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Don’t Blame Pres, Blame the Colleges

Madeline Whitney, A&E Editor

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“MIT will want to see that you have taken AP Calc (BC preferred), AP Physics, AP Chem and AP Bio.”

“All freshmen at MIT are required to take Calculus, Physics, Biology and Chemistry.”

“Competitive test scores are a 740 and higher in the new SAT I math and 700 and higher in writing and reading. For the SAT II math and science tests, 720 and higher would be competitive. For the ACT, a 33 and higher in the math and science sections is considered competitive.”

These three quotes were all from a recent email I received inviting me to a field hockey recruiting clinic for prospective students at MIT. There are no academic requirements to attend the clinic, but the previous quotes were used to describe the ideal applicant to MIT.

However when looking at the MIT website, it clearly says that, “We recommend (please note that these are not “requirements”)  that your high school years include the following: One year of high school physics, One year of high school chemistry, One year of high school biology and Math, through calculus.”

So which one is the truth? Is AP Physics the expectation, or is regular physics acceptable? If I haven’t taken AP chem, are my chances at MIT over?

College requirements have increasingly become more and more rigorous and often times quite vague. However with contradicting and misleading information, prospective students can easily become overwhelmed with confusion and stress. Should it be up to the colleges to clarify what they mean or should high schools prepare students to match even the craziest of requirements?

Forcing high schools to prepare the students can easily lead to student complaints about  the high schools for unnecessarily increasing their stress and forcing them to take difficult classes.

For some students, like those at Pres, to take all of those AP classes mentioned prior, a student would have to start planning years in advance. First, starting in eighth grade, they would have to test into honors math, be it geometry or algebra II, and Honors Biology. Then they can either hope that they are on the two-year cycle so that they can take AP Chem their sophomore year, or be forced to double up on science in their senior or junior year, so they can take all three of the AP science courses.

In most cases, especially with the recent addition of an extra semester of art as a graduation requirement, these students would have to give up nearly all of their free periods in order to make the space in their schedule. And if they’re not athletes and have to take PE? Pretty much all their free periods disappear.

God forbid that a student would want to be involved in an extra class like newspaper or choir for more than one year, classes that would take the place of that additional AP.

While trying to give students the opportunity to attain these lofty academic goals is difficult, Pres does what it can. In reality, there are not enough students interested in taking these classes, so having AP Chem and AP Physics on a two- year cycle makes sense, but students continue to blame Pres for not allowing them to meet the requirements set by these colleges.

However, maybe instead of blaming Pres and other high schools, the light should be shed on the mind-bogglingly difficult expectations of colleges.

Between subject tests, AP classes, and SAT and ACT testing, students are forced to prove themselves over and over again, but for what reason, and in many cases they have no clue what they are proving themselves to.

In order to clear up some of the confusion, I called MIT, and spoke with their admissions department. I was assured that the AP classes were not requirements, but just “recommendations” as their website claims. However I would like to point out that every single high school senior applying to schools knows that colleges like MIT say that these are “recommendations” to cover their butts when they really are things essentially required to get in.

In addition, she provided a reasonable explanation for the conflicting information sent in the email. She claimed that many of the athletic departments have requirements that are higher because they have better luck getting their athletes into the school with these qualifications.

However if the athletes need to meet these super high academic standards and athletic standards, one can presume that the non-athletic application should probably follow the “recommendations” if they want a chance.

In the end, the colleges will continue to raise the stakes as long as students continue to reach them, even if it means killing themselves to do it. And while students often point the finger at their high school for fostering a high-stress environment, we all know that if Pres didn’t offer all these APs and extracurriculars, they would lose prestige and applications would go down.

So maybe instead of blaming our high schools, we need to start questioning colleges who seem to think that our mental health is not their concern, as long as they fill their freshman classes with the cream of the crop who will end up giving them lots of money as alums.

Next time you find yourself stressing about that additional AP class, don’t inflict your blame on the teacher; instead, take a deep breath and remember that you will go to college somewhere no matter how many of the “recommendations” you meet.

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Don’t Blame Pres, Blame the Colleges