In the Dec. 16 front-page article "Where Early Decision Is Won and Lost," University of Virginia admissions officers frown at "grinds" but look favorably on taking nine Advanced Placement courses by senior year and taking a second year of calculus at the expense of "light" courses such as "public speaking" or "fashion marketing."
When Fairfax County adopted the seven-period day, it wanted to allow students to participate in the fine and practical arts. Slowly, those electives have given way to advanced academic courses. Students who understand the value in taking fashion merchandising, drama or music or who want to participate in extracurricular activities at the expense of yet another AP course in their senior year must be ready to forgo U-Va.
A perusal of the U-Va. course listings shows a distorted relationship between secondary schools and the university. For instance, although high school seniors were criticized for dropping foreign language study, a college student may place out of the university's foreign language requirement based on SAT II scores or AP test scores. Nor does the university require a lab science of undergraduates, although it expects one of high school seniors. Similarly, U-Va. math options do not begin with a second or third level of calculus but include pre-calculus and algebra and trigonometry. And oddly, considering the admission officers' disdain for some electives, both public speaking and fundamentals of marketing are offered to U-Va. students.
This leads to an interesting question: Are high school students being asked to do college-level work to be admitted to the university so that they may then resume their truncated high school experience in Charlottesville?
Teachers, parents and students need to call a halt to an admission process that has forgotten what high school and college should be all about.
The writer is a high school teacher and a faculty consultant with the College Board.