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Monday, August 15, 2016
When the College Pre-Gaming Starts Too Early
Taking summer school classes to get ahead is nothing new. When I was in high school a couple decades ago, there were two groups of kids you'd find there: kids who were retaking flunked classes, and students who wanted to clear general education requirements off their plates in order to make room for more AP classes during the regular school year.
Fortunately, I went to public school, where summer school classes were free. In 2016, the college admissions landscape is no longer so simple. For handfuls of cash, high school students can take on-line courses at Ivy Leagues or attend week-long "camps" at universities. I'm not talking YMCA camp on a lake-I'm talking intensive Physics at Stanford.
And while excoriating the competitiveness of admissions has become something of a pastime for me and other critics, I can't miss another opportunity. Just last week, I read about $5,000 pre-kindergarten courses being offered in Los Angeles, California. Not preschool. Not pre-k. Actual classes designed to prepare 5-year-olds to better tackle the challenges of kindergarten. The PSAT of elementary school.
In a world where preschool is no longer the sole launch-pad for kindergarten, high school no longer seems to be sufficient preparation for college. There are a million reasons why this feels so wrong, but one is more important than the rest: access.
This is just another blatant example of privilege cutting the proverbial queue. Even if the excessive preparation doesn't actually increase admissions odds, it has the practical effect of producing privileged kids who are even better prepared for college. It also affirms the ideal of success-at-any-cost. What is the psychological effect of putting this kind of competitive pressure on a 16-year-old? On a five-year-old?
The answer doesn't matter. Until college actually becomes more accessible, admission acrobatics will get increasingly complex. It’s the kind of bubble that seems ripe to burst.
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