Texts from a College Admissions Victor

About Karli: She’s a freshman at the University of California Davis, currently studying Biology and Chemistry.  Karli is a former Creative Marbles Consultancy client; we advised her as a high school senior through the college admissions process, knowing the pressures she experienced in completing her college applications.


In response to a recent New York Times editorial, Karli and I discussed the state of college admissions.  I asked Karli, “What changes would you make to the college admissions process?”  Our texts are what follows.  

[K] I feel like… In ways I can agree with this process because I’ve gone through high school thinking that everything is getting the “grade” to move on to a good college.  But now that I’m at [University of California] Davis, I feel this pressure to still do well, and still get the grades.  But I’ve struggled with chemistry and bio this quarter, and even math! Which is so highly unusual.

My friend gave me a different perspective.  This entire journey is not about these grades that we are trying so hard to achieve.  But it’s the battle to be the person you want to be, and acquiring knowledge.  It’s about building character.  Grades don’t help build character, they build a piece of paper with letters and numbers that aren’t going to tell the person on the other end about you, except maybe that you can memorize stuff and regurgitate it.  It’s not going to tell them that you can apply the knowledge.  It’s not going to speak of the struggle.  Only the person can speak of the struggle.

All of that doesn’t really answer your original question.  So what would I change?

I think I would forget the whole “admissions process” as we know it.  Yes, look at the grades and the test scores.  Go ahead.  Look at the resume.  Be my guest.  But look at me as a person.

This is where I think the personal statements are so important.  But even then, it can only tell them so much.  Which is why I can respect the schools who wanted interviews from prospective students.

It’s the difference between the student who pulled all A’s, played all the sports and musical instruments with perfect SAT scores, but holed themselves up all day; and the student who struggled A/B played sports/music and wasn’t so perfect and tried to enjoy life.  But at the end of the day, the student who struggled and wasn’t so perfect learned more lessons because they struggled, making them a stronger person, knowing how to deal with failure.  I could take a whole different perspective on this, but for this purpose, this is how I view college admissions.

[CMC] One parent, just on Friday, called the whole process a “rat race”.   Plus, another parent was crying that her son with a 4.65 and 2200+ SAT scores hadn’t been admitted in the Regents Scholars consideration at either University of California Berkeley (Cal) or University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).  

[K] I have to agree that it’s a rat race. It’s … hunger games for college students


[CMC] The mom was upset that other kids with lower scores had been admitted.

[K] Of course. I felt the same way… I worried about that…

He will find his place :3

Going through, I had a friend with horrible grades and same SAT score get into Cal.  All of us were salty, but in the end, I feel like some of these schools really do accept us because they feel that we are going to bring some value to them.

[CMC] He will find his place.  But, it’s difficult to explain that to a parent in the throes of the waiting process, worried that her son won’t be “good enough” for any college.

[K] And maybe UCLA and Cal are missing out, but that means he can shine somewhere else and down the line, it’s not going to matter that he couldn’t get in during the regents round.  What’s going to matter is what he does with the rest of his life.

[CMC] Definitely, its not where you go to college, but what you do with your education after graduation.  Credentials only open doors.   Without effort, my Harvard degree is just another wall decoration. 

And, with over 100,000 applications each—UCLA and Cal are going to miss many highly qualified students.


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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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