Accepted: The evolution of college admission requirements

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Accepted: The evolution of college admission requirements

The choice to move onto higher education is a particularly simple in the 21st century, with 75% of college students continuing their studies after high school it has become routine. High school students prepare themselves to apply to college knowing the mass amount of stress all of the preparation will invoke. However, students were not always so expected to enter college and the admission requirements were not nearly the same. The problem with college admission requirements is that they will never stay consistent for long periods which then raises the question of how did a college receive its prestigious title and how does it maintain it. Over time, elite colleges have become more selective due to many social pressures of society, but the question of how did this selectivity become so severe must be considered in order to fully understand these changes.

The root of college admissions began during the 1600s when the first college, Harvard, was founded in America. The establishments of entrance requirement were developed a few years after the founding of the school and officially began in 1642 (Broome 1).  Harvard then created a code of laws, which can be found in College Book No. I (Broome 1). The laws created state that “When any scholar is able to read Tully or such like classical Latin Author Tempore and make and speaker true Latin in verse and prosesuo Marte, and decline perfectlt the paradigms of nounes and verbes in ye Greeke tongue, then may hee bee admitted into ye College.” (Broome 18) These requirements stayed consistent throughout the seventeenth century and remained unchanged until the mid eighteenth century (Broome 19). The reason there were no additional requirements throughout that period of time can be attributed the “struggle for existence against poverty” (Broome 19). The state of America at the time made it difficult for higher education to be a main priority of the American people.

The curriculum that was in place at Harvard maintained unchanged throughout the century and was comprised of courses that only required knowledge of Latin and Greek (Broome 20). As more colleges were being founded the requirements and courses of study would be imitated or similar (Broome 27). It was not until 1734 that the laws of Harvard were slightly changed, and at this point the only alternation was omitting the ability to speak Latin (Broome 29). As Harvard continued to make a series of small changes in their admission requirements it was evident that the significance of Latin “as a living language” was diminishing (Broome 29). As more colleges were established, there were additional admission requirements added to particular colleges plans yet remained pretty consistent with Harvards’, the only additional criteria that was being added was arithmetic and Greek was beginning to become more important than Latin (Broome 32).

As the eighteenth century was coming to a close, America was undergoing significant changes in religion, social and political conditions. The shift towards liberalism and an evident division between church and state, the development of democracy and an overall problem of classes logically led to new educational changes (Broome 40). The colonial colleges, however, were not receptive to these new demands and remained almost completely unchanged until the middle of the nineteenth century (Broome 40). However, the strong desire for “popular and useful” studies was met by the establishment of academies, which allowed people to begin their education before entering college (Broome 40). People in America strove to obtain a better education then before and were determined to expand their knowledge beyond the colonial college’s curriculum.

As more colleges were being founded and established throughout the country the colonial colleges were then inspired to rethink and expand their admission requirements. Finally in the mid nineteenth century, Harvard and other colonial colleges made advancements in their admission requirements. Subjects such as geometry, algebra, and eventually history were added as admission requirements. The original three subjects that were included in 1800 rose to eight by 1870, showing that the nineteenth century was a revolutionary time for college admission requirements (Broome 52). After 1870, colleges were updating and adding requirements, which can be assumed to be the foundation of requirements today. As the subject English became more prominent in admission requirements, Harvard decided to require a short essay based on a particular prompt each year which is likely the foundation of the various essays prompts the majority of colleges still use. The continuous development in admission requirements is directly correlated with the demand for higher education.

As people became more interested in obtaining a higher education there was a significant revolution in preparatory schools and academies. Although colleges made advancements in their admission requirements throughout the nineteenth century, the establishment of preparatory school and academies negatively affected the number of students attending college. “Academies, and a new sort of institution, public high schools, flourished because they met “the particular wants of the times”, the high school had the additional advantage of being free, at home and under complete public control” (Broome 72). In today’s society high school is expected to prepare students to go to college, yet in the nineteenth century “high schools were intended specifically for those who were not preparing for college” (Broome 73). High school essentially became an opportunity to prepare students for practical life as well as prepare them to move onto college (Broome 73). However, not all students who graduated high school could be expected to move onto The American Colleges. Although, the colonial colleges were expanding their admission requirements, the requirements were still specific enough that very few students were able to “enter the old fashioned gate” (Broome 73). Unfortunately, the transition from public high school to college was not well coordinated and the students who found themselves entering college were those attending the preparatory schools, which were established in accordance to the colonial colleges.

