Getting kids into college is the main goal of many high schools. There are plenty of arguments about why higher education isn’t right for every student and myriad ideas about how young adults could productively spend time exploring their passions. But in most cases, high schools have a close eye on application requirements at universities and strive to produce “college ready” graduates, students who are equipped to make informed choices about the next phase of their lives and are prepared academically to succeed in college.

Universities say they’re looking for students who are engaged citizens and independent thinkers with a desire to be a part of the school’s community. But many of the measures used to determine college admission don’t test for those qualities. Instead, colleges look at SAT or ACT test scores, the number of Advanced Placement classes a student has completed, GPAs and the ability to write a strong essay. There is often a disconnect between the kind of student colleges say they want and what students have to do to be admitted. That’s why high school graduates are increasingly becoming, “robo students” in the words of Stanford Lecturer Denise Pope, young people “doing school,” but not necessarily learning.


Given this phenomenon, some universities and colleges are beginning to rethink their admission policies and recognize more directly how their requirements influence the kind of teaching and learning that happens at the K-12 level.

“I think that colleges need to change what they look for,” said Robert Sternberg, who recently resigned as president of the University of Wyoming (UW). “We should be admitting students for their active citizenship and leadership skills, the kinds of skills that are really important for life.” Sternberg spent 30 years as a professor at Yale University, five years as a dean at Tufts University and was the Provost of Oklahoma State University for three years before becoming President of UW. In all of these roles, Sternberg has pushed the institutions to rethink admissions policies.

“The tests we rely on so heavily really don’t measure creative thinking and they don’t measure common sense thinking, wisdom, ethics, work ethic — they don’t measure your character,” Sternberg said. In his view, students go to college to develop into active and engaged citizens. If colleges kept that ultimate goal in mind in their admissions process, it would send a message to high schools about the skills that universities value and want to see in prospetive students.

Sternberg’s research as a psychology professor at Yale centered on measuring intelligence and creativity shows how socialization steers the way kids develop. Kids who grow up in adverse circumstances learn to adapt with practical survival skills, while more affluent kids are often asked to focus on analytical and memory skills. The traditional college application process largely tests analytical skills, giving the kids who developed in an environment that valued those qualities an advantage. That system doesn’t allow colleges to admit the most creative and adaptable student populations, Sternberg said.

successful-intelligence2While at Tufts, he helped the school pilot a new admissions policy based on testing students for their creative and practical skills in addition to their analytical skills. The school found that the new method helped them better predict student success. The application asked questions like, “How would you persuade a friend of an idea that the friend didn’t immediately accept?” Or, “How could one of your personal passions positively affect the world?” Students could choose to express their answers in multiple ways including essays, creative YouTube videos, and through drawings. Admissions officers were trained to look for the thinking behind the answers, not just writing skills.

Tufts had to hire a few more admissions officers and retrain the existing ones, but Sternberg said gradually the student population began to change. “The benefits were much greater than the costs because admissions should be based on the mission of your college or university,” Sternberg said. “It changes the kids who are accepted and it begins to change how you think about what it means to have a talented student,” he said.

Students learn what’s important for them to know from their environment. “The point is that what you ought to be measuring is how well they’ve learned the skills that allow them to adapt to the environment in which they grew up,” Sternberg said. That knowledge will help colleges understand how the student will adapt in a new environment. Tests weighted towards skill sets that weren’t necessary for survival in certain environments, make those students look comparatively much worse.

“We need to send the message to high schools that we’re looking for more,” Sternberg said. “The way to do that is augment what we use to admit kids.”


Science Leadership Academy (SLA), a public magnet high school in Philadelphia is a fairly young school, just eight years old. But in that short time, it’s developed a reputation around the country as a shining example of the merits of inquiry-based learning approach. Colleges sometimes have a difficult time understanding the school’s approach to developing autonomous, critical thinkers. For example, SLA doesn’t offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses, because making students take a summative test at the end of the year is antithetical to the concept of allowing students to guide their own learning based on interest and collaborative work — and just as importantly, the value of the incremental learning process.

