From cruel month comes Ivy-leaguers

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From cruel month comes Ivy-leaguers


T.S. Eliot, an Anglo-American poet, famously wrote in his poem “The Waste Land” that “April is the cruellest month” because it stirs dull roots with spring rain, mixes memory and desire and breeds lilacs out of the dead land.

For American university applicants and their parents, April is the cruelest month because it is when major American universities reveal whom they accepted.

Ivy League universities, such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth, announced the list of applicants admitted to their universities on Friday. The acceptance rate at Harvard was 14.5 to one. The competition rates at other Ivy League universities were all high, around 10 to one.

On the U.S. Web site “College Confidential,” which hosts a popular college admissions forum, you can see the wide range of emotions that play out in the college application process. Some students are grief-stricken because despite their perfect SAT scores they didn’t get into an Ivy League school. Others are ecstatic that they made it into their first choice school, despite having poor standardized test scores. The complexity of the American admissions system - which looks at both test scores and measures of a student’s character, such as volunteering or after-school activities - makes April a roller-coaster month for high school seniors.

The U.S. first adopted this admissions system in the 1920s as a way to discriminate against Jewish students. Dartmouth University was the first to implement the new system. The admissions officers examined both applicants’ test scores and extracurricular activities, although in reality Dartmouth and other universities used the system as a way to reduce the number of accepted Jewish students. As people in the U.S. became more progressive, this sort of discrimination in the college admissions system declined and today we hold up the U.S. system as a model for our own country.

Last year, the education community here was shaken by a scandal involving leaked SAT questions. Korean hagwon, or private academy, owners and students were said to have used the leaked SAT questions to get a leg up on college admissions.

Parents feared that U.S. schools would not admit Korean college applicants because of the scandal.

But those worries were proved groundless as over 25 out of a total of 84 graduates of the International Program of the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy in Hoengseong County, Gangwon, enrolled in Ivy League universities, including Harvard and Yale, this year.

Many others also entered Stanford, MIT and Oxford and over 50 graduates have been admitted to different campuses at the University of California.

I look forward to seeing them grow up to be strong assets for the future of Korea.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Park Jong-kwon
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