The first four questions of the poll addressed college readiness and students’ greatest worries about the college process and college admissions. The first questions asked if students planned on going to college straight after graduating. 85.2% of students replied that they planned on attending college right after graduation, 12.3% said maybe, and 2.5% said they would not attend college immediately after graduating. Even at Belmont Hill, not all students plan on college immediately, whether it be for a gap year, financial preparedness, or a simple lack of desire. They also helped offer insight into the next question which asked if students feel prepared for college. 56.8% of respondents stated that they felt they were prepared for college, with 30.9% saying that they haven’t thought about it and 12.3% responding “no.” The survey was sent to all high school students at Belmont Hill, so it is understandable that some of the younger freshmen and sophomores have yet to think about the college process or are not prepared for college. Considering this, a relatively large amount of students feel prepared for college. The third question further examined question two, asking those who replied “no” to select why they may not feel prepared for college. The largest reason for not feeling ready for college was confusion concerning academic paths, with 55.6% of respondents. With degrees and majors becoming increasingly important in the professional world, students realize that their college academic choices will likely shape the rest of their professional lives, causing them to worry about academic selections.
The remaining 44.4% stated that they were worried about the financial burden, that they hadn’t thought about it, or a combination of the choices. However, no students selected that they were worried about the difficulty of college classes. Perhaps due to the already-difficult nature of Belmont Hill’s classes, students seem to feel prepared for the academic rigor that colleges require. The fourth question asked what students are most concerned about regarding the application process for college. The most prominent selections for this question were standardized testing (SAT and ACT), college essays, interviews, and the overall application process, with nearly half of students selecting these choices. The next closest were extracurricular activities and grades, with 37% of students selecting these choices. Clearly the most worry comes from how students perceive colleges will judge their academic performance. While many students are concerned about not standing out to colleges, they must realize that there are no mediocre students at Belmont Hill. Overall, while many students are concerned about college, there is still time to gain confidence.
The fifth question asked if the admissions process is fair to all participants. Around 50% of respondents said it was only somewhat fair, while 20% believed it was completely unfair, and only 20% believed it was fair. In recent years, college admissions have become exceptionally controversial, especially regarding the fairness of the process. This led to the next question, asking why college admissions were unfair if respondents selected “somewhat fair” or “unfair.” 75% chose college legacy, 70% selected socioeconomic status, 61% chose race/nationality, 42% chose athletic ability, and 23% chose geography. Additionally, some may worry that although one may have comparable academic status with another applicant, their socioeconomic status can influence their admission. For example, a student may have identical test scores and grades as another but get in due to being more wealthy than the other student. College legacy applicants (an applicant with one or more parents who attended the institution) are also almost universally statistically favored, which raises questions about admissions priorities in the process.
Others may be concerned as they believe students have a better chance to get into schools because of their race/nationality — both as a “plus” and “minus” factor. Athletic ability is another source of worry for some, as the common perception exists that student athletes rarely need comparable academics for admission over an academically-focused applicant. Geography can play a role in “in-state vs. out-of-state” tuition costs, as it can cost more to be out of the college’s state, which often produces a statistical return of in-state applicants appearing favored. The final question asked if every college should be test-optional. Test optional gives students a chance to provide no standardized test score (as opposed to submitting the SAT or ACT tests). Forty percent responded “no,” 33 percent “yes,” and 27 percent had no opinion. Standardized testing can be controversial as some people believe it is a measure of how well one can prepare for a test rather than actual intelligence. Overall, regardless of opinion on what factors affect college admission success and concerns over bias, only one-fifth of Belmont Hill students (9-12) believe in the fairness of the process. Although the statistic is jarring, it follows a long trend of controversy, dispute, and even litigation over how college admission should be handed down each year — a process in which few students have full confidence.