This is my first year teaching advanced level juniors (IB History SL), and the one thing I have learned is that they are obsessed with getting into the right college. Many of them have aspirations of going to Ivy League or other highly competitive academic schools, and because of this getting the right grade has become their obsession. Many of them have so much anxiety, that I am worried they are close to mental and physical breakdowns. Much of this can be a attributed to the overall lack of sleep many of these students get from staying up till 3 in the morning studying and completing assignments. As I have seen this happen time and time again, I have begun to question whether these students were actually learning anything, is this good for the student, and in today's world does what college you attend really matter that much.
Are these students actually learning? I think the answer is yes and no. I think two factors come into play here. The first is the nature of the student. There are many students within these classes that are concerned with their grade and their grade alone. They will find the easiest way out to get the grade they want because all they are concerned with is the number that appears on their college transcript. If this is the case, they are not learning. With colleges doing much of their admission work based on grades, our school systems have become so grade centric that students don's concentrate on quality work. What if college's just gave an admissions exam? Get rid of all of the state tests juniors and seniors have to take, and tell them that these years should be focused on your college admissions tests. Yes, It makes these test high stakes, but think about the benefit. First, high school students would worry more about what they have actually learned then the grades they got. They would have to do high quality learning assignments so they could learn the material in order to be successful on the entrance exam. Second, it lets colleges test for what they think is important. If its an engineering school, they could concentrate more on science and math, while other schools could concentrate on things like history and the arts. Third, this would even the playing field. All high schools are not the same, and this would make students in lower performing schools who are the top of their class compete with students from the highest performing schools who are middle of the pack in their class
High School should be a time that is cherished. Many students are losing this because of the decision they have to make on college. I teach several students who are so obsessed with their GPA and grades that all they do is study and work till 3 in the morning. Many of them have given up things like sports and extracurricular activities because they are struggling to keep up. How is this good for the student? As I look back on my own high school days, what I remember most is the things outside the academic day. On top of that, many of the things taught in high school will have no bearing on a students future life or career. Really high school is a place for basic knowledge and an exploration of interest. Why are we making it a the be all end all for a person's career?
Does what college you choose really matter anymore anyway? I think the answer to that in most professions has to be no. Does an MBA from Harvard open some doors in the business world? Sure, but as the world moves more and more into the technology age, what you can do with that technology is what matters. Employers look for experience and skill first, then they look to where you went to school second. I know in my chosen profession of education, I have not had an employer ever ask me why they should hire someone who attended Morehead State. Many times jobs go to people with established relationships, which means we should focus more on interpersonal skills. The focus on what school you go to even begins to decrease exponentially after your initial job because the focus is on your experience not the brand name of the university.
In closing, we have to find a way to lessen the anxiety of students looking to make the college choice. It takes away from learning and their overall life experience. All this happens for something that may not even matter that much.