With fall just about behind us, I cannot help but notice a few things that our society still can’t seem to get right. This is for you, my seniors.
Number one, getting into college used to be a lot easier. In 1969, 6,700 students applied to Harvard and about 20 percent (1,340) were accepted. In 2015, 39,044 students students applied to Harvard and only 5.3 percent (2,069) were accepted. It’s not hard to see the difference between college acceptance rates in the later half of the 1900’s and now, but for some reason, older generations don’t take those differences into account.
Presidents John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy all attended Harvard, and no doubt they were all brilliant, but the odds of them getting into Harvard today is 1,000 to 1. Could they still get in? Could John Quincy Adams achieve a perfect 4.0 GPA and score higher than 2100 on his SAT? Could Teddy Roosevelt get all fives on his AP US History, AP Literature, and AP Calculus exams while simultaneously holding his position as class president and serving as captain of his rugby team? Comparing people of such stature to those standards may seem foolish, but it only goes to show how much harder it’s gotten. Teddy Roosevelt was an exceptional student, he was interested and curious about the world, but the odds of him getting into Harvard under today’s standards is realistically unlikely. I bet you there are high school students out there right now who are of equal intelligence to Teddy Roosevelt. But are they getting into Harvard and gaining the connections they need to succeed in politics? Very likely, the answer is no, probably not. Because, I will repeat for the sake of your memory, it takes much more than it used to get into college these days.
Sure, you can do everything right. You can be captain and president of every club at your school, volunteer for hours equivalent to days, have exceptional grades, and score high on all your standardized tests. But qualifications, however stellar, are no longer a guarantee of admission. There is a point you can reach where you have done all you can do to stand a strong chance for admission to a top-tier school - and your acceptance is still not certain.
If that doesn’t sound absolutely absurd to you, please reread the sentence.
First of all, schools have to accept their star athletes and sports recruits. Then you have to have a certain ratio of males and females; then you have to accept a diverse array of ethnicity, races and backgrounds - and then it comes down to the class composition. “Composition” as in you can’t just accept a bunch of math nerds, you need a pretty even ratio of English and biology majors to communications and engineering majors etc.. So if you’re applying to MIT as a computer science major, tough luck. There’s about 4,000 other kids who are applying for the same major and hack into branches of the US Government when they’re bored (that hasn’t been proven, but it’s probably true). But hey, maybe next time.
At this rate, in 2030, you’ll probably need to cure cancer and win a Nobel prize to be accepted into a competitive college. Not to mention in 1960 America, all you were competing with was a bunch of other white guys from America. Now you’re competing against women (no complaints there), nearly 60 percent of high school students in America and really the entire world. As American schools are some of the best in the world, everyone wants to come here and get their degree. So now your tunnel of entree has narrowed even further.
This is all very depressing, yes. But the part that gets me the most is when older people brush off your stress and hard work as if it’s still as easy to be successful. IT’S NOT STILL EASY. Little do they know that many studies report that today’s generation is the most stressed out group of humans ever. Quit writing posts on Facebook about how kids have problems with the Internet and are “always on their phones nowadays,” and please stop calling millennials lazy. We have enough stress in our lives dealing with the planet that your generation ruined, and trying to live up to the high expectations we set for ourselves and now you’re going to complain about our lack of durability and hard work? No. Getting into an Ivy League school should win you a medal of honor because it has become close to impossible. Scoring high on your SAT’s is something you should be infinitely proud of because those tests are hard. Getting a four or five on an AP exam is an accomplishment because those classes are college level, and you’re still in high school. Making Honor Roll, or making Principal's List, or having a high GPA, are all things you should be so proud of. Just because more and more kids are applying to colleges and you feel like you’re small and insignificant, does not make your accomplishments any less valid. Don’t let people tell you that your hard work isn’t good enough, because the higher the standards are set, the sooner we’ll realize that eventually, no one will be able to reach them.