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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Column: Easy to get in to wrong school

    Kevin Carey argued in The New York Times a few weeks ago that most “well-qualified” students get into a top school. In an article titled, “For Accomplished Students, Reaching a Top College Isn’t Actually That Hard,” Carey writes that college admission statistics are skewed by the vast number of applicants to top schools, many of whom are under-qualified.

    While he is correct that low admission rates may distort perceptions, he also glosses over a few things that make it truly difficult for dedicated students to be accepted by their dream schools.

    The college admission process is long, arduous and, quite frankly, a bit of a crapshoot among distinguished students. Many high school students feel the pressure of molding themselves into the perfect applicants, and they spend four years jumping through hoops that are supposed to land them in their dream college. They study for the SAT and ACT despite empirical evidence that the scores have slim to no correlation with actual student success in college, they participate in extracurricular activities and they vie for the top GPAs. Yet, sometimes, having started a nonprofit for one-legged dogs or getting a 4.6 GPA is not enough.

    Carey discussed Stanford University, one of the schools with a scary and deceptively low acceptance rate of 5.07 percent. While it’s true that many under-qualified students apply, Carey seems to gloss over the many extremely “well-qualified” students who apply and are rejected.

    Sarah Bosch, a UA sophomore, this difficulty while applying to college. In high school, Bosch played sports, worked a part-time job, was second in her graduating class, competed All-State for flute and was drum major for the school’s band. Her dream school, Northwestern University, which had a unique dual-degree program that combined academics and music that fit her interests perfectly, put her on its waitlist. There is little doubt that she was one of the “well-qualified” students who applied.

    Bosche was accepted into other prestigious schools around the nation, but it is less about getting into a prestigious school than it is getting into the school that is right for a student. While Carey is right that most top students can get into a well-ranked university, the emphasis should be placed on getting into the right university. While

    Stanford University and Princeton University are equally rigorous and prestigious, they are not the same school. They have vastly different cultures and offer different kinds of opportunities, and we shouldn’t dismiss the many students who wish to get into a specific school.

    Even if a student is accepted into their dream school, the application process can distort young adults’ mindsets. Erika Christakis, a Harvard College administrator who works with undergraduates, stated that the college admission process and laundry list of expectations pushes students onto a “hamster wheel of adult expectations,” which makes it hard for them to do what they really want. She recalls the “look of horror” upon their faces when she suggests to students that they spend a summer doing something unorthodox instead of a Washington internship or resume builder. Rigorous application processes are a struggle for high school students. The experience can forge a mentality that carries over into their undergraduate years where they often restart the pattern, trying to a mold themselves for graduate school.

    Ultimately, getting into a good college is not impossible. If a student works hard in high school, it is likely that they well be accepted into a college where they will be happy. But the culture that terrifies students about their prospects of getting into their dream school takes its toll, both on those students who are accepted and those who ultimately end up elsewhere. That can’t be explained away by The New York Times and the second-guessing of admissions rates.


    Julianna Renzi is a sophomore studying environmental science and economics. Follow her on Twitter.

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