It’s no secret, admission to the top universities in the United States is very, very competitive. But the fact that these admission requirements are detrimental to students and society is less well known, even after all the good press Harvard University got for its report, Turning the Tide.
At Stanford University, Challenge Success has been trying for a decade to highlight these corrosive educational policies and help parents and high schools alleviate the detrimental effects.
But has either university taken the advice of their own experts and changed their admission requirements?
Both top universities still have requirements that at best perpetuate the myths about what is required to get into a “good” college. They both still have requirements that are all too common at other top universities.
What are the admission policies that both Harvard and Stanford’s Graduate Schools of Education have found to have negative effects?
Admission Requirements at Top Universities
Emphasis on standardized test scores at top universities
Top universities often claim that they don’t have “required” standardized test scores. But published high averages for SAT and ACT scores for admitted students encourage applicants to score as high as possible. It encourages students to “study to the test,” pay for expensive tutoring, and to take the tests multiple times.
This ignores the fact that on the upper end of the score scale, differences between scores means very little. If it means anything at all.
In addition, the top universities make it clear they prefer that applicants also submit scores for SAT subject tests. This is in addition to AP subject tests, different tests administered by the same company, the College Board.
GPA and class rank admission requirements at top universities
Class rank is emphasized, which means loading up on AP classes is encouraged at high schools that give AP classes extra-weighted GPAs. At elite universities like Harvard and Stanford, high school counselors must fill out extra information on school reports. This allows the universities to compare applicants to other students in their class. They want to ensure that the applicants are taking the hardest class loads possible.
Extracurricular activities for college applications to top universities
But it isn’t enough to be a good student, attending school for 37.5 hours a week and doing “over-time” hours in the form of homework. Applicants are also required to report outside activities that show leadership, passion, and commitment. Application space provided suggests that participation in 8-10 of these activities is expected.
Admission requirements at Top Universities – Stanford Admission Requirements Compared to Harvard
Like Harvard, Stanford encourages applicants to take multiple standardized tests. Not just the SAT or ACT and AP tests, but SAT subject tests as well.
Like Harvard, Stanford requires school reports so they can compare students based on their GPA and the number of AP/IB classes they take. They want to make sure the students they admit are at the very top of their class.
Yes, obviously universities have good reasons to need to ways to measure and accept only good, and even exceptional, students. The problem is that the current methods of measure have been used to the point that they have been perverted into excess.
And yet both “esteemed’ universities continue to ignore the advice of their own “esteemed” experts and continue to conduct their admission applications in a way that encourages these excessive measures.
But don’t these requirements allow top universities to separate the exceptional students from the merely good students?
Obviously, the use of these admission requirements is proof that Stanford and Harvard think this information will allow them to distinguish merely good students from the exceptional, elite, students they want on their campuses.
It will allow them to pick out the students who can rise to the top and thrive in this kind of competition.
It will allow them to pick out the top students among National Merit Scholars.
Elite, top universities might even claim that those problems might be experienced by other students, but not those that go on to become their students. Their admission requirements indicate that they are selecting students who can compete at this level without any adverse effects. In my next post, I’ll explore evidence that even the top students who go on to attend top universities aren’t immune to the harm of the college admissions process.