Message from the Principal
April is a time one associates with warmer weather, income taxes and, at least for many high school seniors, college admissions letters. In recent years, however, decision letters from colleges have been arriving earlier as more and more students take advantage of early application options.
For some students, applying to college in the fall of their senior year makes good sense. They are clear about which school they want and they have developed an academic and extracurricular profile that is a strong reflection of their interests and abilities.
Increasingly, though, some educators are expressing concern about early decision programs. Yale's president, Richard Levin, suggested in an interview with The New York Times that it would be a "good thing" to abandon early decision admissions to the nation's select colleges. He has a point. These programs rob some students of a year of their high school experience. All four years are critical to a child's development and education, and truncating that time shortchanges students in important ways.
Time is the scarcest commodity we have in schools, and losing 25 percent of our effective curricular time is a huge loss to the students we serve. If students reduce the number of courses they will show college admissions officers, the value of each of those grades increases. The ambitious student won't want to risk a poor grade when there is a reduced opportunity to offset it with a higher one. Courses in art, a second foreign language, advanced history and humanities electives are the first to show the impact of the aversion to risk born of students focused on early decision.
Colleges have moved in the direction of early applications because of admissions and marketing pressure, but surely this trend will not serve them well in the long run. The effect of discouraging students from taking risks and exploring alternative classes will only produce students less broadly prepared and more dedicated to repeating the pattern of their high school success in college. I expect that college professors will discover before long that their entering students show less academic daring than their predecessors.
At the recent meeting of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), I urged high school counselors and college admissions officers to keep in mind that high school is truly a four-year experience, rich in possibilities for exploration, achievement and reward. We need to work cooperatively with students and with colleges on this issue, and we need to look for solutions that give students back that 25 percent of the high school education that is their due. —Tyler C. Tingley '48, '64, '01 (Hon.), P '99