Beginning in 1900 elite members of society like Franklin Delano Roosevelt graduated from leading preparatory schools and immediately moved to a top college such as Harvard, Yale, or Princeton (Karabel 23). The elite members of society that were moving onto such colleges set “a cultural tone at the country’s prestigious universities”, (Brooks 1) Despite the schools intense academic reputation, young men like Roosevelt arrived on campus with little concern about his academics. The shift from a solely academic environment to a more social and elitism one can be attributed to colleges desire to be associated with America’s most powerful families.  When elite members of society arrived on college campuses “their main proving grounds were extracurricular activities and social life. Positioning themselves to edit the school paper or join the right secret society, they strove to establish their social worth and to prove how much they embodied the virtues of the Harvard Man, the Yale Man or the Princeton Man. That meant being effortlessly athletic, charismatic, fair, brave, modest and, above all, a leader of men.” (Brooks 1) Overall, elite schools like Harvard and Yale were focusing their efforts on having high social status students and were in fact, proud, of having “more gentlemen and fewer scholars” (Brooks 1). It seems that an admission requirement became a person’s social status in society and that many schools were benefitting from admitting students of high social status due to their public image.

Although, elite colleges benefited from accepting middle and upper class members of society, admission officers and school officials felt that the academic merit of the school was crucial to its existence. The fundamental conflict amongst colleges was between “those who wanted to accept more students on the basis of scholarly merit – intelligence, high test scores and good grades – and those who sought what you might call leadership skills – that ineffable combination of charisma, social confidence, decisiveness and the ability, often proved on the athletic field, to be part of a team”(Brooks 2). Elite colleges struggled between the two options in regards to its admissions procedures, the difficult continues to arise in the admission process today, but dates back to before World War II.

It was not until after World War II that this social hierarchy was altered and such colleges would benefit. The once white Protestant population that dominated schools like Yale would decline because college presidents wanted to expand their student body to a group beyond this white protestant upper class.   The shift of expectations and a more diverse study body resulted in higher SAT scores and a wider range of accepted students and led prestigious colleges to focus more on the academic merit of their students (Brooks 1). The shift to a more academically based admission process benefitted the schools merit and reputation yet has only forced competition between the true meritocrats and the upper class. This intense competition has created a series of problems that have all contributed to the brutally competitive admission process in the 21st century.

As college attendance rates have drastically risen since the mid 20th century, the competition and requirements to attend elite colleges have become more competitive then ever before. Between 1960 and 2001 college enrollment more than tripled from 4.1 million to an astounding 14.8 million (Greater Expectations 1). This rapid increase in college attendance has influenced colleges to create more and more requirements in order for students to even apply to a particular school. The typical elite college, application requirements are; Common Application, specific college questions and a writing supplement, SAT or ACT with writing, 2 SAT subject tests, school report and high school transcript, two teacher reports, a mid year school report and a final school report ( Although, the current system of admission evaluates its applicants on a variety of components, but the reason for this increased selectivity at a top university can be attributed to a variety of social and technological factors.

As the college admission process has become more technologically based the increase in number of applicants has risen dramatically. Students are sending more applications than ever, due to the universal common application that is now accepted to over 500 schools, including many of the ivy leagues (Perez-Pena). Although, elite schools are rejecting more students than ever the high number of applicants helps with lowering their acceptance rate, which in return makes them a more desirable option for next year’s applicants. These low acceptance rates, in reality, motivate students to prepare themselves for college earlier than ever before. The college admission process now begins far before high school, with many upper and middle class parents seeking early placement in the best possible education programs.

The 21st century marks a time period where parents are making absurd efforts in order for their children to attend the countries top universities. Within the last thirty years, Americas test prep companies have grown to a $5 billion annual industry, allowing those who can afford it to place their children with professionals to master the standardized tests and essays required by most schools (UNZ). The notion of a wealthy family being able to buy their child’s way into a top school would be unheard of in other countries, yet the united states has created an environment where “cheating” the system is a reasonable option (Unz). With each new admission requirements comes an attempt to stand out amongst the other applicants but people are taking it too far and essentially creating an alter ego in their applications by hiring others to take standardized tests for them or hire a professional to write essays. People are willing to go to any extreme in order to be admitted to a top college, which has created a society of extreme competition and dishonesty.

