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Krisi Tran

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Are university admissions not diverse enough? (not for race, but for other factors)

All throughout the country there is a certain set of criteria that all incoming freshman must demonstrate to be considered, particularly grades, class percentage, volunteer work, sports, and leadership positions.

Grades are important, but a valedictorian of one school might be class rank 100 in another. Grades reflect also the quality of the teacher just as much as the student.
In many school organizations volunteer work is mandatory, which should be considered an oxymoron. In addition, many students know that it's for college so it shows little about the "good-will" community aspect it's trying to measure.
Last, leadership positions are uncontrollable, especially when other students elect them.

All in all, many students know about these factors and focus on them with the sole purpose of college admissions, even taking easier classes to boost GPA.


The Question:
Do you think incoming college students should continue to be judged on these factors or are there other ones that would be better?
In addition, should they only be judged on the things they have done their high school years, vs their entire lives? What alternative methods would be better?

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Closing Statement from Krisi Tran

Some of the main points of this conversation include that universities are looking for these particular traits and that's why students are measured by them and that if the education system was less standardized or influenced by the government, there would be significantly more freedom for colleges to conduct their admissions in more unique ways.

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    Nov 27 2013: What do you think college admission committees are actually looking for in students? Do you think what every college looks for is the same?

    If you have not yet applied to college, it is very useful to look on the admissions part of their websites to see their descriptions of what they are looking for. This gives you a sense of what the place will be like once you get there.

    I went a few years ago to an admissions presentation for Stanford. The representative said the, or one of the main things, they are looking for is "intellectual vitality." The representative then asked the kids which of their teachers they thought were good examples of intellectual vitality, just to make sure kids knew what she meant.

    Other schools may be looking for prospects for contribution to global well-being. A school like MIT, which is more or less known for innovativeness across fields, may favor a student who has quirky ideas even if the student is not as well-rounded an applicant as a liberal arts school might want.

    The essay questions you write on the application allow the admissions committee to assess these factors which do not show in formal records, as do the three teacher recommendations you submit.

    Obviously they also all want someone with the academic preparation and diligence to take advantage of and succeed in the school's curriculum. This is where standard academic records come in.

    My experience with this comes from the fact of having had kids who applied to college in the last decade.
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    K H

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    Dec 3 2013: Students should be given credit for displaying passion in a subject or a number of subjects through activities at school or outside of school. Colleges are becoming more aware of the need for students who have talent in certain subjects, but students who show interest in their subject earlier should be given more attention than they are currently being given by colleges. The earlier the child participates in activities involving certain subjects, the more likely they are to remember information about those subjects in college. However if a student suddenly starts doing a lot of community service in their junior year of high school versus all other years, it should be considered that the student was merely doing this to have a better looking transcript. Students who challenge themselves earlier should be given special attention, especially if they began to compete regularly in competitions during middle school or volunteer in middle school. Colleges try to be fair, but they need to pay more attention to those who care about their subjects rather than those who procure a lot of extracurriculars at the last minute. Noticing students who perform very well at a young age could help solve that issue.
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      Dec 3 2013: Most college don't care to see anything from middle school and much less elementary. A student could have had the most significant achievements, and yet they'd never know. I think that's part of the problem with that. It's not considered appropriate to write about anything prior to high school.
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        Dec 3 2013: I think in your personal statement in your application if the root of an interest or passion was an event or activity when you were younger, you should feel quite free to put that in. What you don't want to do is give the committee the impression that your glory days were in middle school.

        Two of my children went through the college application process, and while neither, certainly, would have mentioned middle school awards that were not repeated in high school, both made reference to the specific early roots of their passions.

        Their applications could not have been more successful.

        So don't mention winning the second grade spelling bee but if your interest in some subject was kindled at a camp you attended in sixth grade and then you continued to take opportunities in that field over the rest of your lower education, that is perfectly valuable to mention. You don't want to write all about buds that never bloomed but do mention buds as part of your narrative about the later blossoming.
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          K H

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          Dec 4 2013: Thanks for the advice.
  • Dec 2 2013: Krisi,

    After sending some children to college, I have learnt some things:

    1. No matter what the college say, they will rate and judge applicants
    2. Technical schools are looking for very good females, liberal arts schools are looking for very good males (technical schools have a larger number of more male applicants than female and the reverse is true for liberal arts schools). There goal is 50/50 balance.
    3. Schools are looking for geographic representation (that means students from as many of the 50 states as possible and as many foreign countries.
    4. Schools look at everything including what courses that the applicants take with the gpa. If they took easier courses instead of the AP/Honors courses, the value of the gpa is down graded.
    5. Outside work, awards are also counted

    Now some thoughts about picking the school ignoring cost (which is difficult)
    1. At any reasonable school will give you a good education, if you apply yourself.
    2. Visit the school,talk to professors, students, prior students, do an overnight visit, visit classes
    3. Other good students makes it easier to learn
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    Dec 1 2013: Krisi, First get rid of the government interference. Second, IMO, each school is looking for different things ... medical schools, technical schools, agricultural, military academies, etc ... the common factor is money ... schools want grants, research centers, fees, fees, fees .... schools are a money pit ... they make millions in fees, etc ... and state and federal funding, and still exceed their budgets every year.

