Once again, our seniors show excellence and character
“College is a singular opportunity to rummage through and luxuriate in ideas, to give your brain a vigorous workout and your soul a thorough investigation, to realize how very large the world is and to contemplate your desired place in it.
This past Monday, the members of the Class of 2021 shared exciting news at the Annual College Announcement Day. Sporting T-shirts from the college of their choice, they paraded through campus cheered on by their schoolmates, faculty and staff. They then entered the gym for a sit-down lunch. Each senior announced where they will matriculate next year and a fun fact about their new school. Family members attended via livestream. This program commences the month-long process for twelfth graders of ending their time in high school and beginning their transition to college. It’s a bittersweet time as we wish the students the very best while knowing that we will miss them next year.
It would be an understatement to say that the college search process can be stressful. Beginning in the junior year, students and families research schools in earnest while balancing a variety of factors, including specific programs, parts of the country, institutional size, and cost.
Having taught seniors since 1989, I thought I understood how anxiety-ridden the college application process can be. However, when our sons, my wife, and I went through it years ago, I gained a much deeper comprehension than previously. The push and pull between children and parents, the maelstrom of emotions, and the number of factors entering the application and decision process can make it unbearable at times. Fortunately for Keystone families, Directors of College Counseling Sara Christiansen does a magnificent job of guiding students to find the right school.
As confounding as the process can be in a normal year, the pandemic of the past year rendered the college search all the more challenging. I asked Ms. Christiansen what in particular made this past year all the more difficult, and she cited several factors. They include:
- The most selective schools saw an incredible surge of applications (42% increase at Harvard, 66% increase at MIT, and 102% increase at Colgate). The Ivy League and some Ivy-like schools were so overwhelmed by applications that they pushed back the notification and decision dates.
- Nearly all colleges moved to test-optional and colleges saw a range between 40-60% of applicants who did not submit test scores.
- The pandemic hit at the exact time juniors start visiting colleges and many colleges still remain closed to visitors. This means many students in the Class of 2021 have not set foot on any of the colleges on their list nor were they able to visit to make a final decision.
- Extracurriculars were cancelled for many students, including the international science fair, ISEF, which often creates a high school highlight for Keystone students. Students from across the country and world were applying without the traditional extracurricular opportunities to show engagement and leadership and without opportunities to test or retest as they would in a normal year.
In the face of these complexities, the Keystone Class of 2021 performed beautifully. They will attend a variety of schools reflecting the diversity of their class. Their chosen colleges/universities span the country from the West to the East Coast and North to South; some will attend smaller liberal arts schools while others are headed to large state research institutions. Some Cobras will study the arts while others plan to major in STEM-related fields. As with year’s past, these excellent seniors have received attractive merit-based scholarships that will reduce their families’ out-of-pocket costs. They all deserve our warmest congratulations.
In addition to their being accepted to outstanding colleges and universities, we can take pride in the way they progressed through the college application process with integrity and honor. The new Netflix movie “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal,” which details the fraudulent behavior of a college admissions counselor, his clients, and many universities, brought home yet again the lengths to which people will go to get their children into schools for which they are unqualified. The movie, including gut-wrenching dialogue directly from FBI wiretaps, disgusted and appalled everyone I knew who watched it. Yes, we want the very best for our children, but at what cost?
As I said to the seniors at College Announcement Day, we’re proud of what they accomplished and where they are headed for college. We are also proud of who they are and the ethical behavior they and their families demonstrate. We can feel sanguine that the members of the Class of 2021 will take a commitment to academic excellence, ethical growth, community involvement, and responsible leadership to college and beyond. We are proud of our young adults, and these colleges and universities are fortunate indeed to have them.