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I accept admirable annual for all you stressed-out parents of kindergartners whose academy comedy was canceled to focus your 5-year-olds on academy and career. Acceptable news, as well, for you afraid 11th-graders, abashed that the Boone’s Farm you drank instead of autograph a five-paragraph abode on The Red Badge of Courage will ruin your approaching forever. Fantastic annual for anyone who, like a assertive acquaintance of abundance called “me,” afraid on the SAT. And great, abundant annual for anyone afraid about the Common Appliance and its acceptability for glitchiness.
Bard College, a awful careful liberal-arts academy in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, is about to access the additional year of a advocate college-admissions experiment: four clumsily arduous essays, 2,500 words each, advised by Bard adroitness (who, I assume, adore allocation papers). All four essays get a B or higher? You’re in, period. No connected test, no GPA, no CV aggrandized with artful advance work. Last year, 41 acceptance completed what the academy is calling the Bard Entrance Exam—and 17 denticulate aerial abundant to be admitted. This advancing fall, that cardinal may be essentially larger, as the country’s alone accurate addition appliance to an aristocratic academy assets publicity. I’m actually accomplishing my allotment to advance it, because the abstraction is genius.
The ramped-up pressures of admission, abnormally to aristocratic schools, are actual credible to any Gen Xer (or older) who spends time with millennial academy students. There is no way, for example, that 1994-era me would nowadays be accepted to my own alma mater, Vassar College. Today, accomplishment is the bald minimum: 4.0 and co-valedictorian, absolute Board scores, spotless extracurriculars, 30 hours a anniversary of volunteering you don’t enjoy, a altogether blah article about the Challenges In Your Life That Accept Fabricated You a Better Person—and again you ability accomplish the aboriginal cut. Don’t get me wrong—I adulation a aerial academy benefit two-shoes. But are they actually the alone bodies who deserve to go to a abundant college? Does an absolute academy abounding of imagination-bereft accomplishment not aftereffect in the sad annihilation of bookish fun?
The Bard Entrance Exam aims for actually the affectionate of apprentice who, for any cardinal of reasons, doesn’t fit central that accursed accomplishment cage—who is instead, as Bard’s Vice President of Apprentice Affairs and Director of Admissions Mary Backlund told me, “someone who actually brand learning,” but conceivably “couldn’t be agitated with what they saw as the ‘busy work’ of aerial school, and instead invested themselves in things not perceived as ‘academic’ in some places, like music or the arts—or aloof annual on their own.” For these students, Backlund tells me, “this advantage is a ‘twofer’: They get to administer and do what they love—researching and thinking—all at the aforementioned time.”
It’s absurd to actuate a adolescent person’s absolute approaching based on her choices as a 14-year-old.
Granted, abounding stress-addled seniors don’t analysis for kicks, and for them, the Common Appliance is a timesaver—although how does a adolescent being acquire her own Amusing Security cardinal nowadays, if she’s not fabricated to abode it by duke into seven altered applications in a row? Granted, abounding universities crave added essays—such as Tufts’ abominable alert about #YOLO. But the Common App, which acts as a clearinghouse for aggregate from a student’s name and abode to her GPA, extracurriculars, and advocacy dossiers, may still bang apish or angsty acceptance as ailing apocalyptic of what they accept to offer. Its accent on the accepted prestige-suspects additionally disadvantages acceptance with added aberrant résumés. But for about every academy in the country, there is no alternative. Except at Bard.
The ability in Bard’s adjustment is that while it ability be simpler in architecture than the Common Application, it is essentially added difficult. Acceptance accept 21 essays to accept from, in three accountable areas: amusing science, history, and philosophy; arts and literature; science and mathematics. “The adroitness had a lot of fun” designing the essays, Backlund says, “not to be hard, but to be agreeable and open, so that the applicants had article absolute to bite on and appearance their cerebration abilities.” All crave abundant amounts of aboriginal analysis (all sources are accessible on the portal) and aing reading. Last year’s questions included this one:
Personally, I anticipate any kid that manages to abode 2,500 words afterwards badinage about “the abrupt motion of Uranus” deserves automated admission—but seriously, that article doesn’t blend around. It’s a alluring hypothetical; it takes into annual astronomy, physics, and math, but additionally the aesthetics of science and the adventure of the alien that analysis confronts. Plus, a advantageous dosage of Feynman! I’ve apparent this year’s questions appear June 2, by creating an appliance myself that, sheesh, no way will I finish. They are aloof as tough.
Skeptics accept argued that these essays are aloof addition way for advantaged acceptance to pay for “help” in their academy applications. (I apperceive at atomic a few arrant and unemployed Ph.D.s who’d be game.) But Backlund assures me Bard has accountability measures: Every admission apprentice takes a three-week branch in “Language and Thinking” afore academy clearly starts. “Everyone has to canyon L T to begin into the College,” she explains, and at the workshop, adroitness will accept acknowledged Entrance Exam applicants’ essays in hand. “If, over the three weeks, it becomes accessible there is a absolute discrepancy” amid their admissions essays and their assignment for L T, “we can booty adapted action, and the apprentice will not face ‘expulsion,’ as they will not accept as yet ‘matriculated’ at the College.”
There are added schools in the U.S.—many, like Bard, aristocratic baby colleges—that don’t crave the SAT or ACT. St. John’s Academy (you know, that “Great Books place,” area they all apprentice geometry in Greek or something) additionally requires a different set of essays—but they still crave the Common Appliance and appearance transcripts. Even my birthplace, Deep Springs College, possibly the best agnostic academy of academy acquirements ever, requires Board array and transcripts.
But Bard seems to be the sole academy of its ability in the United States to accord acceptance the advantage to actually draft their high-school classes and still accept a adventitious to be abundant in college. Since I acquisition it absurd to actuate a adolescent person’s absolute approaching based on her choices as a 14-year-old, I couldn’t be happier that the BEE, as Backlund puts it, subverts the “the mad doggie-tail hunt created by U.S. Annual and the Common App.” (However, Backlund does not begrudge any apprentice who wishes to use the Common App: Bard still accepts it, afterwards all.)
But why don’t added colleges activity alternatives to the acceptable application—alternatives that accede that abounding able adolescent bodies artlessly blast in aerial academy because their lives are messes, or their families are falling apart, or because they aloof apparent abhorrence it? And why stop with essays (which, face it, are not the cup of tea of affluence of kids who ability still excel in college)? What about appointment a amazing and aboriginal science or algebraic project? The abundant business archetypal of a aggregation you invented? I ambition added American colleges and universities would stop allurement acceptance to jump through a alternation of more privilege-reifying hoops (the accepted admissions action favors higher-income students) and alpha allurement for applicants to appearance their absolute potential.
So, aberrant 15-year-olds of America: Keep absence chic to acrylic graffiti murals on the ancillary of the alone White Castle! Quit that insincere advance assignment and get the part-time job you actually need! And back some absolute tells you you’ll never get into a acceptable academy with behavior like that? You acquaint him you’re activity to Bard.
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