    The only schools who truly care about your morals and charity are the christian funded schools, SMU, TCU, BYU, etc ... If your GPA was high and you were a member of Honor Society then you have already met those requirements. If those were serious concerns then we would not have a list of the top party schools each year, pregnancy rates at colleges would be zero, and all bars in the area would close down.

    Each school should have discriminators for entrance but those should be aligned to the interests of the school. Military schools have rigid physical requirements so handicapped would not be able to keep up. Christian schools require one religious class per semester, color blind may not want to apply for electricians jobs / classes, etc ....

    So by bottom line is ... keep the feds out of the schools business ... set their own discriminators based on sound and practical reasons as applies to the school missions and goals.

    If I do not meet criteria for a job I am not selected ... same should apply for schools ... then the law suits would be frivolous.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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    Dec 1 2013: IMHO the entire education system needs to be accessible through the internet. It is starting to happen and I applaud them for their progress. Kahn Academy and many others are following the same path, not to mention Stanford, Harvard and several other major universities going down the similar pathes to universal education from anywhere there is an internet connection to anyone who wants to learn.
    • Dec 1 2013: For the lectures, I would agree. I would suggest that the midnight bull sessions, discussions over coffee/beer, study groups, even living in a dorm and just general life discussions taught me more than any lecture I took. Think you need to have this time with people, also.
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        Dec 2 2013: People will dull your mind. "modified quote from Beautiful Mind"
        "Don't let schooling interfere with your education"- Mark Twain
        "The chief source of problems is solutions"- Eric Sevareid
        That's what they teach in schools "solutions", what they should show students is how to solve problems.
        "The only source of knowledge is experience"- Einstein
        You cannot gain experience from solutions but you can create more problems.
  • Nov 29 2013: I had been sitting on the admissions committee in a university for many years. The procedure for examining the qualification or admissibility The two characteristics are different. However, the idea of formularizing the "scoring system of merit" on an applicant , IMO, is completely wrong approach, as well as wasting lot of time and effort for the potential applicants to try to "make up" the "qualification scores" for admission.
    First, the real so-called quality of admissibility should be dependent on what is the applicant's interest. For example, if an applicant is really interested in architecture, then his need for leadership or communication skill is not as great as an applicant who is interested to be a politician or a business manager. Therefore, at least the scoring weight of the leadership and communication skills should be somewhat different than the applicant for being an architect. This kind of complications applies to many applicants with diverse interests or talent.
    Therefore, the "scoring" on the desirability should belong to the faculty group within the academic department who are ultimately responsible to educate or mold them to become good professionals in the field they choose. The "scoring" systems may be different for different department, some may be numerical scores (but with different weights), some may be verbal evaluation, and the final decision will be left with the college-wise admission office/committee.
    In summary, the admission decisions would be more efficient without the government regulations. This alone would reduce lot of unnecessary law suits, such as the recent case of Fisher vs The University of Texas, etc. If the government wants the racial quota or diversity, then at least let the college-wise office to juggle them, and then the scoring system won't be the cause for litigation. Of course, the best approach is no interference from the government, thus there wouldn't be any law suit at all, like the situation 60 years ago
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      Nov 29 2013: You bring up an interesting point, and I agree! Not all students go into college with a set idea of what they want to do, but even in that case, less strictness or regularity in the admissions process is exactly the idea I was talking about when I created the conversation. However, can anything truly be left without regulation? Discrimination could just be brought up in other ways in such case.
      • Nov 29 2013: What does that University want?
        What do you want?
        Remember you have to have the degree and grades you need to study after your BA or BS
      • Nov 29 2013: The government regulation system really doesn't work well at all, just look at all the litigation up to the U. S. Supreme Court because of the ambiguity of these regulations. If the real purpose is to help the minority applicants, the government should strengthen the scholarship or gov grants programs to remedy the financial barriers to minority students. This will level the "playing field" for highly qualified minority students with insufficient financial support for admission into the elite colleges. The relatively lower grade points for minority students would be balanced by the different standards of the large and small colleges (in other words, less privileged colleges would admit applicants with lower grades. This is perfectly reasonable, because the students with lower grade point and other character scores would likely cause disruption of the education programs, or dropped out later, in the highly competitive colleges anyway. And most importantly, if a student is really hard working and intelligent enough, there are lot of examples that s/he would excel in relatively low prestige colleges too. So, why not let the individual colleges do what they can, and let the chips fall where they, the students, belong without the interference from the government. Just like the business or industry workers, the highly successful employees may or may not come out of a large company and/or with a degree from a prestigious college/university.
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    Nov 28 2013: Krisi, do you think incoming college students should continue to be judged on these factors, or do you think there are other ones that might be better? What would they be?

    I think the people who decide who will get admitted know all the things you're mentioning. They know that grades mean different things at different schools. They know that people do volunteer activities to get into college. They know that the reasons people get elected to a position could be dubious. All this stuff gets factored in to a decision.

    You may be thinking that admissions people look at all these factors and just make a decision like a robot. You know, this candidate gets certain points for having this GPA, but that candidate gets certain points for volunteering at a homeless shelter. Who has the most points? But I don't think it's really that way, I think we all know that a person is more than the sum of their parts, and admissions people look at the whole person, the totality of the person, in deciding. They may glimpse a certain creativity in a person that excites them even if it hasn't shown up yet in the classes they've taken, or grades they've received.