is accepted to one of these four schools in the early pool will also be one of the few students admitted to the three remaining colleges in the regular pools. This forces many regular decision students to compete in a much more competitive pool and often results in their placement on waitlists or their rejection from a college because a student who may or may not even attend the school is occupying their potential spot.

Students who apply as Early Decision applicants choose their schools because they want to attend, and because they must once accepted. So why should Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford be treated any differently?
Students who apply to one of these elite schools should choose to apply because they would go to that college over the others — especially if it affects other students’ chances at admission who didn’t get in early. The satisfaction of one student going to one of these schools as an early applicant and the satisfaction of another student going as a regular applicant seem to outweigh the marginal satisfaction of one “high flyer” getting to weigh Harvard over Princeton.

This year, for instance, with seniors recently hearing back all their decisions, a handful of seniors have been receiving great news from all their regular schools — even with an early application admission already in their pockets. However, the sad truth is that some seniors, many of whom are just as qualified, end up with far fewer options because of the more competitive pool.

It’s not really about limiting students from their college choices. Rather, it’s about evening out the playing field for a greater number of students, because the college process is already a complicated game. The utility of satisfaction for students could be maximized with the new policy, and the college process could be a bit less stressful if the administration follows through.