Overcoming legitimate structural hardship – as in poverty, parental drug use, and growing up amidst violent crime – make for eye catching stories. Overcoming a lacrosse injury, getting cut from the school play, and dealing with an ADD diagnosis – standard Connecticut high school resilience stories – while unquestionably challenging to the students involved -are not.
That’s because we – those with the good fortune of living in towns such as Guilford, Madison, Old Saybrook, Essex, Old Lyme, East Lyme, Waterford and other Shoreline and Southeastern, CT towns usually have lives that are pretty nice compared . to . the rest of the world.
As I have written elsewhere, college admissions officials are having great difficulty choosing whom to admit among the vast number of qualified candidates. College officials have told me that they have a difficult time deciphering whether a student with a 93 average from Lyme-old Lyme High School has performed better than a student with an A minus average from Valley Regional High School in Essex. Moreover, weighing extracurricular activities in a comparative way is highly subjective. The all state clarinet player versus the all state soccer star versus the class president are all pretty similar from an objective standpoint.
Other than SAT-ACT scores, the other dominant way that candidates gain an upper hand in college admissions is through “stories” about their backgrounds. Those with compelling stories are from radically different upbringings than those from Connecticut’s lush suburbs. 1st generation college students get a huge advantage. Many of my Connecticut college counseling clients have parents who have multiple degrees. Growing up impoverished area – while not good in so many ways – does provide a college admissions advantage compared to those growing up in Madison. In a wonderful way, most students from Shoreline, CT, do not have parents who are in jail, died from drug overdoses, or are grappling with any of the myriad of challenges that those from tough areas have to contend with.
I reiterate: we are lucky. But in relation to college admissions, Connecticut students have to rely on standing out in more objective ways.
The SAT-ACT, like it or not, fair or not, becomes the criterion that can be evaluated most objectively. That’s why it is imperative for Connecticut high school students to maximize their test scores.