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A Plan to Kill High School Transcripts … and Transform College Admissions

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Replies to: A Plan to Kill High School Transcripts … and Transform College Admissions

  • 1966Parent1966Parent Registered User Posts: 90 Junior Member
    This is a useful discussion. Very interested in understanding the value of schools in providing more than a credential - but evidence of knowledge. Thanks for all the different views.
  • YnotgoYnotgo Registered User Posts: 3,265 Senior Member
    I think this plan shows a lot of naiveté about the wide range of differences in high schools and in high school students.

    Many public school teachers can't be bothered to get to know their students well enough to rate them on characteristics like these. Our elementary teachers graded from 1 to 4 on similar competency-based skills. But, they only had 24-28 students. Most public HS teachers have ~35*5 or more students. Our HS English teachers for the most part don't have time to read the essays they assign.

    And, not all students take all classes at their HS. A lot of our local students take a number of classes at the local community college. My son took courses from 4 colleges during HS. So, submitting transcripts to colleges where he applied was a pain (and expen$ive). But, there's no way he was going to get a descriptive response about the skills he gained in a 600-student Linear Algebra class at our local UC.
  • exlibris97exlibris97 Registered User Posts: 689 Member
    @londondad While I admittedly have only worked in college admissions at two universities, I have not gotten any sense that universities are moving more towards "objective" indicators if only because their objectivity is highly questionable. Indeed, the movement to drop or discount standardized tests is matched by internal policies that now refer to scores by 'bands', which is an implicit acknowledgement that there isn't much confidence in scoring. For the past few years I've similarly worked on UK admissions and have seen the problem even more amplified for British candidates where we have been stunned by the number of students presenting a string of As on their A-levels (last year of the 560 British candidates we reviewed, something like 85% had 3 As). As a result, we now scrutinize school reports far more intensively in the past, while British universities are gradually introducing their own entrance 'tests'.

    In response to @Ynotgo observation, in my 15 years in college admissions, I saw a narrowing of the number of schools successfully presenting candidates. It's not as bad as in the 50s and 60s when we had 'feeder' schools, but now something like a 15-20 schools will account for 50-60% of all admitted students. While admittedly this situation is especially true of the Ivy League universities and LACs, the reality is that it is getting more difficult for students who come from schools where their counsellors do not advocate on their behalf or where the school's reputation is not well known.

  • londondadlondondad Registered User Posts: 1,984 Senior Member
    @exlibris97 Good points. Just to point out that the UK has already changed their exam grading. Last year, my son had a number of friends (around 5) who had 4 A-stars on their A levels and did not get into any top 10 US Unis (they are all happy at Cambridge though). This year, my daughter who is arguably as good a student as my son's friends might only get 2 A-stars (plus 2 A's) on her A2 exams, due to much harder marking schemes. Similarly at GCSE level where all of DD's friends got between 9 and 11 A-stars, next year the grading is 1 - 9 where a 9 is the old A-Star. The tests are expected to be both more difficult exams plus will be graded more harshly. The Dept of Education has publicly stated that only 1 or 2 kids in the entire country are expected to receive all 9's. It will be interesting to see whether US Unis will pick up on these changes as the GCSEs and A Levels should do a better job of highlighting who the truly gifted UK students are.
  • londondadlondondad Registered User Posts: 1,984 Senior Member
    @exlibris97 Also, given that many of the British kids do have similar grades and other similar details (white, upper middle class kids from London private schools) how was your Uni able to differentiate among them?
  • exlibris97exlibris97 Registered User Posts: 689 Member
    edited June 18
    @londondad I know that the admissions officers I work with have mentioned the changes in how British exams are being marked. What is also happening is that some schools are now getting much better at providing individual student reports, in many cases providing individual "course" reports that estimate how the student stacks up against their peers (first, top 5% etc). These reports now more closely resemble the "transcripts" issued by American high schools.

    As we've discussed before, especially with respect to the UK, the days of "feeder" schools are past. Strenuous efforts are being made to recruit students from across the country and that was very apparent this year. At the same time, I do know that most top American universities do recognize that many American children are being educated in the UK. My experience is that the vast majority of highly qualified American students do land places.

    One observation: I suspect "top 10 Unis" is a reference to Ivy League colleges and their peers. For UK parents wanting to educate their children in the US, especially those with kids in private schools that send scores of students to Oxbridge, they'd be well advised to think in much broader terms. Most admissions committees won't feel terribly sorry for a candidate who has to "settle" on Cambridge having been turned down by the Ivy League.
  • londondadlondondad Registered User Posts: 1,984 Senior Member
    ^ Thanks. I agree with your points in the third paragraph. There are still too many London parents who have an "Ivy or nothing" attitude and refuse to pay for any non-Ivy US Uni. Fortunately, the top secondary schools here are well aware of this and are helping to educate these parents on the qualities of LACs and other top schools. I did notice this year that a few of DD's friends at other London schools were going to Williams, Middlebury, Pomona, etc.
  • cobratcobrat Registered User Posts: 11,941 Senior Member
    Most admissions committees won't feel terribly sorry for a candidate who has to "settle" on Cambridge having been turned down by the Ivy League.

    Some friends who are Ivy alums and/or taught at Oxbridge at some point in their academic careers would wonder why someone with the exception of some STEM majors would feel Oxbridge is an inferior choice.

    The ones who taught at Oxbridge have all stated the tutorial/supervision educational process is much closer to that of a respectable/elite US LAC than an undergraduate experience at most elite Us with a few exceptions(Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, UChicago, etc).
  • NEMomof4NEMomof4 Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    My DD is a scholarship student entering her freshman year at one of the elite schools on this list. My concern for her, when it comes to college application time, is how will her non-grade transcript be evaluated for merit / financial aid? Will she be taking SAT / ACT also? I'm not sure, because we haven't had a parent's meeting about this, but I plan to bring these questions up at orientation.
  • sfSTEMsfSTEM Registered User Posts: 24 New Member
    My guess: the kids who get good grades now would be the ones who shine the most with the proposed approach. They'll figure out the ways they're evaluated and adapt accordingly.
  • glidoglido Registered User Posts: 5,599 Senior Member
    Hmm . . . could this be part of the anti-Asian bias thing? I am sure it is not. I don't know why that even popped into my head.
  • arabrabarabrab Registered User Posts: 5,946 Senior Member
    I saw a student this past year who attended a school with grading much like that described in the article -- the Cal Poly/Cal State system would not work with his "competencies' and it didn't fit the UC system either.
  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 513 Member
    "OK, so we get rid of standards altogether and have the private schools evaluate the public schools students."

    Lol, that will go over well with the teachers' union. I applaud the effort to look at the college admissions process as it is broken and too stressful, but this is a non-starter for the reasons many have already cited.
  • exlibris97exlibris97 Registered User Posts: 689 Member
    edited June 27
    @londondad You asked how universities I worked at distinguished between thousands of incredible candidates. The truth is that in most cases it was utterly subjective, if not random. Some cases were "easy": candidates who won major, exceptionally competitive scholarships like Intel and Gates Millennium. Or composed a symphony that was performed by a major orchestra (this happened once). But in most cases the 'admitted' and the 'rejected' candidates were hardly discernible. I also found that what often happened is that Adcom's looked for reasons NOT to admit a particular candidate.

    And never forget the importance of the first reader. Their comments and ratings are critical. It's luck of the draw if a candidate's situation and essays resonate with the person(s) who read their file.
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