It’s crunch time for high school seniors: the impending deadlines for college applications is right around the corner. A great source for helpful articles about college admissions is the Education Life section of The New York Times. The column What Colleges Want in an Applicant (Everything) by Eric Hoover (November 1, 2017) explains straight up that the admissions system for selecting new students is broken. Fair it is not. Seniors shouldn’t take it personally though, the process is a jumble of conflicting objectives.
Merit (narrowly defined as grades and ACT/SAT scores) is still a big component of who’s selected. Many colleges take a broader view, also looking at the high school attended, extracurricular activities, and family circumstances, such as working part-time to help defray family expenses. Some colleges ask for more input than the standard college application. A portfolio, essay, project, or audition can be optional or required, depending on the school. This supplemental information may contribute the piece needed to score the desirable “Accepted” designation.
Preference for legacies
Practices like the children-of-alumni advantage, for example, inhibit a significant upgrade to the application process. The benefits to admitting these eager students, financial longevity and sense of community at the top of the list, result in a balancing act with other priorities such as racial and socioeconomic diversity.
Innovation vs. reputation dilemma
Changing the application process drastically from other colleges comes with a risk of intimidating potential applicants. Without external pressure to improve methods of evaluating applicants’ potential and striving for more equality, many colleges lack the incentive to modify their own system. It may take the power of high-profile colleges to ultimately revamp the admissions process.
For now, returning to the application: make it authentic, proofread it, and hit that submit button. Good luck high school seniors!