College Board and the Toxic College Admissions Culture
By Andrea Ortiz Ortega
Image via The College Board
In middle school, my class took our first PSAT exam. A lot of us did not know what this test was really about and just took it because we needed to. Later, we had our high school orientation in which we talked about the classes we should choose for our freshman year. In that orientation, we were informed about the existence of the glorious AP classes and that we were going to be the first freshmen at our high school to be able to take an AP class that year. Everyone was enthralled by the idea of having a couple of college credits over and done within their first year of high school. Naturally, everyone signed up for the AP Human Geography course. The class wasn’t all that bad, but it stressed me out a lot and was not really worth the stress considering that I got a 3 on the exam at the end of the year, barely passing. Despite my below-average experience, I then went on to take AP World History the next year and this year I am taking AP English Language, AP US History, and AP Biology. After all of these classes and standardized tests, I can confidently say that the College Board has too much control over the lives of children 18 years old and younger.
The College Board is a non-profit organization that focuses on trying to help students achieve their goals of going to college. They are the creators of one of the only widely accepted college entrance exams called the SAT. The organization also offers college-level courses, the AP courses, to high school students with the prospect of getting a college credit if they pass the exam at the end of the year. As happy as this may seem, the high school, and even college experience, has become an all-out competition between students. The College Board is in the middle of this. Students need to take more and more AP courses every year and get higher and higher scores on the SAT to even meet the requirements for application to “top” universities.
The College Board isn’t directly to blame for the value society has started placing on their courses and tests, but they are still complicit in the nightmares that it causes students. Once the idea of getting fives on AP courses and getting 1500+ on the SAT is planted into a students’ brain, it is very hard to get out and it only grows larger and larger. It is like an unwanted obsession; you know it is bad for you, but you just can’t stop it. I have lost countless nights and missed many social events while slaving over my AP work, all because I wanted to have a chance at my dream university. It has gotten to the point where I begin to beat myself down if I see that someone is taking more AP courses or getting higher exam scores than me. This competitive culture of college applications and admissions is very toxic. Having to balance AP courses, normal classwork, college entrance exams, sports, volunteer hours, extracurricular activities, jobs, and having an actual social life outside of school has proven very difficult for many students across the world in the last decade.
I am very worried about how this culture will evolve in the next couple of years. I do not want to see underclassmen, like my own sister, go through what I have been going through for a large portion of my life. Later in life, I am most likely going to look back and regret all of the opportunities I missed to have fun during my teenage years. Instead, I have stayed locked up in my room, even during weekends, doing work for classes that I have no interest in and I am taking just because, “It’ll look good on a college application.”
If there is anything I want any underclassmen or rising seniors to take from this, it is that you need to enjoy your teenage years. You do not have to always be thinking about the future. There are times when it is better to live in the moment and focus on what is right in front of you. This may all seem very ironic and cheesy coming from a high school junior that is still planning on taking AP courses next school year, but my advice comes from the heart and from experience. And to any seniors that have just finished up hearing their college decisions and are deciding which college to go to, know that no matter where you end up going to, your hard work paid off and you will have a bright future no matter where life takes you.
Written by writer Andrea Ortiz