The Ivy Coach Daily

July 1, 2022

Senior Year Is Not the Time for Experimentation

The writers of a US News piece on college admissions support experimentation senior year. We don’t!

We know you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking, “Duh, students shouldn’t get into trouble by doing all sorts of crazy new things after they get into college senior year.” And while that’s not untrue, this post is not about that sort of experimentation. Rather, this post is about seniors taking chances and experimenting with their course selection and activities. While that sounds really nice on the surface (who isn’t for trying new things?), it defies the tenets we here at Ivy Coach espouse of optimizing one’s case for admission to elite universities.

You see, in a recent piece in US News & World Report by Brian Witte and Tiffany Sorensen entitled “Use College Goals to Choose High School Senior Year Courses,” the writers make the argument that senior year should be a time of experimentation. As they write, “If you are not certain about your career or major, you can use senior year to sample classes outside of your traditional strengths. Perhaps you are wavering about taking on a science specialization. Completing a vastly different class, such as one in literature, may help you gain a better perspective on where your talents lie. Art classes, too, can add depth to your transcript while providing you with a chance to explore new fields. If you discover that you love both biology and photography, you may find that a career in the burgeoning field of medical illustration is ideal. The practical benefits of exploration extend beyond broadening your horizons. The courses that you take throughout your high school career can demonstrate to prospective colleges that you are a well-rounded student with an active and curious mind.”

But as the principal character said it best to Adam Sandler’s character in Billy Madison, “Mr. Madison, what you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I’ve ever heard. At not point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points and may god have mercy on your soul.” We too award the writers of the US News article zero points for senior year is not the time for academic and extracurricular experimentation. After all, our nation’s elite colleges seek to admit singularly talented students who will endeavor to change the world in one specific way. If students haven’t figured out what they want to study and what they’re passionate about by senior year, elite colleges aren’t exactly going to be impressed. So while it sounds nice on the surface to support experimentation senior year (and, in most cases, we’re not at all against students changing their intended course of study once they get to college so long as they show that singular passion when applying), know that this argument in favor of experimentation flies in the face of everything we know to be true about elite college admissions. The argument is indeed awarded no points.

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