“You can never be a revolutionary at the expense of the kids,” said SLA principal Chris Lehmann. He says there are plenty of things that high schools can do that are innovative and different, but schools need to know when that is appropriate and when experimentation might hurt its students. SLA has a good track record of sending students to college, despite some of its non-traditional practices — 97 percent are accepted to colleges.

Lehmann describes SLA as taking the traditionally recognizable school mold and stretching it to its edge. “One of the reasons we chose to do that was because we knew we had to get kids into college,” Lehmann said. “There are so many colleges who really want kids who can problem solve, who can lead, who can think and who have a really innovative mind,” he said. That’s why SLA invites college representatives to visit the school and observe for themselves the kind of learning taking place there.

“We’ve spent a lot of time bringing colleges to SLA and showing them what SLA kids can do,” Lehmann said. “What sells colleges on our kids is our kids,” he said. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Lehmann says a school doing something out of the mold always has to be prepared to argue for its approach, especially when it’s a new district school, not an established private one. Lehmann says he has been pleasantly surprised at how well college representatives respond to the SLA model.

Grades are another area where Science Leadership Academy has compromised between its ideal and what colleges want. Teachers give a lot of narrative and qualitative feedback on student work, but at the end of the class they also give students a letter grade — that’s what colleges want to see. It’s a delicate balance between building school cultures and practices that genuinely reflect the values of its educators and playing within the system. It can be done — but it takes extra effort and awareness.

While change is slow, Lehmann says some schools are beginning to shift how they teach to be more in line with SLA’s inquiry-based approach. Schools like Drexel University and MIT are trying out hands-on programs, and Bard is experimenting with its admissions strategy. “Colleges sometimes are slow to recognize the good work and best practice that is happening around them,” Lehmann said.

“For me the evolution of education has to understand that it requires one part vision and one part history,” Lehmann said. “Let’s not think that we need to remake everything that has ever happened without an eye to the past. That’s when you make mistakes.”


From the perspective of employers, college graduates need to be ready to enter a working world that requires flexible, adaptable, nimble thinkers and doers.

Jump Associates, a strategy and information firm, is an example of a company that requires a more “hybrid” nature of skill sets in the working world. Companies hire Jump to solve complex, ambiguous problems. For example, the company worked with Samsung to try and come up with a tablet that would outshine Apple’s iPad before the iPad had even been released. There was very little information on hand, but a solution had to be reached.

“All of these organizations are facing problems of extreme ambiguity,” said Dev Patnaik, CEO of Jump Associates. ‘The world is changing, what do I do about that.’ In that situation the biggest problem is to define the problem.” To do that, Jump Associates tries to hire what they call “hybrid-thinkers,” people who are “one part technologist, one part humanist and one part capitalist.” “What we’ve learned is you start with people who have deep expertise in multiple disciplines at the same time,” Patnaik said.

But universities don’t often encourage that kind of cross-discipline thinking naturally. “Universities are set up to be incredibly siloed,” said Patnaik who teaches a class at Stanford. “These bigger more nebulous, more meaningful questions live in between and across these silos.” But it’s difficult to change the system because most people came up through that a system that encourages them to continually narrow their focus of study.

Patnaik thinks the U.S. is getting off track by trying to compete with China and India in math and science because of the assumption that those fields lead to jobs. “I worry that the last five years of economic recession has made us all very scared, and when you’re scared, you start thinking, ‘What’s in it for me in the short term,’” he said. He doesn’t think the U.S. will ever be as good at pumping out math and science majors as India or China, but if the it plays to its traditional strengths – creativity, innovation, bridging cognitive gaps – then there’s an opportunity to be the country that shapes the problem. “We’re throwing that all away out of fear and calling it STEM,” he said.

