Imagine that you are a high school senior again. Although you’ve begun filling out applications, college remains an abstraction, twelve months away from becoming a reality. You’re still taking that dreaded calculus class with that halfhearted, scruffy teacher who drinks coffee from a mug with BEST MATH TEACHER written on the side. You still wake up at six every morning to catch the bus a half hour later. You find your friends in the school hallway, greet them, remark for probably the thousandth time how much you’d rather be somewhere else other than school because, basically, school sucks.
You’re not being dramatic or narrow-minded or selfish here. You have a valid reason for disliking your high school: it’s not the most pleasant environment. Your academic institution lacks the funding support needed to build and maintain an academically driven, globally aware, service-oriented community. There are very few extracurricular activities available, none of which appeal to you. There’s no mentoring program. You can take an art class as an elective, but the supplies provided have seen better days. Not many AP classes are offered because the school can’t afford enough teachers. You’re on the soccer team, but the uniforms haven’t been updated in over fifteen years. The paint’s peeling off the walls, and the desks in classrooms are marked up with students’ doodling in pen.
Simply put, you’re not at all motivated to learn or be involved when you’re going to a school in this condition. Your family can’t afford to send you to an expensive institution, so you’re stuck there until you graduate.
My point? Briefly, let’s take a look at the requirements for applying to a traditional college: one application, a high school transcript, SAT or ACT score report, letters of recommendation, one or more personal statements, and an essay. According to Family Education, some of the major features colleges look for in prospective students include a challenging high school curriculum, strong grades, a record of community service, quality involvement in activities, and positive recommendations from staff members. Remember, you haven’t been given an easy opportunity to challenge yourself. What’s a student like you supposed to do in this situation? How else can you prove you’ll be a worthwhile student on any college campus?
Having a college degree has become a necessity in the job market. Despite the crushing amount of debt that comes with pursuing higher education, academic experts argue that anyone with a college degree acquires more benefits than those who don’t: more income, more opportunities, and more resources. So, while attending college may not be something you’re interested in, you’re pressured nonetheless to get that degree; otherwise, you’re at a disadvantage while competing for higher-paying jobs. It’s unjust, but that’s where America’s mindset is at right now.
You are a high school senior. You are an individual, not a number. Why should you be denied the right to pursue a college degree when you don’t meet certain expectations in the course of applying for colleges or universities? The traditional college application doesn’t serve students well, even if those students are already studious; not only is the application exclusive, it also lacks creativity and intimacy. One of the main reasons we join clubs, run for leadership positions, and take AP classes is so we can look good on the college application—but those things don’t really reflect who we are as individuals. Why should you be defined by who you were in high school? Isn’t college about redefining yourself, trying new things?
This is why Goucher’s video application is a step in the right direction for college admissions. The current application process needs to be shaken up a bit; be more inclusive. Having the option to submit a two minute video that answers the question, “How do you see yourself at Goucher?” as well as two writing samples in lieu of a high school transcript and test scores will be a relief for many applicants. The video application gives those applicants more freedom to be creative, and allows them to demonstrate their character. It puts less pressure on those who may not be as grade-focused or have had a challenging year due to unexpected circumstances. And, just as importantly, the video application gives those coming from poorly funded academic institutions the opportunity to express themselves in a way that doesn’t call attention to their backgrounds. What’s more, the admissions office will have a more interesting selection to look through, as opposed to the routine supply of transcripts, test scores, and essays.
The video application doesn’t have to be the only other option. My hope is that this change will spur other colleges and universities to introduce other creative, inclusive methods of applying to college. As of right now, the college application process is very much one-sided in the sense that it’s heavily focused on grades and involvement as well as overall high school background. I’m not suggesting that the traditional method needs to be erased; it doesn’t. But, there needs to be another way of admitting prospective students, one that allows applicants to show something other than numbers. After all, you are not a number.