I was very happy to encounter a recent New York Times article by Kevin Carey, entitled “For Accomplished Students, Reaching a Good College Isn’t as Hard as It Seems.” The piece exposed the many statistical tricks that schools, such as Stanford and Harvard, use to justify their sub-6% acceptance rates. Carey contends that Ivy League acceptance rates should be viewed as significantly higher for “well-qualified applicants,” but that such statistics serve to deter many qualified students from even applying to these schools.
While these numbers surely bolster the reputation and prestige of elite institutions of higher learning, I find that there are often far more damaging consequences to such statistics that these universities may not even be aware of. Working with hundreds of students as both a high school teacher and tutor, I have encountered a disturbing trend among freshmen, sophomores and juniors. It is my belief that many of the students I have worked with are capable of gaining acceptance to Ivy league schools, but become so deflated once they hear of these statistics that they just assume not even try. It is important for young people to become motivated, to set goals for themselves, and to believe that they can accomplish great feats with a bit of grit and determination. The reality of the situation is that not every child will be able to attend an Ivy league institution, but every student should feel compelled to try.
I’m thankful that Kevin Carey shed light on the dubious nature of college acceptance rates and hope that it instills a belief in young students that an elite education is attainable!