A couple of articles about US college admissions made the headlines recently. I thought I'd bring them up and comment on them.
Best, Brightest and Rejected: Elite Colleges Turn Away Up to 95%
New York Times, April 8. 2014
This article made quite a few waves among the parents of college admission hopefuls here in the Philippines. One commented on Facebook that he knows some parents who are already prepping their three year old kids' resume. I can't say that I blame these parents...if they really want to get their kid into one of the ultra selective universities, that may seem to be the right thing to do. I replied that this was "crazy and ultimately counterproductive". Admission to these universities don't depend on what the kids do, whether they are three years old or sixteen years old...it is who these kids are. If they turn out to be resume padding, grade grubbing robots, I can assure you that the admission office will know and they will likely be rejected. All that money, effort, and time wasted. My advice for applicants to competitive universities is ... and always will be ... be yourselves. Find a passion and pursue it. Love learning for its own sake and let your grades fall from that instead of pushing to get that A no matter what. I sometimes ask, what happens if you died tomorrow? What will be said about your life? Will it be said that you lived your life fully, enjoyed your time in school and pursued your happiness? Or will your epitaph just say, here lies a young person whose life was aimed at admission to Harvard and died his dream unfulfilled. I'm not saying, it's bad to want to go to Harvard but it is sort of sad if everything you've done in your short life has been pointed in that direction.
What I hope is that this article will make people think that with these kinds of crazy numbers, it's time to consider alternatives. For many, it's hard to think that there are alternatives to the big name colleges and universities. But if you've followed my blog for a while, my message has been that there ARE alternatives. And not just alternatives but BETTER alternatives to the Ivies and the other names. How can these no names be better? Because they may easily fit your personality, learning style, and aspirations better than the big names. If even one student comes away from this article determined to make a better balanced college list or to make prestige a non (or lesser) factor in his/her decision process then the article would have served its purpose. Right now, it seems like all it is doing is fanning the "elite" college admission hysteria. Don't be a part of that. Don't play that game.
He's all-Ivy — accepted to all 8 Ivy League colleges
USA Today, April 2, 2014.
If the date of the article had been April 1, 2014, it would have been dismissed as an April Fools prank. But it's no joke. This kid pulled off the college applicant's dream. The best I've personally seen is a kid applying from the Philippines who applied to six of the eight Ivies and got into five (plus the other universities he applied to). My first reaction to the article was Wow! That's incredible! But a bit later, while still feeling happy for this kid, I couldn't help but sniff out the odor of something we in the business call "trophy hunting".
Trophy hunting is the practice of some students of applying to some universities simply to see if they can get in. They collect acceptance letters as trophies. I have to wonder how carefully Kwasi did his research. All eight Ivies were a good fit for him? Somehow, I doubt it. I think he just sprayed his applications to all the Ivies to see what would happen. I'm not really sure he thought about it. Look, I don't know Kwasi, so I'm not in a position to question his motives but I think there's a real lesson for us here.
When I described trophy hunting earlier, did I hit a nerve? Did I just describe you or perhaps someone you know who is doing the college application process? Trophy hunting is particularly prevalent in the Philippines. We like to be sikat. We apply just so we can brag to our friends we got in, whether it's with US or Philippine universities. Trophy hunting is something I highly discourage among my clients. One reason is that it warps the college search process so that instead of looking for best fit, they look for best bragging rights...what's the hardest college to get into so that I can feel really good if I do get in. Another is that it's a waste of money and time. You apply to Harvard or Cornell just because....just to give it a try to see if you can get in. You probably don't have a snowball's chance in hell but what will you lose? Maybe about fifty or seventy dollars, your recommenders' time in writing your letters of recommendation as well as the time of the admission committee. I am NOT saying that you shouldn't apply if you are genuinely interested in those universities. But if you have no or little intention of attending that school, then do everyone a favor and do something else with your time.
Comments are welcome below.
I do have to hand it to Kwasi Enin though....he does have a sense of humor about his incredible accomplishment.Update: May 1, 2014: Kwasi Enin has announced he will attend Yale University http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/wunderkind-kwasi-enin-yale-article-1.1774361