Jump Associates asks its employees to solve seemingly unsolvable problems. “We need people to come up with ideas about what ought to be designed,” Patnaik said. While universities are slowly evolving to meet this challenge, focusing on more interdisciplinary learning for instance, students are often still focused on learning to become “successful,” rather than on learning because it makes them well-rounded and productive humans.


One start-up is tackling the notion of what an elite college education might look like. The Minerva Project received $25 million in seed money to produce what they call “high quality” higher education, entirely online. The university plans to accept its first class in September of 2014 and is working to finalize its hybrid curriculum and online delivery mechanisms.

“Our goal is to create leaders and innovators in a variety of disciplines that operate in a global context,” said Stephen Kosslyn, dean of faculty at Minerva Project. “That’s where we start.” By starting from scratch, the school is free of the traditions and expectations that become stumbling blocks for older institutions grappling with change.

Kosslyn has a lot of experience with tradition-laden institutions — he was on the faculty of Harvard for more than 30 years, teaching psychology, and then as the Dean of Social Sciences. He’s familiar with slow moving initiatives to change the way universities run. “I was ready for something else,” Kosslyn said. “I wanted to do something that would really make a difference.”

The Minerva Project has thrown out all the assumptions about “college readiness” that have long existed. Instead, the founders focused on the skills students should have when they finish — critical analysis, creative thinking and effective communication – and backed into thinking about how to get them to that point. Kosslyn admits that it’s difficult to define what is meant in each of those categories. Critical analysis involves critical thinking and the ability to evaluate tradeoffs and various outcomes. But critical thinking can also be more than one thing. “Breaking it down, we get to the point that we can teach things,” Kosslyn said.

Kosslyn and his team intend to help students prepare for an unknown future by developing skill sets that allow them to adapt. “We’re interested in cultivating habits of mind that become very effortless and automatic and allow you to do these things,” Kosslyn said. It also means they’re looking for very different qualities in students they accept.

“We’re looking for a combination of cognitive abilities and personality characteristics,” Kosslyn said, not SAT scores. Minerva wants students that exhibit grit, an openness to new experiences, and maturity. They’re using a test they’ve created that tries to measure  these qualities that’s agnostic of a student’s class, background, and country of origin, important for a university expecting a global population. But Kosslyn said those test won’t make or break an application. “What you need to do is look at the entire picture, including what they’ve done before,” he said.

Students who attend Minerva will have to be self-directed and good at working collaboratively. Their courses will be delivered online and the university will likely leverage the information on the web to require students to be independently motivated. “What you need is people who are really motivated and have enough ability that they can teach themselves or can function in a group that’s helping them to learn,” Kosslyn said.

The hope is that students will begin to know their own strengths and bring those to collaborations. “The problems we are faced with are complex enough that we will need to solve them in teams,” Kosslyn said. And since collaborative work is a required skill in most jobs, Minerva students will learn it.

In fact, in the first year the students will take four courses: multi-modal communication, complex systems, empirical systems, and computational sciences. The intention is for traditionally separate subjects to be integrated if they involve complimentary skills.


As the Minerva experiment develops, some existing universities are taking steps to award college credit based on skills learned, not the amount of time they’ve been enrolled.

One approach to this problem is to standardize the definition by a college degree. “The learning and expectations should be the constant and if you can do it faster why should that be a problem,” said Jamie Marisotis, CEO of the Lumina Foundation, an organization working to ensure that 60 percent of Americans have post-secondary degrees by 2025. The Lumina Foundation supports experiments like College For America, a project of Southern New Hampshire University and the University of Wisconsin’s Flexible Option. These programs are experimenting with degree programs based on mastering required skills and contents at a pace the student sets.

“Competency should not mean competency in tasks,” Marisotis said. “What we’re really talking about in terms of competency are those broader things like constructing an argument.” He’d like higher education to follow the example set by K-12 education with the Common Core State Standards, a set of broad criteria that students master before graduating.

By eliminating the four-year degree and making sure that every student graduates with a similar set of skills, a college education would become less expensive and more accessible to a broader population. But, it would also undermine the pedagogical approaches of many university departments.

