Students College Admission Response

09.17.2020 ,

By Amanda Finke, Senior at West Milford High School

Living in a time where we can’t predict what is going to happen tomorrow is difficult. As an incoming senior, I have spent twelve prior years waking up early each morning, catching the bus, and making sure I got to class on time. Going into this year, I am sitting at home in comfy clothes, staring into a computer screen all day for virtual school. Everything is unpredictable, anything can occur at any time, and I have no control over that, none of us students do. By now I have had three SAT dates scheduled starting middle of junior year, and all of them have been cancelled. By the time I apply for college I will not have taken any standardized tests. Although this is completely out of my control, I am intrigued by the idea of a holistic admissions process for college. This process draws me in due to the fact that my whole life I have been told by everyone that SATs are the most crucial factor when applying to college. This never made any sense to me though. These tests are supposed to represent us as students, yet don’t our transcripts do the same thing? Our grades throughout the four years of high school show the constant hard work (or not) of students. Why has one test determined the future of a multitude of students?

By defining someone’s worth of going to a certain college due to a test score, colleges may be missing out on genuine people. The SAT and ACT are tests taken in a few hours, oftentimes super early in the morning. There are many factors that should be considered when defending why these standardized tests shouldn’t play as big of a role as they have in the past. These factors being that students’ brains aren’t their most alert at 8:00 am when most of the test takes place. Additionally, not all students have access to additional study tools and resources and if not pointed in the right direction, it may be very difficult to prepare. Along with this, what if someone isn’t feeling well, has test anxiety, wasn’t able to sleep the night before, or is simply human and had a hard time focusing for four hours straight? In my opinion, as a hardworking and stringent student myself, this should not be the reason that I am sent an acceptance or rejection letter. 

I am a senior, straight A student, and ranked fifth in my class. When colleges looked at your application in the past they would skip over the attributes which better define who students are, the pieces that help them stand out from other applicants. When I define myself I think of terms like: teammate, friend, leader, teacher, coach, classmate, sister, and daughter. More often than not these are overlooked by the idea that I am the definition of a “good student.” What does that really mean? For me, a good student is someone who works tremendously hard, is able to juggle other activities while maintaining academic rigor and integrity, and who can take a step back to help someone else who may be trailing behind. It’s about time colleges stop asking themselves if each applicant is “smart” or “academically inclined,” but instead think about what this student will bring to the college atmosphere and society afterwards. This is where somebody’s character really matters. 

If someone is resilient then they can recover and bounce back after a difficult time. These are the types of people who will face challenges in the real world, fail a hundred times, and never give up. Students possessing gratitude and kindness will be grateful for the opportunities offered to them and share that with those around them. Grit and perseverance describe a fighter, someone who knows what struggle feels like yet they still outshine others. Those who are curious will inspire others to learn. Lastly, a person who offers service to others and who has integrity will share the tools of their success with those along the way. These are the concepts I want to be judged on when applying to college. 

My whole life I have loved helping people, so much that I would consider it a passion of mine. For a while I struggled to find time to volunteer, coach, and be a leader because I was devoting an overwhelming amount of time to my academic success. Then I realized something: I wasn’t gaining anything from that except the basics of my education. Don’t get me wrong; my academics are extremely important to me and always have been, but I began to realize that I needed a balance. I play three sports: field hockey, bowling, and golf; by junior year I was captain of all three. If I had spent my time on the bus rides studying for upcoming tests or turned down plans with my team to edit an essay I wouldn’t be captain. I am proud of the way I separate these two parts of my life. When I am a teammate and leader of my team, I commit wholeheartedly to this responsibility. On the field I encourage my teammates to always play fair, to lift each other and the other teams up, and to push themselves a little harder each day. I am a volunteer and unified player with the Special Olympics team. Without them I would have never observed the unfathomable acceptance that each player possesses. This team has completely changed my life: I wanted to be an interior designer until I met them, now I want to be an occupational therapist and work with young children. If I stuck my head in a book and spent all my time worried about my academics, I would have never experienced the purest joy of my life. Along with this I became a peer minister youth group leader at my church which has allowed me to open my heart up and truly be the most honest version of myself. I may not be valedictorian, but there is not one thing I would change about how I managed my time during high school. 

