How far is too far?


After having a class discussion on tracking within schools it made me think of my own school, which was a tracked school. Immediately this tracking system and its effects bring to mind one particular classmate of mine. This student, who will remain nameless, went to such extreme measures in order to remain in his advanced tracked courses and to gain an advantage over other students at our high school as far as college admissions went. I think that the things that this student and his parents did really illustrate a problem we have with the college admissions process.

First of all, this student’s parents held him back in the 6th grade so that he could test better on his EOGs and thus be tracked into the higher leveled classes. This was only the beginning of the ridiculousness. This was paired with constant, well known by all students, cheating on almost every test he took. When we started high school the extents to which his parents and he went to maintain a high GPA became extreme. At our high school, everyone was required to take PE, like I’m sure is required of most high school students, and this was a non-honors class, therefore it only counted as a 3.0 if you got an A in it. This meant that no one at our school could have a 4.0 GPA until junior or senior year when AP and IB classes (5.0 weighted) were allowed to be taken. But, the student I am discussing’s parents wrote a letter to the school board and got him exempted from PE so that it wouldn’t affect his GPA. How crazy is this? Every other student at our school had to take PE so why should he have the ability to exempt out of it and maintain a perfect GPA while cheating along the way?

Also a rule at our school was that freshman and sophomores were not supposed to take AP classes because our school didn’t want students to get too overwhelmed by the workload. However, this student began taking AP classes freshman year after his parents called and complained about how “bored” he was in “just honors” classes. Thus, putting him at another unfair advantage. When the end of sophomore year rolled around and students at our school had to begin thinking about whether or not they wanted to enroll in the International Baccalaureate program, of course this student decided to complete the program because it would give him the greatest GPA boost. One thing that our counselors and teachers told us about doing this program was that we should take one elective class that was not higher level so that we wouldn’t overload ourselves too much, but did this student listen? You guessed it, no! He took an AP course as well as an online AP course outside of school. This wouldn’t be as upsetting to me if I had thought that this student really enjoyed this or really wanted to learn more. However, this student would openly discuss how the only reason he was taking these courses was because he needed to have the highest GPA in our school and how much he prided himself on this. He also discussed how he was willing to do anything at all in order to maintain being number 1 in our class.

When it scholarship nominations and counselor recommendation forms for college came around, this student’s parents began buying extremely expensive gifts for the counselors. Now, I think that this is too far, this is really unfair, how is this alright? I couldn’t tell you. So of course, this student got recommended for basically any scholarship he wanted and he also most likely got outstanding counselor recommendations from counselors who only knew the money his parent’s spent on their gifts not the student that this person was.

I think that the extents to which this student and his parents would go to in order to have an advantage over other students in the college admissions process shows a flaw within this process. I do not think that a sheet of paper or a resume is enough to tell an admissions officer what kind of student someone is or whether or not a student will be able to thrive at a university. In the case of this particular student, once getting admitted into college, he was burned out, last I heard he was failing the majority of his classes and was miserable at the school he enrolled at. The current pressures and cut-throat nature of the admissions process is unhealthy and doesn’t end up benefitting anyone in the long run, as evidence by this student. So I wanted to open it up to blog readers, what do you guys think about the particular student’s story, who’s fault was it? The admissions process? The parents? And, how can we reform the college admissions process to be a better assessment of potential student success?

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One Response to How far is too far?

  1. Annie R says:

    Thank you for sharing! Unfortunately, your post reminded me of many similar students at my high school. By my junior year, cheating was commonplace among a large portion of AP tracked students. I distinctly remember my peers justifying their actions by arguing that because they were in AP classes they had proved that they were smart enough to be in the top-tiered track, but the classes required so much unnecessary and difficult busywork that their cheating was justifiable because it would maintain the GPA they needed to get into the university they knew they deserved to get into. Even though that logic sounds flawed, it speaks to the narrative of tracking. The students who were considered high-achieving from a young age were constantly told they were the best of the best and would go on to attend great schools like UNC. By the time they were juniors in high school, they could not fathom achieving anything less than a B in their AP classes. A grade of C or lower would mean they did not actually deserve to be in the track they have been in since 2nd grade. In the instance of your peer, I do not think the college admissions process should be considered at fault. While I do think more holistic applications would benefit both students and universities, high schools can quite easily portray a student as being the perfect candidate for the college, in part by tolerating cheating and granting allowances to the top-tracked schools. In the long run, tracking is detrimental to all students, even those who are tracked for success.


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