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Take a Closer Look Podcast

Includes published research and movie sound clips for impact.

Welcome to "Take a Closer Look" the podcast that examines education and issues affecting education.


Today our topic is college admissions.


With the largest college admissions cheating scandal ever prosecuted in the US jumping off the covers of magazines and trending in the current news, we take a closer look at the college admissions craze and what the implications are for our kids. (The Guardian .29)

First, an op-ed piece in the New York Times by Rainesford Stauffer claims that college admissions has always been for sale. While the current bribery scandal is big news, Stauffer points out that families around the country typically do the same thing just in a different way. For instance, donations made by the parents of legacy students can essentially buy acceptance letters for their kids. And what about the standardized test prep industry, worth around $840 million, which involves parents paying over $200 an hour for Ivy League tutors who are tasked with increasing their child’s SAT and ACT scores.


Then there are application writers who coach students on what to write about, edit their writing, and some even write for the students. This doesn’t include the coaching firms that charge up to $40,000 to strategize an applicant’s entire college admissions process. (Harry Potter. 7)


So what happens to students whose families can’t afford to pay for tutors and college admission strategizers? They do not have an advantage, and who are these students?


According to Natasha Warikoo, a professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education  and the author of The Diversity Bargain, the students left out of having this extra benefit are working class and poor students. This includes blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and first generation students; all who are underrepresented on college campuses across the US.


So is there a solution? Is there a way to even the playing field, even just a little bit?


According to an article in The Atlantic by Jerry Selingo, some colleges are making changes. “The admissions process is what it is because of the top colleges,and “they have the influence to change it,” said Jon Boeckenstadt, the associate vice president for Enrollment Management at DePaul University, Some colleges are not waiting for the Ivy League to step up; they are taking matters into their own hands.


More than 1,000  colleges nationwide have decided to scrap standardized testing as an admissions requirement. Worcester College, George Washington University, Wake Forest and Wesleyan have all dropped standardized testing as an admissions requirement, deciding that these score are highly correlated to family income. (Monster’s U College Student .7)


And while all of the application process and admissions process, and acceptance process is going on behind the scenes, how is this affecting our kids?

It’s making them sick, literally.


According to an article in the Huffington Post by Debra Oliver, parents are so overly involved in micro-managing their child’s chances of getting admitted to the best universities, that they haven’t stopped to consider the detriment to the kids.


Beyond great transcripts and SAT scores, teenagers now need their own personal portfolios that include years of community service, extracurricular activities, and college prep courses that start, as some joke, in pressure-cooker preschools.  (Clueless .13)


Sounds humorous, but it is the reality for many American students. Clinical psychologist and parenting expert Wendy Mogel cites a Harvard report that describes a disturbing rise in stress-related disorders from depression to substance abuse to self-injury.


Parents and students alike are in a constant state of anxiety trying to ensure students meet the university admissions grid and the culture of the colleges they are applying to, as well as navigating the increasing cost of a university education.


In “Less Stress, More Success — A New Approach to College Admissions and Beyond,” Marilee Jones, the Dean of Admissions at MIT, actually advocates re-evaluating the entire admissions process in light of “the increased anxiety of this young Millennial generation.” Jones goes on to state, “I have come to believe that in our own way, we are making [students] sick. (Monster’s U .8)


In a TED Talk by International Education Leader Ken Robinson, he states, “ the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university acceptance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they are not those things.”


Robinson also contends that creativity is as important as literacy and will be the currency that drives tomorrow’s workplace, not the ability to perform well on standardized tests  or conform to college application grids.


He further comments that steering children away from their passions because they might not get a job is benign advice that is now profoundly mistaken. Our educational system has mined our minds in the way that we’ve strip-mined the earth for a particular commodity. (Matrix .25)


Looking forward this will not serve the future. Robinson claims we must rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.


  So, as we wait for the legal outcome of the current American College Bribery Scandal in which the media which has chosen to focus on two well known actresses, Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, even though over 50 other people were involved, maybe some good can come out of this mess.


All of the people involved in this admissions scam will have their lives negatively impacted in many ways, whether that involves prosecution or a prison sentence, loss of careers and respect, or the personal impact on their families, maybe just maybe some changes in the college admissions process will occur, so that no one will feel that the only way their child can get a good college education is through cheating the system. (Dead Poet’s Society .6)

As always I welcome your comments and questions on this topic. Go to my website, Take a closer, enter your questions or comments on this topic and next week on __Take a closer look___, I will address them and follow up on the topic of college admissions.


Thank you for tuning in, and remember: Learning is a lifelong journey. (Ferris Bueller .5)

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