Monday, April 30, 2007

The kids who didn't get into Harvard

~from The New York Times by Michael Winerip. He used to get upset when a student he interviewed didn't make it into Harvard.
+ + +

What kind of kid doesn’t get into Harvard? Well, there was the charming boy I interviewed with 1560 SATs. He did cancer research in the summer; played two instruments in three orchestras; and composed his own music. He redid the computer system for his student paper, loved to cook and was writing his own cookbook. One of his specialties was snapper poached in tea and served with noodle cake.

At his age, when I got hungry, I made myself peanut butter and jam on white bread and got into Harvard.

Some take 10 AP courses and get top scores of 5 on all of them.

I took one AP course and scored 3.

Of course, evolution is not the same as progress. These kids have an AP history textbook that has been specially created to match the content of the AP test, as well as review books and tutors for those tests. We had no AP textbook; many of our readings came from primary documents, and there was no Princeton Review then. I was never tutored in anything and walked into the SATs without having seen a sample SAT question.

As for my bean sprouts project, as bad it was, I did it alone. I interview kids who describe how their schools provide a statistician to analyze their science project data.

I see these kids — and watch my own applying to college — and as evolved as they are, I wouldn’t change places with them for anything. They’re under such pressure.

I used to say goodbye at my door, but since my own kids reached this age, I walk them out to their cars, where a parent waits. I always say the same thing to the mom or dad: “You’ve done a wonderful job — you should be very proud.” And I mean it.

But I’ve stopped feeling bad about the looming rejection....

...My four have been raised in an upper-middle-class world. They look around and see lots of avenues to success. My wife’s two brothers struggled as students at mainstream colleges and both have made wonderful full lives, one as a salesman, the other as a builder. Each found his own best path. Each knows excellence.


Edmund C. said...

Thanks for posting that, as one of those kids not much more than a decade back that thought he should have gotten into Harvard, but didn't. It was a huge disappointment back then, but I've come to realize, as the author of the story did, that getting into Harvard isn't everything--and it's nearly random these days.

Argent said...

I wonder what we're doing creating a whole generation of hyper-achievers?

Quantitative Metathesis said...

And then, there are those of us who got into the top schools but declined them because we had better places to be.... ;)