Ever been on a road trip through the Deep South? I did one year and it was an experience I will never forget. I remember driving over narrow dirt roads through some of the thickest forests I have ever seen. As the car continued on, my surroundings peeled away until I was traveling over a giant bridge spanning the width of the Mississippi River, with boats passing underneath and a view that stretched forever.
I love metaphors, and this is literally one (couldnâ€™t resist a little literary humor).
The dirt road is our K-12 education. The radiant bridge is our collegiate system.
America really is a special case. As our K-12 education system is entering a state of free fall (with the only hope of rebound resting on the shoulders of dedicated teachers and some serious paradigm shifts), our university system continues to serve as a beacon to the world, only growing brighter as time progresses.
So whatâ€™s with the contrast here?
Does it make sense for a nation with some of the lowest test scores in the industrialized world to have 60 to 70 of the top 100 universities in the world? No, it doesnâ€™t.
But thatâ€™s how it is.
As a senior in the class of 2012, the college process just opened for me. The two biggest applications (Common Application and Apply Texas) just opened nationally within the past few days, and I along with millions of my peers have been checking ethnicity boxes and entering resume info all week long.
Recommendation letters, transcripts, SATâ€™s, Subject Tests, APâ€™s, ACTâ€™s, class rankings,Â national merit, valedictorian, honors, scholarships, FAFSA, early action, early decision, regular acceptance.
As much as I may complain about the college lingo along with the rest of my senior peers, the truth is: America has done a fantastic job of carving out a system that is the best and the brightest in the world. While the K-12 programs around the country may be slim and winding through a thick forest, we have done an incredible job of connecting their end points.
And not only our roads. The best and the brightest K-12 education programs ultimately mean nothing if they are a dead end with no road to higher education. Systems from South Korea to Finland are being built with helping international students gain admission to the schools America has to offer. A degree from an American university isnâ€™t something that simply helps with employment in the States, but is rather a symbol of the finest and brightest education the world has to offer.
In the eyes of pupils around the world, admission into an American university is quite literally their path to the best life possible.
Let me also get one more thing straight: it isnâ€™t all about the Ivies. In order to get a feel for this article, I looked over multiple indexes to see how American schools stack up internationally. Opinions may lie, but numbers donâ€™t. On the 2010 Time Higher Education World University Rankings, 15 of the top 20 schools in the world have their campus in the United States.
It was probably even more surprising scrolling down the list.Â Everything from branch off colleges to massive state schools was on that list; not only Ivy League members in the North East. America quite literally has one of the best college education across the board.
In writing this article, I decided to get a few fact checks and opinions from someone who has ran through the system and knows where it ends. Her name is Celina and she is currently a political science major at Columbia University in New York City. I figured if anyone had a few words of advice to share with someone about to run the college application obstacle course, it would be her. And she did. For all of us anxious seniors out there, her quote is probably the best to close with:
â€śThe admissions process is as much for you as it is for them. The colleges that accept you are, in general, going to be the kind of places who want you – and to be honest you’ll probably end up happier at these places than at the places that rejected you. You want to find a college that’s a good fit for you, and you should treat admissions less as trying to be “good” enough for the college, and more as a process to let you know where you’ll be in a positive, productive environment and where you wouldn’t fit in so well.â€ť
As a senior about to head off for college, my opinion in the article above might be slightly biased. Thatâ€™s where you, dear reader, come in. I need your opinion in the comment field below to keep my facts straight and my opinions centered.
What do you think of Americaâ€™s collegiate system? Is it really the best in the world? Does it have deep running flaws of its own? Does Americaâ€™s K-12 system really lead to college?