The college application process has changed for 50 colleges and the list will be growing! Finally, the admission process is more in alignment with learning and the mental health of high school students.
The pressure to be accepted into a college or university is tremendous for many teens. This pressure has led many high school students to take multiple AP (Advanced Placement) classes, feel anxious to score extremely well on the SAT, to engage in numerous extra-curricular activities, and to commit to several community service projects. As the pressure mounts for teens for achievement to impress universities, depression and anxiety have also increased among teens. In an effort to improve teens’ psychological well-being and increase the opportunities for all teens to have a college experience, changes in the college application are taking place in four areas. These areas include AP classes, standardized tests, extracurricular activities, and community service.
What are the Changes?
A long list of AP classes is not to be encouraged as more valuable than consistent achievement in classes over the course of each year. According to a report through the Harvard School of Education, entitled Turning the Tide, “Admissions offices should convey to students that simply taking large numbers of AP or IB courses per year is often not as valuable as sustained achievement in a limited number of areas.” (pg. 5). This is in better alignment with learning because the original intention of AP classes was to provide an opportunity for those high school students who desired to delve more deeply and intellectually into a particular subject area. The intention was not to take AP classes to solely increase a student’s chances of being admitted to a top university.
The SAT will now be used to measure a student’s mastery of the core curriculum as opposed to being a test to measure the student’s aptitude for college. Reportedly, the SAT correlated more with the parents’ income than it did with aptitude of the student. Many students from affluent families received special tutoring and preparation for the SAT, which gives those students an unfair advantage over the students whose parents can not afford the specialized SAT preparation classes. According to Ann P. Cronin’s article, “Turning the Tide: High School is Coming Back” (February 9, 2016), ” Already more than 850 colleges and universities do not use the SAT or ACT to admit substantial numbers of bachelor degree students and more than 200 top tier colleges and universities deemphasize the SAT and ACT in making admissions decisions. It may take a while for all colleges and universities to do that.” High school grades will be viewed as a predictor measure of a student’s success in college. This is also more in alignment with learning and will most likely reduce some teen stress because the student is encouraged to engage in course content and learn as opposed to stressing over SAT scores. The change also allows for a more accurate and equal measure of achievement because grades are considered more of a predictor of success versus SAT scores.
The original intention of extra-curricular activities was to provide an opportunity for students to engage in other passionate activities. Extra-curricular activities may also bring more balance to a student’s life by not having the focus of high school be only on academic subjects, grades and college acceptance. In an effort to compete for college admission, the trend for many teens has been to enlist in several extra-curricular activities. To discourage this trend of teens merely participating in a lot of extra-curricular activities to impress universities, some college applications now request that the college applicant list a few extra-curricular activities and write a narrative of how these activities significantly impacted them. Having a few activities reduces overwhelm for teens and encourages them to enjoy life in addition to school. They can choose a few extra-curricular activities they wish to passionately explore to enrich their life instead of superficially engaging in activities to give them a boost into college. Further, the extra-curricular activities can be a stress reducer from grades for many teens.
Lastly, as with extra-curricular activities, many teens have participated in numerous community service projects to compete for college admission. For these students, the focus is more about the superficial manner of standing out and less on truly making a contribution to a community. The original intention was in response to valuing contributions in service. The college application will be changed to asking high school students only about their community service of which they have been involved for a year of service. Community service will also include hours a student may devote to helping their own family, such as baby sitting younger siblings because their parents can’t afford a caretaker. Redefining community service equalizes the playing field for students and lessens the divide between students from affluent families and students from lower income families. Sincere community service helps teens to develop and deepen their compassion and empathy, build communities, and reduce self-absorption or entitlement. Teens live more enriched lives when their passions are engaged in making a difference in a community.
In conclusion, Turning the Tide is a refreshing and overdue answer to reduce the pressures teens face and the consequences of those pressures. Being driven by competition for the end result of acceptance to a prestigious university overlooks the meaningfulness of life. The changes in the college application encourages teens to develop into more of a whole person with a healthier view of success. The manner in which teens cope now and the messages they are receiving about goals and success will likely last a lifetime. Teens need support and less stress. With less emphasis on the number of AP classes, multiple extra-curricular activities with low interest, and high SAT scores, more teens will be able to focus on learning concepts, exploring new possibilities, and following their curiosity and passions.