When it comes to college, competition seems only to be getting more intense. Students are pressured by expectations to get perfect test scores, have unique and incredible talents and be accomplished and successful just by the age of 16 or 17. How long will students be able to live up to these expectations? According to a recent article by Jeffrey Selingo in the Atlantic, “The College-Admissions Process Is Completely Broken, but it doesn’t have to be”, the college admissions system might not be able to hold up for long.
Colleges already responded to the pandemic with measures meant to ease minds like test-optional policies, but in the long run that didn't eliminate competition, just changed it temporarily. (Note that M.I.T. just went back to a test required model)
With the emphasis shifted towards holistic criteria like essays and recommendations, that didn't necessarily make it easier for students to stand out. In some ways it allowed certain students access to more competitive schools, but an extremely high expectation remains, along with extremely low admissions rates for the top schools.
It is difficult to predict a wide-scale paradigm change, but perhaps colleges will continue to take into account the rough times that the current generation of incoming students have faced. Maybe there will continue to be shifts towards a more direct way of communicating with students exactly what they need to do to get in.
So what could be the trigger that tips the scales? Perhaps it will be when high-income families will no longer be able to pay the tuition of top universities. The financial burden in the aftermath of the pandemic will certainly cause more families to consider tuition more than they previously might have.
Or maybe the change will come in response to students, favoring a greater work-life balance and increased mental health. Perhaps a paradigm shift is on the horizon because these past two years we have been forced to think about our real priorities. And a more restricted future will only make those students who were already pushed to the sidelines even more excluded.
While the future of elite admissions is still unclear, there are signs that super-competition is not good for anyone, and causes more harm than benefit. When searching for the right college, you must find a balance between motivating stress and crippling stress, because the college experience is not defined by a brand name, but by one's individual effort and commitment.
College decision making can be intimidating, but it’s important to keep priorities in mind. If your student feels stuck, give us a call to schedule a free college counseling consultation today!
Neal Schwartz, Owner
College Planning of Westchester
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