“I’m very sympathetic to the perspective of the faculty because what we’re talking about is very different than what they have done and what they’ve gone into their careers to do,” Marisotis said. He says those who want to see change in higher education need to be patient with faculty who are crucial to making any new system work.

“The main model is to produce high quality learners with high quality outcomes that they can apply in their lives,” Marisotis said. But to do that, he believes universities need to be clearer about what the learning expectations should be and where faculty fit into the vision.


Do Rigid College Admissions Leave Room for Creative Thinkers? 12 January,2014Katrina Schwartz

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  • S. Andrea Fronzaglia

    This is my main beef with implementing Core Curriculum in high schools. If Math and Science scores improve, it looks great on paper…but the rote memorization method of teaching means zero tolerance for critical thinking. It is what sets American innovators apart from the rest of the world. I live in a country where the curriculum is the same nationwide. Students are never asked their opinion on anything. To graduate you need to memorize tons of (very old) texts and translations and regurgitate them in front of a panel of teachers. When I convince a student to study a semester or year in America they come back with dreams for the future. That is something CC often fails to address.

    • Cathmath

      CC in math teaches creative problem solving and persistence. Take a closer look.

      • msndis

        But . . . Common Core doesn’t necessarily teach the most efficient way to solve a problem. It does require students to work in groups and figure things out on their own (if you consider that being “creative”) but if they don’t get the correct answer doing that, they have wasted a lot of time experimenting on their own and, quite possibly, end up using the method they “discovered” on their own even though it doesn’t work in ALL instances. For the students who understand math, this method of teaching is extremely frustrating and you end up with a lot of kids who hate math.

    • SMStauffer

      Common Core is the antithesis of rote memorization. That is why so many oppose it. As for “often fails,” it hasn’t been in place long enough to even use that phrase in regard to it.

      Why should students be asked their opinions? One of the major problems I have as a graduate faculty member is that students today do not know the difference between opinion and fact; they do not know how to research a topic, analyze the information that they discover, and come to informed conclusions about it. They are of the opinion that their opinion is all that matters.

      That is not creativity. It is ignorance.

  • Amina

    Desiring innovative, creative, driven, out-of-the-box thinkers who also excel academically is why schools like Harvard set aside spots each year for homeschooled students. Most never had letter grades, yet somehow, their special talents and brilliance manages to shine through enough to impress admissions committees…just food for thought.

  • Rankledgrammarian

    I find it increasingly difficult to read unedited blog posts on putatively intellectual topics that are rife with spelling and grammatical errors.

    • My god! This is just a sample why we are loosing creativity.the topic of this post is very serious and inovative, still touching in the dark, seeking difficult solutioms for a mot schematized problem, and you are worry about gramatics?! The old police of traditional education at work, denying any tentative of inovation. To the hell loosing time with perfect gramatic if the world is collapsing around us…

      • Txmeerkat

        rankledgrammarian’s post was somewhat condescending, but he/she has a point. You can be the most creative person on the planet with the most innovative ideas ever thought of, but if you are incapable of communicating said ideas, then it is all for nothing. Being an educated person is not simply a store of facts you have memorized from classes you have taken. An education should teach you to explore topics for which you have a passion and to think for yourself. So while it is annoying for someone to “red pen” every entry another person makes on a message board, by the same token it is a shame when someone is attempting to make their opinion known by commenting, but their contribution is a complete wash because they are incapable of utilizing the basics of grammar and/or punctuation, thereby making their potentially innovative ideas incomprehensible.

    • Cathmath

      I agree. “Perspective students”, seriously?

      • Woweewow

        And “adopt” to their environment?

        • YouAreAlsoBadAtThis

          Starting a sentence with “and”?

    • Ohrilly?

      This exemplifies the issue. You are focusing on some rigid abstraction, and because you “know the rules”, you think you are smart. On the other hand, you have not added anything to the conversation, which is legitimate. If you’ve ever been a serious university student, you’ll recognize this immediately. I often find that people who used school as job training have this attitude.

