There are “zombies” and then there are zombie ideas. Those long-held beliefs that even when disproven tend to linger in our minds as true. At least that is Brennan Barnard’s idea of what a zombie idea is. In his article College Admission Zombies: Ideas That Need To Die, he explores several ideas that have been proven untrue many times over but persist in tripping up graduating seniors over and over again.
“The incessant belief that colleges want well-rounded students’ needs to just end…” Brennan tells students that colleges want well-rounded classes. That means admitting students with wide varieties of skills, interests and backgrounds. A college full of well-rounded students would become a boringly homogeneous institution. Colleges need students with angles and edges, not round ones.
High-stakes testing is another zombie that needs to be put out of its misery. The gentlemen who invented the IQ test and the SAT exam both agree that the results of their evaluations do not measure inherent ability. How is a four-hour evaluation that includes reading and math supposed to predict one’s ability to learn or their potential to succeed? What it does reflect very accurately is family income and parent educational attainment.
The question of diversity, equity, and inclusion has always been a hot potato in college admissions. Any attempt to level the playing field for underrepresented populations has been met with criticism to the point of lawsuits. For anyone arguing against creating systems that allow for diverse populations attending colleges, Brennan has this to say: “‘Meritocracy’ has always been a lie. There has never been a time in this country when the best and brightest succeeded regardless of their circumstances of birth, wealth, and access, especially in college access.” And don’t even get me started on college rankings… Just check the criteria used to arrive at those rankings and you will understand my frustration with that hornet’s nest.
Much like the idea of well-roundedness is the idea of “Silver Bullets.” There is not club, activity, combination of advanced courses or specific community service efforts that will assure acceptance into any college. The best thing a student can do is take challenging courses in subjects that they enjoy, get involved in activities they like and volunteer doing things that they care about.
The last of the zombie is that getting into college is always a stressful and difficult process. The average acceptance rate for colleges across the United States is about 75%. Because some 50 of those colleges are celebrated in the news and students flock to them like moths to a flame, they are able to become the face of college admissions by dominating most media outlets. Simply considering colleges that deliver a good education in a chosen field will yield very good colleges that accept most applicants with open arms. Its not rocket science, its college admissions.