Absurd Admission Standards

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Absurd Admission Standards

Some extraordinary events have been taking place in Korean academia recently. An early graduate of a science high school has been accepted into top American universities while colleges here are turning down many students who scored 390 or more out of 400 on the College Scholastic Ability Test.

Even some students who got a perfect score have been refused admission. This shows only too clearly that our educational system is in serious trouble because of such problems as the quota system of admissions and the inadequacy of the CSAT as a gauge of scholarship.

Lee Kyu-young, a junior at Seoul Science High School who is to graduate a year early, is a case in point. Though her grades were good, in a school that produces nothing but top-flight students her percentile ranking was not deemed high enough to qualify her for Seoul National University. Yet she had no trouble at all in being accepted by both Harvard University and the Massachusettes Institute of Technology. Her scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language and the U.S. Scholastic Aptitude Test were outstanding, but in her interview with Harvard, her extracurricular activities also played a big part in landing a place there. She had tutored students in science, played in the school orchestra and organized a girls'' basketball team ?all points in her favor at a school that gives high marks for creativity and character.

Contrast this to the Korean system, whereby applicants are selected for a limited number of freshman openings on the basis of a rigid formula that assigns percentage points to grades, the CSAT, an interview and an essay. This year, an CSAT that was much too easy resulted in so many high scorers that it was impossible to screen for the truly top performers. In the U.S., the SAT is only one step in determining a student''s aptitude for college-level studies, but for a Korean student, the score on the CSAT is a heavily weighted part of the total that determines what sort of school, if any, he or she can get into.

But the most fundamental difference between the American system of admissions and ours is that in the United States the schools have the final say on whom to accept. Miss Lee was accepted by Harvard and MIT because they took into consideration the whole picture, from the high standard of the high school she attended to her outside activities. Our admission system must be revamped; otherwise, many of our best students will have no choice but to go abroad to college.
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