      • FuGGFace

        I think he we being sarcastic.

  • TheMatrixDNA

    some suggestions here;
    1) stimulate naturalist systemic thinking – After humble tries by few people like Margullis and Capra, Bertalanffy tried to do what Bacon did for reductionist method: a general theory of systems collecting everything were known about systems. But although Nature shows that everything belongs to a system, and it is a sub-system of highy systems, it is very difficult for humans to grasp a whole system un Nature, then, the naturalist approach was replaced by cybernetics, computational, all artificial systems. We are at ground zero about natural systems, has a lot of work ahead; We need ressuscitate in high schools the naturalist philosophical thought like ancient greek and Enlightment, because the philosopher is who that search connections among data obtained by reductionist method, traying to see the larger systems;
    2) Technology is product of discovery of new mechanisms, processes and systems in Nature. Humans does not create from nothing, we does invent something.At least we mix existent mechanisms and gets derivations.The reductionist method everyday is discovering new mechanisms, in flowers, insects, and so on. Lots of thechology is coming from here. But, natural mechanisms are like living fractals, If a mechanism exists at a cell system, another evolutionary stage of this mechanism is composing the galaxy, the atom, the human body, the brain.But the modern scholar curricculum has divided Universal Natural History into two blocks, whith no evolutionary links between them. There is no such division. The result is that we does not know where are at bioligical systems the primitive shapes of mechanisms at buiological ancestors, like atoms, galaxies, stllar sytems, buisphere, etc; and we And we don’t know at those ancestors systems the ancestors mechanisms we see at builigal systems. Again, lots of work ahead;
    I have hundreds of new hypothesis, theoriesm designs, about natural phenomena to be searched and tested. My avatar above shows one hypothesis: how the biological life cycle could be existent also acting over astronomic bodies, giving to them the known shapes we can observ. Other is about life’s origins and a question: if life is a system, if life comes from life, if the first living being was a cell system, then, what was the almost-living system hidden at that terresttrial primordial soup? The search for answer siggested a method – comparative anatomy between luvung and non-living systems – and the final result is a design that should be the lunk between cosmological and ebiological evolution. But, why life drove me to think out of the box and to be a trheorist creative? Alternatuvally changing from my home at civiliztion learning human sciences and going to my home at the middle of Amazon jungle, learning how real nature works. We can’t do that, leaving youngs to the jungle, but we need find a way for complementing this scientific culture of lab studyng death things.We need rsearchs searching the development of brains, like searching why and where we loos the sensors that ancestors had, like the bee’s antenna ( today resumed to pituitary gland), the radar of bats, the sense of earth magnetic fields, etc. If String Theory is right, our brain is primitive yet, missing sensor for to grasp those 11 dimensions hidden at natural phenomena. There are methods for doing that, but like the study of natural systems are stopped, the search for those mechanisms and variables coming from ancestors thermodynamic systems and present at biological systems, and vice-versa… everything is waiting for us, for a stimulated young creative mind. .

  • Felix Klein

    I agree that the college admission process in US is being gamed by high-schools and parents who have a sense of a check-list of features most valued by admission officers. I was surprised to discover that a kid pursuing his/her passion is not something colleges do appreaciate. Breadth often beats depth in admission and that is a pitty. Also, some commenter was arguing against Common Core which admittedly is not a perfect product. I would argue that there has to exist a minimal core of knowledge a college freshman is supposed to posses. As a college math professor I struggle daily with kids that do not have this minimal core. The major handicap is the lack of basic, routine skills. This is the part of high-school education that is not so much fun but essential. When basic training is asked of athletes, to keep and hone basic athletic skills, nobody seems to mind or argue that it is boring. However, the society has a different attitude towards academic skills. Asking a kid without basic math skills to enjoy or even consider STEM is very much similar like asking some person to enjoy Shakespere but not understand the words.

