Lawson: College admission reform brings out best in students


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Columnist Lawson believes changing college admission standards is needed to relieve the stress of high school students who don’t have time to be included in all of the activities necessary to be viewed by employers as the perfect candidate. 

Angelica Lawson

I will never forget my senior year of high school and the stress that came from obsessing over how I was going to get into college.

I took the ACT three times. 

I couln’t stop thinking about how well I needed to do and how I needed to be involved in multiple school activities while getting good grades. I wanted to be the total package to be a more attractive candidate to universities.

However, I don’t recall the stress as ever being too much because it seemed like the norm for me and my friends. That is not to say that it wasn’t something that plagued my everyday life. 

It consumed so much of my time and I can’t even begin to relive the hours upon hours of conversations with my parents and teachers about what I needed to do to be the perfect applicant. It’s a daunting task that should have been addressed long ago.

Harvard University is among the 80 universities that are banning together to change how students are approached during college admission. These schools believe students are becoming overwhelmed with the things they need to have accomplished by the time they graduate high school in order to even be considered for admission in college.

In suppot of this motion a  report titled “Turning The Tide” has surfaced and its contents are astounding. The report is said to focus on what’s “wrong” with college admissions. The report contains three key points that include recommendations made by the contributors for universities and colleges to consider.

The first point is about “community engagement and service,” which means the student must have actively taken on community challenges, contributed to the community, had experiences with diversity and developed a sense of responsibility.

The second point is an ability to assess “ethical engagement and contributions to others across race, culture and class,” which means having contributed to the student’s family and others.

Lastly, the student must have experience in “reducing undue achievement pressure, redefining achievement and leveling the playing field for economically diverse students.” This requires the applicants to have qualitative — not quantitative — experience with activities, awareness of the detriment that comes from overloading AP/IB courses and discourage ‘overcoaching.’

I believe these are great recommendations being suggested to help create an equal opportunity for students of all backgrounds and to eliminate résumé stacking. A big issue with the current application standard is that, for some students, it is nearly impossible to be part of all of the activities necessary to be seen as the perfect candidates, as well as hold down a part-time job and see to family responsibilities.

I understand the need to address these issues as the students change, but the standards upon which they are judged need to also change.

The need to focus on more than standardized test scores is not a new tune being hummed. Yet, there is still a huge emphasis on having high SAT and ACT scores. 

There are more ways to show your level of intelligence that do not include tests that boast so much pressure.

With this report surfacing and the plans and recommendations following it, reform is just around the corner.

I hope the thought that it will now be ”easy” to get in school does not result from this. Suggesting a reform on how people are accepted does not mean people no longer have to try.

People can now be judged based on the quality of their work instead of the length of their résumés, and that’s how it should be. Changing the application process is one of the recommendations that would allow students to put their best foot forward. Adding essay questions, interviews, portfolios and other forms of showcasing what the student has to offer will widen the depth of the school’s student body.

I look forward to seeing how this education reform will better serve the future generations of high school graduates and how it will improve the population of college campuses. So many people have so many different roles they play in their lives that could have an impact on the number of activities they participate in, which could limit their chances. These suggested standards would give everyone who wants to receive a higher education the same level of opportunity regardless of their background.