Why doesn’t East Lake send applicants to Ivy League schools?

Why East Lake doesn’t send many kids there, and how it can be improved.

%3A+Even+strong+applicants+such+as+the+one+depicted+above+get+rejected+from+Harvard%2C+the+only+school+East+Lake+has+not+had+a+student+accepted+to.
: Even strong applicants such as the one depicted above get rejected from Harvard, the only school East Lake has not had a student accepted to.

: Even strong applicants such as the one depicted above get rejected from Harvard, the only school East Lake has not had a student accepted to.

Huffington Post

Huffington Post

: Even strong applicants such as the one depicted above get rejected from Harvard, the only school East Lake has not had a student accepted to.

Antonio Amram, Staff Writer

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This year, East Lake High School had many well-qualified students apply to various Ivy League or top ten universities, but zero acceptances. While a few made it all the way to the waitlist for multiple schools, no applicant was offered a spot in the Class of 2022 at an Ivy League or top ten school. This got me thinking- what could be done to up those numbers, from both the student and school perspective?

From the student perspective, I think the biggest thing, aside from taking challenging courses, is to work on essays and writing. The way higher-level and AP classes are structured, the style of writing that students are drilled in for sometimes all four years is very practical and formulaic; that is, it’s catered to the test. This, I feel, is detrimental to the college essays of these students, which are expected to be well-written AND personable. Well-written is not the issue, but personable? The lack of development of a personal voice in writing hinders students from submitting the most compelling application they can. So, what can be done about this? From the student perspective, more can be done on their own time to prepare them for writing from a personal point of view. This means writing a lot of non-academic material- outside of the classroom. The class schedule preferred by Ivy League applicants leaves little room for creative or personal writing, which shifts the onus of preparation entirely on the student. I know that I, for one, could have done a better job preparing myself to write these types of essays. Newspaper class helped me develop this personal voice in my writing, but too late. I would encourage kids that have space to take newspaper prior to application season to help them gain a sense of who they are writing outside of formula essays. However, one thing the school could do here is encourage it- raise awareness among the kids who want to apply to these types of prestigious institutions that they will have to write in a different style than they have before.

The logical next step to improve the chances of applicants is to establish some mentorship program- something which, much to East Lake’s credit, they have already established in the Future Stars program. However, after talking to multiple former members of the program, it appears that more could be done with the program. In this context, however, “more” is not necessarily more meetings or assignments, but rather applying the program in a slightly different manner. I feel as though this program could be used as sort of a cumulative database of advice from successful or almost-successful applicants to these extremely competitive schools.

I took these ideas to other applicants and AP teachers to see what they thought. I asked three questions, as listed below:

  1. What is something the East Lake currently does well regarding admissions to the Ivies?
  2. What is something that East Lake currently does that might negatively impact admissions?
  3. What is something that East Lake could do to improve its students’ chances?

Many students and teachers alike lauded the strength of East Lake’s AP programs and class selections, as well as its beginning of a mentorship and college prep program for high-aiming applicants. No one thought that ELHS did anything that might lower its students’ chances, although the phrase “grade inflation” did find its way into several discussions on the topic I had. The last question is the real kicker, and most of the possible solutions involve something that simply isn’t possible: more time and money put into the guidance department. The guidance department at East Lake is amazing, but there are only five of them for more than 2,300 students. They simply cannot, by the virtue of being a large public high school, give college-bound seniors the same individualized attention that private schools live Berkley Prep or Jesuit can. So the solution isn’t a better guidance department- that’d be impossible- the solution is a bigger guidance department, something that any public school would be hard-pressed to fit into an already tight budget.

 

*Full Disclosure: the author was rejected from multiple top-ten schools.

 

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