Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More Fuel for the College Admissions Hysteria

A few weeks ago, the Chronicle has a front-page article all about how 2nd-tier private colleges are admitting a much smaller percentage of their applicants compared with previous years. The Boston Globe had a similar article on the increased selectivity at Massachusetts colleges. I can hear the anxiety of affluent suburban parents across the Bay Area and Boston MetroWest rising yet another decibel!

Of course, what article on college admissions would be complete without a "scare tactic" quote from an admissions consultant trying to frighten more parents into ponying up $3000+ for his services: "The schools that traditionally have been a little less selective- Claremont, Pitzer, Colgate, Hamilton, Skidmore, Trinity, Middlebury -just went bananas. Colgate is now where Dartmouth was. Dartmouth is now where Amherst was. Amherst is where Brown was. Brown is where Stanford was. Stanford is where Harvard was, and Harvard is taking 9%. Things like that are crazy."

The article did include some shocking statistics to show how much more selective admissions have gotten in the past decade:

Northeastern: 85% in 1995 vs. 39% in 2007
Pitzer: 65% in 1997 vs. 26% in 2007
B.C.: 39% in 1997 vs. 27% in 2007
Bowdoin: 34% in 1997 vs. 18.5% in 2007
Pomona: 31.6% in 1997 vs. 15.7% in 2007
Middlebury: 29% in 1997 vs. 23% in 2007
UC Berkeley: 27% in 1997 vs. 24% in 2007
Stanford: 15.5% in 1997 vs. 10.3% in 2007

Can I just say that I'm glad to be part of the "baby bust"? I'm not sure that I would've gotten into my alma mater had I applied this year rather than back in the mid-90's!

On the other hand, so what? The main thing I got out of college was the chance to interact with some amazing people, most importantly DH. The actual quality of the education was not all that great. Most of my classes were huge lectures and several of the professors didn't even speak fluent English. It was all very impersonal and the policy of grading on a curve fostered a cut-throat atmosphere and a high prevalence of cheating. I probably would've received a much better education at a small liberal arts college even though the name on the diploma is considered "less prestigious" than my alma mater's.

I'm not sure what the solution is to ending the admissions hysteria, but the first step is for parents and students to refuse to get caught up in it. I hear parents of babies worrying about college admissions, for Pete's sake! This is the type of parental obsession that creates "teacup" children, who wind up having nervous breakdowns in adolescence or early adulthood. Is it any wonder that there is such a high prevalence in affluent suburbs these days of substance abuse, eating disorders, self-mutilation ("cutting"), anxiety disorders, depression, and even attempted suicide?

Hopefully, homeschooling will help protect our kids from getting caught up in the whole unhealthy Type A "overachiever" culture in our area. Of course, we want them to make the most of their God-given talents. However, that doesn't necessarily mean attending an "elite" college about which obnoxious parents boast about at cocktail parties and prominently display a sticker of on their Audi, Lexus, or Beemer. Perhaps they will, but I want it to be for the right reasons and not just because they've bought into the mindset.

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