Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Scary Application Process

For several reasons, I am bothered that there are services like those mentioned in this article. First, that's a lot of money to pay for a service that helps you get your ducks in a row when planning for and applying to college. Second, It seems to be directed at students who "need" to attend Ivy League universities, potentially on the (mistaken) presumption that if they don't attend such a university their college experience won't be worthwhile. There's a bit of false advertising in some these services that are offered by those who claim to have an inside advantage (i.e., claiming to have insider knowledge that really any teacher would have; or worse, a guaranteed acceptance). And what about students who have a genuine need of the help sorting through college information but can't afford it?

What passed through my mind, unfairly, was the suspicion that the parents who pay for these services are Ivy Leaguers themselves - and/or are very wealthy parents - who don't have much of a clue about how to guide their children through the college application process. What it takes, though, would be talking to the teachers on a regular basis - not just once a year, if that - as well as the school's guidance counselors and administration. Preparing for and applying to college isn't as difficult as some would lead you to believe, but I also recognize that my parents and grandmother, being college-educated and teachers, had a level of comfort in the application process that most students parents don't have.

Here in New York City, in 1970 CUNY schools implemented the nation's first "open admissions" policy (guaranteeing any NYC student who graduated from a NYC high school a place at a CUNY school). Even today many students are still the first in their families to go to college; many come from families who haven't even graduated from high school. When you don't know the first thing about going on to higher education, you don't know all the ins-and-outs, not only of what colleges might be looking for, but of financial aid, campus life, how to determine if a school is a good fit, etc.

I would love to see more guidance counselors at urban high schools, and I would love to see these guidance counselors specifically trained to deal with a population that could prepare these students more, either in getting them to and through college or some manner of career training program. A college degree is not synonymous with intelligence, nor is it a guarantee of success (however defined), but preparation in any form for life beyond high school is imperative. I would love to see more students have access to that training.

The programs mentioned in The New York Times just make me wary.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting posting. I think young people are rather confused as to their university choices. For example, during the last school-leaving examinations, after the oral pluridisciplinary exam, we teachers in the board asked the candidates what faculty or university areas they were interested in you know what? Most of them don't know yet.But they are going to start in September! I always suggest to my students to only follow their real interests and attitudes, but families press them to do what is "better" for the job market. They are completely disoriented and high school is supposed to be orientative! Anyhow, I don't think they should pay to be oriented. In Italy they usually go to university - in Rome there are several, for example - and there they are informed and helped to choose without paying. By the way, lots of Italian students change Faculty or even Area after their first year at uni. Not an easy choice, so.