It’s that time of the year for college admissions: the gruelling, arduous, painful process that seeks to suck the meaning out of everything you’ve done in life until you’re left wondering about your own self-worth. For many undergoing this process, it definitely can be a confusing stage in life. For KIS students, this process is often times even more perplexing as students try to understand a foreign entrance system which they have had little exposure to over their high school years, and when I say “little exposure”, I don’t mean the constant pressure to go to the schools. Instead, I am talking about the actual distance and stories that help students in the US become more familiar with colleges, as opposed to students in Korea that don’t have the same opportunities.
In order to curb this initial disadvantage, KIS has over the years hosted college visits. Every week in the fall there are multiple colleges that come to KIS to provide sessions where representatives discuss specific information about their respective schools as well as to answer any of the students’ questions. It’s part of a long tradition in which colleges and high schools believe that more communication can lead to a mutual benefit of college-bound students having a better fit with their new school.
However, this line of thinking hasn’t exactly been reflected in the KIS student community.
“As a current senior, I might be speaking from a different perspective from others who are just being introduced to the process of looking into colleges, but personally, I’ve found college visits quite unhelpful. Most of the information can be found on their website with a quick search, and even the student life/experience explanation [that the representatives provide] isn’t anything new. It would be more helpful talking to an alumni individually.”
It is true that many students often choose not to go to college visits because they feel that the information provided at the sessions can be found anywhere else. Other times, students will go in order to leave a better impression with the admissions officers. However, this type of thinking has gradually decreased as well over the years.
“A lot of students go to these visits to “leave an impression” with the admissions officer. Well, just as it is the case with college fairs, it’s not only difficult to leave an impression amongst 80+ other students, but it’s also meaningless because these officers know nothing about you at that stage. It’s not as if you’ve already submitted your application and the officers already read them.”
However, there are cases in which showing explicit interest in schools through attending college visits is effective. These cases are when the college visits attract a smaller crowd, meaning that students have a bigger opportunity to shine out among their peers. However, the reality shows a gaping problem in the way that KIS students view college admissions, and it also shows just how much students are losing out.
It’s a culture that everyone knows exists, and everyone is willing to partake in this social norm, yet this problem continues to erode at the heart of what college should be. This cultural norm is the art of desiring a school with name value. Be it an Ivy League school or any other school in the top 20, KIS has a fascination for the glitter and gold that awaits beyond the gates of these prestigious institutions. But when the desire for these names cuts away at actual learning that could benefit everyone’s’ education and chances at college, there is a major overhaul that has to be set in place.
Before I go any further, a clear distinction has to be made. I am in no way saying that students at KIS should be aiming for lower schools. I am also in no way saying that students at KIS have no chance at these schools of renowned worth. However, when a student’s mind is set on a certain level of education, it can be so much more detrimental than aiming for a lower level.
The problem often is that students become so infatuated with the end result that they forget about what it truly takes to reach a certain level. They forget what drives them to study certain things, and why going to certain schools will be able to help them attain that higher level of understanding. Hence, students often flock to college visits from Cornell or NYU, yet schools that may not have a high rank but are some of the best in a line of study will not receive any students at all in their college visits. Despite the California Institute of the Arts being ranked 7th worldwide in Art & Design by the QS World Ranking system, only one student attended the college visit. However, if more students interested in art had attended this college visit, even if they did not intend on applying to this particular school they would have gained so much more insight into what art schools in general offer in much more detailed context than, say, attending an art school college visit with 50 other students. Instead of looking at the multitude of benefits that could help them in their specific fields of study by attending smaller college visits, students often focus too much on the end result.
Ultimately, there has to be a long reflection in the way that we view college visits. Whether a student applies to several Ivies or none, that is up to them. But by taking a proactive approach in learning about one’s field of interest, students can learn so much more about what they can do to improve their own performances in these lines of study. By doing this, they set themselves up as a much more competitive candidate for any school that they may apply to. College visits, no matter how menial or laborious it may seem, reflect the character and passion that goes into applying for colleges. So the next time you see a college visiting that has a strong record for a field of study that you are interested in, don’t just brush it off. Although the benefits may not seem immediately evident, it very well could pay off in the long run.
By Ye Chan Song
Featured Image by Ye Chan Song