    • sjl4evr

      If the students don’t know this “minimal core” why were they graduated from high school in the first place? That is where the problem lies. I used to wonder how it was that someone could receive a high school diploma and yet not know how to read or write. Then I became involved with my stepson’s education, and suddenly it all became clear. He is a smart kid but he refused to do the work assigned, in class or at home, and yet he passed his classes every single year. We asked them to hold him back (so that he would understand there were consequences to not doing the work) and were met with excuses about why they “could not” do so.

      The article above is concerned with those kids that are capable of higher education and WANT TO continue their schooling. The bigger problems lie in the practices of schools such as the one my stepson attended. And they are many.

    • msndis

      Unfortunately, Common Core just cements more of the same when it comes to K-12 math educaiton. Students will continue to reach college without the basic math skills that are necessary because they aren’t required with Common Core.

      It is sad to see a student drawn into a STEM field by all the media reports about the need for STEM graduates fall flat on her face when she reaches college and realizes she wasn’t prepared for the schoolwork required for the degree she thought she wanted. That’s the story of my oldest daughter.

      It’s nice to see a student excited about the math she gets to work on in college because she loves math. That’s the story of my youngest daughter.

      The difference? The oldest was taught to the state math standards that didn’t require the memorization of math facts. The youngest had a teacher, who was new to the state, for 2nd and 3rd grades. The teacher required her students to memorize their math facts at their own pace. My youngest daughter was moved ahead in math beginning in 4th grade and had two years of calculus in high school.

      • dc

        If you enter a field you don’t like, that’s your problem, not the media’s. More STEM grads would be great, but obviously it’s not for everyone.

  • Marilyn A.

    Higher education should be a place where the individual willingly accepts coming under a discipline of learning to gain skills and exposure to many ideas that enhance them and generate a desire and will to continue to learn for a lifetime. They should not be merely centers of self-actualization. I agree, the tests often do more to restrict student who might benefit from education and contribute to the generation of knowledge than any other process. Add to that the gatekeeping found in some institutions and on some faculties and the result is staid replication not education.

  • SMStauffer

    The purpose of the admissions’ essay should be for students to express their individuality and independent thinking skills to the committee, whether they are creative, analytical, engaged, conventional, avant garde, whatever they are.

    But with the cuts in funding for higher education, more and more of these decisions are being made solely on the basis of more objective measures simply because there is no one with the time to read and evaluate hundreds of essays.

    • dc

      If you are applying to Mediocre College in Nowhere, Oklahoma, then yeah, essays hardly matter, they’re just looking to admit the most able applicants in terms of getting the work done with high grades (i.e. high intelligence, high SAT scores etc.). If you’re applying to Stanford, Princeton, Yale, Northeastern, UC Berkeley tier schools, the essays matter a lot, as most people applying have the same general range of grades and scores and such.

  • Ph.D. Engineering Student

    Here is an excerpt from an email I recently sent one of my professors:

    I really do wish the education system had shown me what was possible from a young age. I used to love to play with Lego since before I could remember, but no one ever took that as anything other than a child playing with toys. No one could see that I wanted, and needed, so badly to have an outlet for my ideas and creativity. Even when they could, it was ultimately left to my teachers at school to provide those things. When I discovered engineering, much later, I found that It was just the right mix of things for me in a lot of ways. And, even though mathematics was never a strong point for me during my pre-college years, my science background was very strong, and I had an insatiable curiosity and drive. If I had to learn math to do it, then so be it!

