The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

The official student newspaper of The Hockaday School

The Fourcast

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Senior Splash Day
Current Events
Senior Splash Day
Mary Bradley Sutherland, Photo and Graphic Editor • May 13, 2024

Don’t Mind Me, I’m Just A Millennial: The Corruption of College Admissions


College. A word dreaded by some, applauded by others.

College-bound seniors must suffer through the extensive college admissions process every fall. Hours upon hours of time (and obscene amounts of money) are exhaustively spent applying to college — prepping for and taking SATs and ACTs, subject tests and APs, spilling hearts out in essays and personal statements, answering seemingly useless (and optional) interview questions, etc. — only to receive a simply worded “thank you,” or, if you are one of the lucky ones, “congratulations.”

Students live under the guise that college admissions committees read applications through holistic review. This is a false promise. Perhaps the most time-consuming part of college applications are the supplemental essays, in which the applicant must often reveal extremely personal anecdotes about themselves to a mere stranger. Colleges stress this portion of the application in order to “get to know you.” Last time I checked, it took a little bit more than a 500-word dialogue to get to know someone. But that’s just me.

Supplemental essays, however, as well as other additional items like teacher recommendations, enable colleges to qualify you as a human being. To quote Oberlin College’s admissions committee, “the holistic review allows us to get a sense of of not only the applicant’s academic qualifications, but also what the applicant is like as a person, and what they will contribute to the Oberlin community.”

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I would sincerely believe this “holistic review” process if it weren’t a complete lie! The holistic review acts as a facade for colleges to hide under because it allows admissions committees to pretend they are accepting a person and not an applicant.

UC Berkeley admissions officers have a transcript, test scores, a list of extracurricular activities and two supplemental essays at hand. In addition, UC Berkeley is a school that stresses leadership and commitment to the school community; in applicants, the committee looks for someone who can contribute in some way or another to their school. In essence, they want someone who will make them look good.

Now, let me get this straight. I’m going to college to receive a higher education and to get a degree so that I can get a job, provide for myself and live a happy life. But you’re telling me that I can’t go to my dream school because they don’t think I can contribute to their community? And this is based off of what? A few letters and numbers on a page that define my character about as much as a dog drinks milk?

This process is unhealthy and immoral because it leaves rejected applicants not only feeling academically unsuccessful, but also morally and personally insufficient, and treats students as means instead of ends in and of themselves.

Since birth, my parents, teachers and college counselors have stressed the well-rounded individual. Disclaimer: colleges do not care about that. According to a 2014 Forbes article, they want the well-rounded class; this enables them to pick and choose the best scholars, athletes, musicians and art students, the kids with rich parents who can donate money and the legacies to ensure alumni are happy.

A lot of colleges stress that standardized test scores are no longer the most important factor in admissions decisions. This, too, is a lie. More and more applicants are applying to colleges, so SAT and ACT scores are an easy way to cut down the pool. No college is going to admit this, however, because the more applicants they reject, the more selective their school becomes, and the higher they move up in the rankings.

Most colleges advertise the average range of test scores of the incoming freshman class using the 25th to 75th percentile range. These scores are misleading because the bottom 25 percent is typically reserved for “special cases:” top-notch athletes or students with rich parents. To have a real shot, you have to have scores on the higher side of the spectrum.

For example, Vanderbilt University reports its ACT range as 30 to 34, but in reality, most admitted applicants have a score of at least 32 or higher.

Some schools, such as New York University, George Washington University and Wake Forest University, are even test-optional, which means you do not have to send them your test scores if they reflect poorly on you. Unfortunately, this a kind of reverse psychology. Only students with high test scores will actually submit their scores to a test-optional school, thus increasing standardized test statistics in the incoming freshman classes at those schools.

Colleges want us to make them look good. As W.E.B du Bois once said, “the true college will ever have one goal–not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes.” Colleges may brag about the holistic process, but from my perspective, students are used as a means to make colleges better. I don’t know about you, but shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Don’t Mind Me, I’m Just a Millennial is a weekly column focusing on Millennial moments and mishaps. Written by Editor-in-Chief Erin Thomas. Opinions are not reflective of the Hockaday School, The Fourcast or its staff.

– Erin Thomas – Editor-in-Chief

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