The college admission process began as a set of laws made by the college and has emerged into a long list of requirements that students must submit in order to be considered. The founding of elite colleges immediately enticed the upper class in America which forced colleges to focus their attention on those who could afford, provide and positively publicize the schools name. Due to a series of religious, social and political conditions in America, the demands for higher education increased dramatically. Originally elite colleges began seeking out those students who could positively impact the school financially and socially, but are now being bombarded with countless eligible applicants leading the admission selectivity to become increasing more competitive.


Works Cited


“Application Requirements.” Home at Harvard. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2014. <>.


Brooks, David . “The Chosen: Getting in .” New York Times 6 Nov. 2005: n. pag. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.


Broome, Edwin Cornelius. A historical and critical discussion of college admission requirements. New York: Macmillan, 1903. Print.


“Chapter One | We Are a College-Going Nation.” Chapter One | We Are a College-Going Nation. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2014. <


Karabel, Jerome. The chosen: the hidden history of admission and exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print.



PÉrez-PeÑa, Richard. “Best, Brightest and Rejected: Elite Colleges Turn Away Up to 95%.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 8 Apr. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <>.



Unz, Ron. “The Myth of American Meritocracy.” The American Conservative. N.p., 28 Nov. 2012. Web. 1 May 2014. <>.

2014 Proposal

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Research Question:  What are the positive and negative affects of attending a private vs. public school in regards to the college process? Does one have an advantage over the other? And what changes over time have made this question so prevalent in todays society?
Relevance: The debate between public and private education is one that is widely discussed in America. People often question if children will receive a better education if enrolled in private school but what defines “better education” or better school for a child. This debate often is associated with college admissions and the discussion of whether one type of school has advantages over the other. As a student who has attended both private and public schools I am interested in researching this question. I often wonder if college admissions do in fact prefer one school to the other.The comparison of private vs. public school is a newly established issue that I believe society has brought upon itself, I look forward to researching the social changes that have occurred that have influenced this new mentality of one type of school being better then the other.


Research Strategy: The question of whether private or public school has advantages over the other is something I have been interested since I first entered Trinity. Within my friend group a large majority of the people attended private schools, which happen to mostly be boarding schools. I want to research college admission websites and offices (I plan on going into the admissions office at trinity and speaking with someone). Thus far I have been on a few websites and read articles based on this topic and have found that many parents are concerned with where to place there children for high school. One major issue I want to research is people with lower socioeconomic status and there placements within public and private schools. These people are likely t have fewer options and may not have the means to provide there children with a private education which is unfair. A great method for my research will also be to look at college acceptances based on high schools. I have looked on both a public and a private school website and saw a list of schools their graduates have gone to. I want to compare the acceptances of the two. I want to understand how colleges look at private schools vs. public schools and eventually argue the somewhat unjust advantage of private school students that so many people feel is apparent.







“Guidance Office: Answers From Harvard’s Dean, Last of 5 Parts.” The Choice Guidance Office Answers From Harvard’s Dean Last of 5 Parts Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.


“ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst.” Electronic Doctoral Dissertations for UMass Amherst. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.

The Unfortunate Truth

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American Teacher is an eye-opening documentary that exposes the harsh realities’ teachers in America face when they enter the educational workforce. Despite our country’s high demand on people achieving a higher education we do not value and respect the people who devote their lives to making this possible. The film follows the lives of four teachers and exposes their difficult journey as a teacher in America. American Teacher sets out to raise awareness about our national outlook of under appreciating and under paying educators and attempts to alter the view of teachers to become a more desirable and appreciated job.

Every day, Jamie Fidler, Jonathan Dearmen, Erik Benner and Rhena Jasey enter a classroom filled with young minds with limitless potential. However, low funding, long hours, and lack of appreciation make it difficult for more people to devote their lives to educating. Jamie Fidler a teacher of eleven years began her experience in the classroom spending $3,000 out of her own pocket in order to supply her classroom with essential items. Since then she has been working a second and sometimes third job in order to make an appropriate living for her family.  Following that we meet Rhena Jasey, a Harvard graduate who was criticized for choosing education as a profession due to her prestigious college education. Next we are introduced to Erik Benne, a Texas history teacher and coach who are loved dearly by his students. Due to the low salary of teachers and his family’s needs, he works another job in order to have a higher income. Finally, we meet Jonathan Dearman, a man who adored his profession, but was forced out of the classroom due to lack of salary.

