Cum Grano Peperis March 15th. 2017

An Almost Holistic Evaluation of the American College Application Process



    The U.S. higher education system preserves students’ academic flexibility instead of forcing us to focus on a single area of study immediately. The freedom offered by this approach—despite its nauseating price tag—was the most important factor in tempting me to enter the fray and apply in the first place.

    The American college application process itself seems to aspire to be as wide-ranging as the education with which it is associated. We aren’t required to apply for a specific major, let alone demonstrate our aptitude for any one discipline by achieving final exam scores that satisfy conditional offers, as students applying to UK universities must do by taking A-levels. Instead, we are evaluated holistically, in as much three-dimensionality as is possible through a 2-D PDF—with test scores, teacher evaluations, essays, grades, extracurriculars each conveying some sliver of our potential, and, together, in theory, composing a patchwork whole.

    Having jumped through the fiery rings to apply this autumn, my admiration of the American educational model is mitigated by misgivings I harbor about the entry process. I have little time left to voice my criticism without my credibility being undermined by receiving rejections (that is, coming off as complaining merely because I didn’t get in), since most decisions are released at the end of March. So…I would like to give This Process a heady treatment with its own holistic medicine, by evaluating it in its entirety—but also paying varying amounts of special attention to three of its aspects: “extracurriculars,” the dreaded s/t words (“standardized testing”) and “transcripts.”


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