Here are some articles that are worth spending a little time with. If one of these requires a sign-on of some sort, you should get it (for instance, you should have a signon at nytimes.com, which is free but extremely valuable...although you do have to pay if you want to read more than 10 articles a month).
- Become less idealistic about the "purity" of the college admissions process by reading this set of three articles by Alia Wang in The Atlantic Monthly, in late March 2016. The point of losing your innocence about this is not to get cynical about college; the point is to alert you to misinformation and fog so you can focus on what is really important, which is becoming an educated person who will make a contribution to the world. Her first article makes reference to some fascinating (and depressing) history of selective admissions, best explicated in Jerome Karabel's long but superior 2005 book, The Chosen. Her second article is titled "Where College Admissions Went Wrong". Her third article focuses on rankings, as in the hated/well-known U.S. News & World Report sense -- ignore the asinine reader poll in that article (which has zero validity or relevance or scientific merit), but the article is otherwise excellent.
** This is a very good article by the College Board about applying Early (EA, ED): http://professionals.collegeboard.com/guidance/applications/early. Please note the purpose of "Early": to show your "clear preference for one institution". I'll tell you what I think, in case you care: it is inappropriate to apply "Early" to more than one school. "Early" makes the most sense as a concept if it means Priority to you, not to the college. By definition, only one college can be your Priority. I know that students are aware that nobody checks how many EA applications a student has, so they rationalize, "Everybody's doing it, and acceptance rates are higher for Earlys, so I am justified in applying ED to one school and EA to another one or two." In fact, many schools even acknowledge, "You can apply EA to other institutions" (or "to public institutions") -- I assume they do this because they know they are not empowered to cross-reference. Sadly, all of this muddies the waters; the whole system has become quite distorted. I can't make you do one thing or another, but I implore you: if you apply early, either ED or EA, apply to only one school that you prioritize above the others. If you can't decide, that's okay -- don't apply early. **
- Professors and other experts write short essays about what to do when you get to college (The New York Times, 6 Sep 2009). They're all good; definitely don't miss the Graff piece.
- Louis Menand writes, "Live and Learn: Why We Have College," a very insightful commentary about what college means in America today. The New Yorker, 6 Jun 2011: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2011/06/06/110606crat_atlarge_menand.
- If someone tells you that you should major in business or education instead of liberal arts (history, chemistry, English, philosophy, etc.: all the not-specifically-prep-for-ONE-job majors), he or she is mistaken. That does not mean that you shouldn't major in something more specifically career-focused if that's what you really want...just don't think that it will make you more attractive to prospective employers. Employers really want people who can think critically and innovatively, and the liberal arts are generally considered better in those regards. Don't let yourself be scared away from a major that really interests you! The Wall Street Journal has an encouraging article about college majors that uses a very broad-based survey of employers to support that perspective. These employers seem to agree with Menand (see previous bullet).
- A note about academic honesty, the first item on the USA Today article: take it very seriously. By the way, Radnor has an Academic Honor Code, and there is no valid reason for you not to adhere to every aspect of it in everything you do. One example: if you hire a college admissions consultant, and he or she offers to write your essay (or part of it) for you, or do any other thing that you know in your gut is wrong, run in the other direction. Even if you say "No" to such an offer, he or she has made that offer to other kids who didn't say no, and the truth will come out at some point. If that's so, and you're affiliated with someone who has demonstrated a lack of integrity, you will be smeared by association. It is essential for you not to cheat, but it is also highly responsible for you not to associate yourself willingly with people who are unethical.
- If you have an interview -- which I recommend strongly -- you might want to prep for it by reading some of the best-known things that have been written about college for commencement speeches. Yes, these are usually heard by graduates after college, but that doesn't mean they should be. My point: if you have read more, and have read more interesting things, you will have made yourself a more interesting, more appealing person, with more ability to contribute to any conversation...including an interview. Some famous favorites, although I don't agree with everything they say, are:
- Make summer count. That doesn't necessarily mean "go to foreign nation X to build houses", although it may. I really like Inquirer columnist (and Viewpoints 2008 guest speaker) Michael Smerconish's commentary about the value of a summer job. Key excerpt from a segment that cites his conversations with admissions experts from Lehigh and UPenn:
“I honestly don’t think it matters much whether or not the student saved the world or literally rolled up his or her sleeves to perform a menial summer job,” Bunnick [of Lehigh] told me....Working the grill, waiting tables, scooping ice cream, and folding T-shirts “all require the employee to show up on time, be a team member, have a good work ethic, be service-oriented, learn how to take critical (and positive) feedback from a manager, manage a paycheck and what goes into it — what it means to work for a wage,” Mott [of UPenn] said. “All of these intangible skills will serve a student well in college.”
- And when you do get to college, and you're looking around at your peers, and you see what Paul Trout saw in 1997 -- or worse -- know that you can be curious and intellectual, even if some of those around you have a sickening disdain for thinking and scholarship. (His analysis is very dark, and I don't believe it applies to every situation, but I'm equally confident that he describes a real problem that is not any better today than it was in 1997.) Peer pressure affects us at all ages, often to do foolish things...like bad-mouth hard work and brag about not reading.
- Some students seem to think that the last semester of high school, or even the last year, is their free time, which they've somehow earned for having been in school for more than a decade of non-summers. This is the same kind of attitude that leads college students to care only about getting out, and to believe that thinking is only for those few hours in class, if that. Please don't be one of those people. The end of high school is not post-high school; it's pre-college, and when you should be thinking at your most adventurously. You can make it all the way to graduation. It's healthy to do so. (See also: "Be a good senior", below.)
Oh, and "senior slump"? There's already a time slated for that -- it's called Summer. Enjoy it thoroughly!
- I'm sure I'll find lots more to add!