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Each of these teachers is committed to their profession yet face harsh realities that are associated with their career. The most unfortunate problem that each of these educators face is the lack of salary, which forces many educators out of the classroom as we saw with Dearman. Although these teachers are dedicated to their profession, the lack of money is a hindrance on their entire lives. Each one of these teachers is afraid of survival, whether it is family or personal needs; money is a factor that can not be ignored. The fact that 62% of teachers have a second job outside of their classroom hinders their ability to commit everything they have to their students (McGinn, Roth 00:41:28). “Almost half of teachers leave before their fifth year many citing the low salary and difficult working conditions” (McGinn, Roth 00:41:28) The drastic number of teachers with second jobs as well as high percentage of teachers leaving the profession creates great concerns for the future of the American education system. American Teacher illustrates the immense hardships educators face, but also serves as a warning to our country about our educational system. The decline in teacher conditions and pay directly correlates with student achievement. Among industrialized nations we rank in the middle of the pack 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. These ranking limits our potential as a country and the only way to raise test scores and prepare young people for global competition we must encourage students to consider teaching as a profession. (McGinn, Roth 00:16:30) The negative stigma associated with teaching drives people away from the profession and therefore negatively influences the future of America.


In our culture, it is now expected that a person graduates college, and it is becoming more common that graduate school is the next step. The pressure and demand to achieve an education begins in elementary school and the people who guide and assist students are not respected in our culture. In our country doctors and lawyers are considered prestigious jobs, yet there would be no doctors or lawyers without educators. As a country we need to change the viewpoint people have with teachers and encourage people to choose teaching as a career path. Educators deserve a higher standing in society and the choice to become a teacher must be valued as opposed to looked down on.

A yahoo news article by Liz Goodwin explores the disparities from the film. The film implies that an underlying problem in our education system is the low salary teachers earn and that teachers need to be paid more. Goodwin explains the split in education reform on whether to “raise base salaries altogether or compensate some teachers more by handing out bonuses based on student test scores” (Goodwin P. 1) Goodwin discusses work done by Economist Eric Hanushek who claims that “raising teacher pay across the board would have little to no effect on students test scores” (Goodwin P.1). Instead of raising pay as a whole he feels that there are alternative ways for teachers to improve students success one of which is “hand out bonuses to those who are lifting scores called merit pay” (Goodwin Page 1). The argument Hanushek is making claims that paying everyone the same amount will not result in better teachers instead he feels the merit pay will reward the good teachers.  The alternative views about teacher salary create concern because there are many approaches that may be deemed the “best”. Overall this article is exploring the different options not discussed in the film that are available in order to raise the performance of teachers in America.

Overall, American Teacher illustrates the necessity of valuing educators. The low salaries and low appreciation these people receive will eventually damage Americas education system entirely. The hardship these four teachers faced were troubling and appalling. It is educators that are the foundation of young peoples futures and therefore it is our responsibility as a country to respect and provide for these people who are devoting their lives to the future of America.


Works Cited

“About the Project .” Teacher Salary Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb 2014. <>.


Jeri . “The Progressive Press.” The Progressive Press RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <>.




Roth, Vanessa, and Brian McGinn. American Teacher. Video documentary, 2011.


Yahoo News, Liz Goodwin. “‘American Teacher’ Film Argues Teachers Aren’t Paid Enough, but Ignores Merit Pay Debate.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.



Avoiding Plagiarism Heffernan

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Step One: He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.


Step Two:  He found that the normal “margin of error” of a New York City educator was plus or minus 28 points.


Step Three: He found that the normal “margin of error” of a New York City educator was plus or minus 28 points. (Ravitch 270-71)


Step Four: Sean Corcoran set out to look at teacher evaluations in both New York and Houston. (Ravitch 270-71) His findings show that there was on average a boundary of error when evaluating students, which either added or subtracted 28 points.


Step Five: Sean Corcoran set out to look at teacher evaluations in New York and Houston (Ravitch 270-271). His findings show that the “average margin of error” of a typical New York teacher was “plus or minus 28 points” (Ravitch 270-271)

Learning Goals

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During the semester I hope to learn more about the past educational policies within Hartford and connect them to my experience from Educ 200. The opportunity to expose myself to an actual reform within the community will allow me to have a real life experience with the topics we will learn throughout the semester.