Teaching students how to be genuine people with kind hearts would be a lot easier if there was less pressure on having high scores on tests. Realistically, we’re all just kids when we take these tests; there is so much more to us than filling in bubbles and writing an essay. The kids that are accepted into colleges and encouraged through scholarships and opportunities are the ones that will be in charge of the future, so it is crucial that well-rounded students are more fairly valued. So often students are discouraged when they start to take on a multitude of responsibilities and activities, however I believe this should be encouraged. It teaches us how to manage our time, meet new people, and gain attributes to our personalities that we would be lacking. Standardized tests won’t show colleges what they are looking for, so I believe this holistic admissions process should not just be a factor for this year, but for the future classes as well. The value of students is not measured by a number. 


By Lucas Diehl, Senior at Parkway South High School

Finding and choosing the right college, as a student, can seem nearly impossible. From varying deadlines, to school-specific essays, to a minimum test score threshold, there’s an overwhelming amount of work to get done. But sadly, the ACT, SAT, and GPA are pretty much a deciding factor for getting into any college. I think that needs to be changed.

For students like me, there’s a lot going on in my life. I play varsity sports, and I’m a co-captain on the team. Outside of school, I am a leader in my church’s high school ministry. In school, I’m taking multiple advanced courses, trying to boost my GPA and get credit for college. I also have a job, and like most people, I try to make time to hang out with my friends, girlfriend, and family. But all of these accolades and characteristics can only be shown a tiny bit through current-day college admissions. I recently filled out the CommonApp, a college admissions platform and had added ten schools to my list on the website. The shocking thing to me was the fact that only one of the ten schools required an actual transcript from my high school. The other schools, it seems, didn’t care enough to double check if what I said was actually true, or don’t value the information as much as test scores and GPA. This is absurd to me. How can one test score determine getting in or not? I took the ACT the day after my birthday, so I wasn’t exactly mentally in the zone for a test. The second time I took the ACT, it had been four months since I had actually been in school, and I hadn’t retained a lot of the information from math and science classes. This is just one of the reasons that shows why standardized tests are not an accurate measure of a student’s ability and intelligence. But if we were to devalue the ACT and SAT, you might be inclined to think someone’s GPA would be the major factor for getting into a school. I don’t agree with that either. In my freshman year, I didn’t know the importance of one’s GPA. I ended up with five B’s overall that year, but didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t realize how detrimental to my cumulative GPA that would be, and how it would make it impossible to have anything exceptional. Now, after working hard on improving it and continuing my hard classes, I have over a 4.1 on the weighted scale. But if I were to bump some of those B’s to A’s freshman year, I could have a 4.5 GPA, which would be the tipping point on a lot of colleges. My point is GPA doesn’t completely show the growth of a student, both academically and personally.

There’s no easy solution to this. As much as I would want character and personality to become as important as the ACT and SAT, I can’t seem to find something that fits perfectly. One of my ideas that would maybe work a little better than others is to create a category that combines letters of recommendation and all achievements, stuff that really shows who you actually are. For this category of character to work, it’d need to be equal to tests and GPA, and colleges would need to weigh the information in all of them the same. It’s a good idea on paper, but I’m fearful just adding importance to specific information wouldn’t work. Another idea I had was to have students get another letter of recommendation, but this letter would have a question needing to be answered about the student’s actions and leadership roles in the school and community. While normal letters of recommendation already show the bright sides of a student, a question-centered letter could bring out more special moments and personal interests. Or instead of a letter, have a student write their own essay on a time they showed good character or ways they continue to show character. To legitimize this, the student could get signatures from teachers or administrators that confirm the student is like what he or she said. Finally, I’ve been told just to “be yourself” or “write like yourself” in an essay. Maybe instead of a specific topic, there should be a personality or character essay, where the student simply describes themselves and what they do. It doesn’t have to be long and can highlight just one of their traits but gives students a way to express themselves in a unique way. It may seem that it can be faked easily, but it gives some students the freedom to show the special qualities they have that may not be represented in their essays. Also, if a student were to fake their essay, it wouldn’t be special in a way that represents them, because every other essay would be specific and niche to what a student did or does. Creating a generic essay to make yourself seem wonderful wouldn’t necessarily work, because this essay would be personal, and the best ones would be written to stand out amongst the crowd, not blend in.

Colleges want students that are active in clubs, have great school spirit, and want to make a difference at school. If this is the goal of a university, they shouldn’t be so reliant on the grades of a person, and instead should also rely on the content of one’s character. The students who are on student council and work behind the scenes to create a better environment and school for their peers need to be valued just as much as the students who are valedictorian. Both worked their butts off for things they’re passionate about, and both have made a difference in people’s lives, so why is one so heavily outweighing the other? Obviously college’s main purpose is to supply students with information on how to succeed in their jobs in the real world, so the smarter students are desirable. But when students who can create an equal impact on the world are so heavily devalued, college admissions are in need of change.