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[Op-Ed] College Admissions Guidelines

Posted November. 17, 2009 08:41,   


Though the nationwide college entrance exam ended last week, the real race for college admission begins now. Students have to consider factors such as their career path and aptitude in addition to their chances of admission when they apply to a college. The process is so complicated that it resembles solving a difficult math problem. Worse, each university has different admissions standards, which make the process more challenging for parents and students. Therefore, students have blind faith in a chart released by private academic institutes showing score brackets matched with universities. This is almost the only source students can turn to since universities are reluctant to disclose their score distribution charts of the previous year’s successful applicants.

Unfortunately, the score bracket charts vary among institutes, undermining their reliability. To begin with, these charts fail to reflect the difference in admissions programs of schools. In addition, the scores are based on students’ interim score reports that they mark on a separate sheet of paper while taking the exam. Therefore, the charts have their limits and sometimes the lowest score of successful applicants in a given school can be 40 points (800 points is a perfect score) higher than the estimated figure in extreme cases. To prevent such a distortion, Korea University released the lowest scores of its successful applicants in each major, the average score of all the students, and the number of successful entrants per high school for those accepted for the 2007 school year.

The root of the problem is that admissions counseling, which should be an important service of public education, is left in the hands of private academic institutes. The negative side effect is that universities are lobbying the institutes to raise their expected permissible scores, showing the strong influence of these charts. Due to the frustrating reality where teachers at a school cannot offer satisfactory admissions counseling, students and parents have to turn to admissions consulting service offered by the institutes, often at an expensive price. It is a shame that public education lacks the means or credibility to guide students in choosing colleges. The least that high schools can do is to invite teachers and staff from the institutes to share admissions tips with students and parents.

A consultative body of 700 high school teachers who are also admissions counselors said it will provide admissions guidelines by compiling admissions data from schools nationwide. To be released this week at schools, the guidelines are by nature different from the score bracket charts offered by institutes. They contain information on what made applicants fail the previous year and the results of students’ interim score reporting. The scores complied at high schools and information about successful applicants can be a hidden ace that an institute has yet to lay its hands on. High schools and their teachers need to make such efforts, but a good beginning is half the battle.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)