Highly selective colleges seek to admit students who have taken the most rigorous curriculum available at their high schools and excelled in that curriculum. Is this the only thing that highly selective colleges look for in applicants when debating their case for admission? Certainly not. But it is an important factor in the admissions process at our nation’s most elite institutions. In fact, we encourage our students at Ivy Coach to go above and beyond the most rigorous coursework available at a student’s high school to not only stand out from other applicants applying to highly selective universities but also to stand out from students applying from that very same high school.
A Generation of Everyone Being a Winner
But it seems not everyone agrees that our nation’s most elite colleges should be encouraging students to take the most rigorous coursework possible. In a piece by Scott Jaschik up on “Inside Higher Ed” entitled “Are Colleges Pushing Students to Do Too Much in High School?,” he shares an essay written by a college counselor in New Jersey. This counselor, Scott White writes, “Who started it? ‘We expect applicants to take the most demanding schedule available to them’? That is the source of one of the most cruel, and truly unnecessary, abuses of our children. These words send students, so many students, into depression and despair and hopelessness. The words are meant for those elite students who can do it all. The words have the greatest effect, though, a truly pernicious one, on those who aspire to stay in the ballpark for a ball that is likely to forever be out of reach.”
And how do we feel about the words of Scott White? As our regular readers might expect, we appreciate his sentiment but his words are emblematic of a generation of young people who are being told they’re all winners. They come in 16th in the 100 backstroke at a swim meet and they get a medal. They get 6 out of 10 questions wrong on a math test and they get a sticker. Not everyone is Katie Ledecky. Not everyone is Alan Turing. Not everyone is a winner in all things with the obvious exception of Charlie Sheen. There are students who are bored by their high school curriculum. And there are other students who are overwhelmed by the rigor of their high school curriculum. The most rigorous curriculum at a high school isn’t for every student. And get this — not every student should be applying to our nation’s most elite institutions. But for those students who are seeking to earn admission to these schools, you bet they need to take the most rigorous curriculum (and then some!) at their high school. And you bet these colleges should judge the rigor of a student’s high school curriculum. Why should these schools offer admission to students who don’t have the intellectual curiosity to seek out the most high-level coursework available at their high school? And, yes, that question is most certainly rhetorical.
Colleges Seeking Intellectually Curious Students Are Not the Problem
We’ll end our post today with a word to Scott White, the college counselor in New Jersey. While we too lament that certain high school students grapple with depression because they aren’t as successful academically as some of their peers, not everyone deserves a trophy. Not everyone should be applying to our nation’s most elite institutions. Instead of criticizing our nation’s most prestigious colleges for seeking out students who have pursued the most rigorous curriculum possible at their high schools, perhaps it would behoove college counselors to just pull off the bandaids and tell students when certain dreams are unattainable. We do it all the time. It hurts for a day. Maybe two. And then students so often develop new dreams and take great pride when they earn their new trophies.
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