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Everything you think is important in college admissions apparently isn’t

(Illustration by Hieronymus) (Illustration by Hieronymus)

A number of recent articles have addressed the relative importance of some of the information used in the college application process. Taken as a group, these articles call into question just about every bit of data and writing students are asked to submit—a point not lost recently on Dennis Eller, College Counselor at Canterbury School in Fort Wayne, Ind., who offered this humorous summary on a counselors’  listserv. It is followed by a footnote from counselor Patrick O’Connor of Cranbrook Kingswood School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.


“Class Rank — Bad — Hard on the child’s ego; eliminate

GPA — Not helpful — Too many varieties; throw them all out and recalculate, but DON’T TELL ANYONE!

SAT/ACT scores — Bad — not good indicators of college success; go test optional

SAT Subject Tests — Discriminatory — Many students don’t even know what these are; recommend, but don’t require

AP Exam Scores — Discriminatory — Favors certain students in certain schools; not their intended purpose anyway

Essays — Questionable — Who is really writing these?

Recommendations — Not helpful — generic, most teachers cut and paste anyway and counselors really don’t know the kids.

Activities — Not helpful — padded at best; exaggerated at worst; State U doesn’t ask for them; throw them out

Demonstrated Interest — Questionable — Which moms can generate the most hits on the college website and afford to make a campus visit.”

Inspired by Dennis’ observation, counselor Patrick O’Connor of Cranbrook Kingswood School offered this footnote:

Rigor, or strength of schedule — REALLY BAD– I mean, all those teachers out there, teaching whatever they feel like and handing out class titles like “Advanced” and “Honors” like trophies at the banquet for the 8 year-old soccer league?”

Patrick heartily agreed with Dennis’ final observation during this most hectic time of the college application season —

It’s been a long week. And it’s only Tuesday. Time to step away from the computer.


Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



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Valerie Strauss · October 20, 2013

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