    When I learned what was possible with calculus, long after sitting in my last high school class, of course, I was awestruck. “How come no one told me I could do this?” Was what I thought to myself. If integrating along a curve was a topic in my fifth grade math class, I honestly would have paid more attention, I think. And I think that there is nothing fundamentally more difficult about the mechanics of calculus when compared to something like fractions. For a child, the difference in abstraction is almost arbitrary, so why wait to show them the true power of the tools we have at our disposal? My twenty dollar TI-36X will compute nearly any figure I could need, much faster and more accurately than I could by hand. It is a solar powered device as well, giving it more accessibility. The idea that the calculator may be wrong, and therefore my human brain should be able to serve as it’s constant check, always seemed like the height of redundance to me. I could carry around 3 or 4 different types of calculator and check them against each other much faster than I could check by hand. Introducing my mushy human brain to do these very rigid calculations seemed a waste, the examples often including not being given the right change by cashiers or some other such banal bore that I could not manage to muster the enthusiasm for. The tedium of having to slog through hours of mathematical drills is conducive to making good human calculators. However, aren’t we supposed to be using the tools we have developed? We don’t force every person to learn to build/design a bicycle before they get on and ride, why must our students be forced to tediously calculate figures when their creative minds yearn to really be challenged by something, not wasted calculating pi to the next thousand digits. Sure, some people need to know how it works, but that is what pure mathematicians do. One of the signifiers of the coming of the modern age include the division of labor, so it only makes sense to allow people to focus on the topics where they excel and enjoy. “

    • msndis

      The reason you need to have some idea of what the answer might be when using a calculator is so you’ll recognize immediately if you accidentally entered the information into the calculator incorrectly. My dad, an electrician, taught me this.

    • Felix Klein

      The great impact of calculus is that it reduced impossible looking computations to basic algebra. In particular, you need to know how to add fractions to even begin to appreciate calculus. Drills are needed to get a feel for the subject, because practice make best. (To truly know how to read and write you need to read and write quite bit.)And yes computers can do things for us. I don’t explain to my students how to use various software. They can figure out really fast. The most challenging times for them are when I ask them to solve a real life problem and they scratch their heads trying to figure out what to ask the computer to compute. This requires understanding how math actually works, and yes, it requires acquiring those boring computational skills because they introduce you to the ins-andp-outs of a subject. V.I.Arnold, one of the most famous mathematicians of the 20th century, with revolutionary contributions to celestial mechanics and statistical physics said there is no pure or applied math: there is math and applications of math.

  • Mike Sloothaak

    “I think that colleges need to change what they look for,” said Robert Sternberg, who recently resigned as president of the University of Wyoming (UW). “We should be admitting students for their active citizenship and leadership skills, the kinds of skills that are really important for life.”
    I cringe at the thought of this, because frankly, our culture is not up to that task. “Active citizenship and leadership skills” is so nebulous it invites the kind of “who you know” corruption that is the sworn enemy of diversity. Universities need to keep a focus on standardized tests because their admissions departments cannot be relied upon to make these difficult judgments. We’ll end up back in the days before the GI-bill where universities were run by, for, and to serve the cultural elite: a 1% perpetuation program.
    It’s our lousy two-tiered, urban/suburban, property-tax-based primary and secondary education system. Universities are being asked to find way to compensate for the severe injustices that two-tiered system perpetuates, but the problem needs to be addressed at the source.

  • Jacob

    I think if colleges want eccentric and creative thinkers they should actively recruit them, they can devote thousands of dollars to recruit athletes why not search for OTHER talents. I’d be willing to bet it wouldn’t take long for representative to walk into a high school and ask around and the teacher’s will point them to the students they know to be leaders and are more than just high scores on a test. Or another interesting requirement is to have them submit a video pitch. I’m sure watching those videos could easily distinguish between seemingly similar “robo students”. Eliminate the essays.

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  • elle

    At the very least, the author should spell her source’s name correctly. It’s Merisotis, not Marisotis.

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  • Linda

    I would definitely recommend Danielle of GoBeyond Advising. She helped my son stay on the right track and is excellent at editing college essays. She was a graduate of Berkeley and Stanford herself and knows about the tough admissions committees. Her website is http://www.gobeyondadvising.com. She is flexible and can work with students outside of the state through Skype as well.

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Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She’s worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She’s a staff writer for KQED’s education blog MindShift.

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