College and stupid.

I just don’t know what to think sometimes. It seems like there are so many people trying to figure out “what colleges want” and advice is about as consistent as teen magazines are about how to get a boyfriend. If anybody actually had it figured out, people wouldn’t still be buying these “top ten signs he’s into you” type articles. I swear…”top ten signs a college is into you” could be a thing. There are so many categories of “do this, no do this” type scenarios that it makes my head hurt.

  • Colleges want IB courses, except no wait, those don’t transfer so take AP except no wait, we only count those as placement and not credit so take CLEP oh wait we don’t even know what CLEP is.
  • Colleges want extracurricular activities and hate home school students except when they don’t.
  • GPA matters except at schools that don’t care about your GPA. There it’s all about the ACT/SAT score except at schools that don’t care about those things. 
  • Community college courses are a great way for home school kids to show colleges they’re college-material except oh wait a lot of colleges won’t transfer them and will even look down on them and make you retake the same stuff you already took.

The more I look at this, the more it gets to seeming like college prep programs are just big cash mills. Maybe I don’t know anything about this, but I swear it seems like everywhere I go I find major contradictions in what colleges “need” to see and major discrepancies in what different colleges find important. Example:

  • There are about a gazillion “home school curriculum” programs that are extremely expensive and from what I hear not all that good. All of these things are supposedly “mandatory” to not get your parents arrested/get into a great school. The thing is, how mandatory does it have to be for someone to put that on their website and make a lot of money off of scared parents?
  • There are so many (expensive) ACT prep programs that it seems like the actual value of the ACT/SAT starts to decrease. I mean, think about it. If the person who can afford all the test prep programs has a 36 and the person from a low-income family has a 21, it doesn’t really seem like that’s a fair way of evaluating people and some colleges have actually dropped the ACT/SAT in part because of that issue.
  • There are people who SELL classes that will help you pass the CLEP exams which are supposed to be exams that give you college credit for thing you already know, not for paying to take an actual class. In other words, these programs can make money as unaccredited schools essentially.
  • There are so many “continued ed” and “certificate” programs. How many of those do employers actually value?
  • Some colleges will almost never take your transfer credits. They claim it’s because their education is so top-notch that your pathetic little junior college course doesn’t hold a flame to it, but I have to wonder if it’s really about making more money.
  • I also hear about people whose schools are making them spend like 5 years in college and then roping them into master’s programs they probably don’t even need OR that are basically grad school factories that don’t prepare students for jobs. They make them repeat customers due to their inability to get hired anywhere. 

There’s all of this “do this and do that or you’ll never get into college” stuff going around, but when my family and I were looking at options for next semester (I start high school in the fall) I saw that community colleges have open admissions which means that almost anyone can go. If you complete an associate’s and then get a bachelor’s somewhere, is an employer really going to go “hmm…how many extracurricular activities did you do in high school again? Did you drop out of band?” Something makes me doubt it. 

In the end, I just end up wondering if a lot of hard-working people who are in AP courses and going to $50,000/year schools are actually getting the best educations and the best jobs when I know liberal arts grads who are struggling so much. 

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