Yesterday Harvard University announced that it would end its policy of early admissions. The primary reason has to do with the advantage that the policy gives to certain socio-economic groups. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:
With its announcement, Harvard joined a host of critics who have long claimed
that early admissions work to the disadvantage of lower-income students, who are
seen as less likely to be familiar with the often-arcane requirements of
If in fact the studies are true then this for me would constitute a sufficient reason to end the policy. That said, I am pleased to see Harvard making this move for another reason. I’ve been teaching high school for the past eight years and during that time I’ve watched as students have become much more paranoid and fearful about the college admissions process. Now I should say that this is coming from someone who was not overly obsessed in any way about college. In fact, I spent the first two years after high school in a local community college, which turned out to be the appropriate decision.
College admission has become much more competitive over the past few years and this has translated into a great deal of stress for my students. Junior year can be a miserable experience if the student is feeling pressure from home or elsewhere to see college or admission to a specific college as the final goal. Please understand that I am not suggesting that students should not take college admission seriously and I am not even suggesting that they should not care about the process; my concern is that we have placed too much weight on getting in and not enough on the intrinsic value of a high school education.
Early admission only adds to this problem. I have students at the beginning of their junior year who are already missing class for college visits. Are you kidding me? I wrote around ten recommendation letters towards the end of the spring semester and at least five more called me at home over the summer. The most disturbing part is that for the first time I am hearing freshman talking about the process and stressing about the importance of getting into the right school. There is something about all of this that really rubs me the wrong way. I wish we would take better care of our youth.