How the game has changed


Claire Hunt, Managing Editor

To many students, the college process is becoming more competitive. The myth of the perfect student with the top test scores, GPA and most extracurriculars is becoming less of an exception and more of an expectation for our generation.

“I think it’s gotten harder because of the quality of the applicants. We’re pushing everybody towards college. Whether that’s best for everybody is another thing. But it feels to me like there are more qualified applicants, and these schools just don’t have as many spots,” Jonathan Dhyne, Burlingame’s college and career counselor, said.

According to Statista, total college enrollment increased by roughly 240 percent from 1965 to 2016. That means more applicants applying for fewer spaces, leading to increased academic competition and more stress for students. On the positive side, colleges are becoming more involved in student outreach. Yearly, colleges buy more than 80 million names of test takers from the College Board, according to Ivy Coach.

“My dad went to UC Santa Barbara, and he was a good student, but he wasn’t a great student. Now to get into Santa Barbara, people have to excel in everything and have great grades and test scores. I think that if he were applying to college now he might not get in, whereas it was kind of guaranteed then,” senior Chloe McNamara said. “It definitely has gotten harder over the past 20 years.”

In 2017, college acceptance rates reached an all time low at 4.65 percent, according to Ivy Wise. Further, of the top ten schools with the highest number of applications, nine are in California, meaning students in our area are put under even more pressure.

“I think it was competitive 20 years ago too, but I am seeing parents getting more involved and becoming more obsessed with the process than they were 20 years ago. Back then, it seemed like it was more up to the students,” private college counselor Michelle Sklaver said. “Now I think there is more emphasis on ‘college prep,’ which creates a more competitive pool. I’m talking about people hiring college coaches to help with college essays, people doing Khan Academy to improve SAT scores, etc.”

Students spend thousands of dollars every year on SAT tutoring, summer programs that are said to increase their chances of getting into their dream school and other programs to boost their resumes. 20 years ago, college counseling was unheard of. Today it is seen as an integral part of the academic experience. An entire industry of college preparation has been created out of our generation’s increased anxiety about getting into colleges.

“I would definitely say that school is more competitive now. Our generation, especially in the Bay Area, has been taught to think that every test and grade is life or death and mistakes are unacceptable,” junior Madeleine Greene said. “I think we feel less certain about our futures than previous generations, so we cling to our goals of success in school and prestigious colleges to make us think we will be OK.”