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Published: Tuesday, 9/19/2006

Admission concerns have grown so quickly

My husband and I live with our high school junior.

Well, no. That's not quite right. Try again.

In our house, a high school junior eats and sleeps.

But that's about all, because our 11th grader (like too many other juniors) is actually living in the future - she has to, whether she likes it or not.

College.

I remember when she entered high school, and how taken aback I was by the realization that she'd only be around for another four years.

But that was too generous an estimate. So much of the high school experience - too much - actually takes place in the future.

We all know that old chestnut about the parents of toddlers who worry their kids won't get into the "right" preschool. Mercifully, there's little of that around here, although you can easily find parents locally shelling out for those SAT prep courses and hiring pricey private college counselors.

The admissions game is a virtual industry unto itself now, and it starts earlier than ever. By necessity, too many college-minded high schoolers can no longer live in the moment. It's all about leaving and so, in a way, even as you feed them dinner each night, mentally they're already gone.

And that's true even if they're going to college on the other side of town.

At the risk of sounding geezer-esque, let me just say it's a far cry from the way it worked back in the day - my day, anyway.

Here, this is what a random application might have looked like for the College of Your Choice, class of 1978:

Grades: Decent, all things considered. B average-ish, heavy on the "ish."

Extracurriculars: Glee club. Miniature golf team.

Faculty recommendation: "Jane is a competent student who has been tardy only twice this year and, to my knowledge, has no felonies. I'd give her a shot at your college."

Predicted field of study: English, or maybe psychology. Something like that, unless my parents force me to study business administration.

Student essay: "Hi!! I would like to go to your college because it's got a really pretty campus (at least, that's the way the catalog makes it look). Plus, my best friend is applying there."

These days? Oh, baby, it's totally different. Take a look:

Grades: 4.997501 (see attached notarized transcript)

Extracurriculars: Secretary, Future Neurobiologists Club. President, Published Teen Novelists of America. Varsity starter for: tennis, golf, volleyball, track, soccer, and swim teams. Editor, school newspaper and yearbook. Vice-president, student council. Chairman, student homeless shelter volunteers of the Midwest. Co-chair - oops, out of space. See attached.

Faculty recommendation: "Jane is a highly motivated scholar with a keen analytical mind, as evidenced by her recent acceptance into NASA's Teen Astronaut program."

Predicted field of study: Dual degree, neurobiology and 16th century French theatre.

Student essay: See publications in scholarly journals as noted in attachment. Also, published novel (New York Times best-seller list 2005.)



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