I remember, as a high school junior, being halfway through the SAT, working on some question that included the word "melon" and sort of staring at that word, realizing just how ridiculous it was that my answer to any question involving the word "melon" should have any remote bearing whatsoever on my future. For those with similar opinions about the SAT, however, Bard College has an application option that defies standardized tests and the importance placed on them. In fact, it doesn't even consider grades.
Though Bard, a selective liberal arts school in upstate New York, does accept the Common App – and in fact gets most of their applicants that way – they've also begun using something called the Bard Entrance Examination. Students who go this route must choose four essay topics from a suggested list of about 20, and write a 2,500 word essay on each. Which sounds like a lot of work, but the good news is, that's all you have to submit. They don't look at your test scores, your extra curricular activities, or even your GPA. If you can get a B+ or better on each of the essays, you're in.
This alternative route is intended for people who are intelligent and eager to learn but possibly don't fit into the traditional mold of what a college student looks like. Maybe they slacked off a lot in high school. Maybe they don't do so well on standardized tests. Maybe they had to work a part time job after school and don't have extra curriculars. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't be an asset to Bard College – or any other college.
With record numbers of kids submitting college applications nowadays, the competition to get into a good school is intense, and kids are already stressing about it before they even get to high school. So in the midst of all this, it's nice that one school at least is doing what they can to provide an alternative to the current system, one which has fourteen year olds worried that if they don't make a sports team it will destroy all their hopes and dreams for later in life.
In it's first year of existence, the Bard Entrance Examination saw 41 applicants, 17 of whom made the cut and were offered admission. This coming fall, they expect those numbers to be much larger as word spreads.
So if you happen to be heading into your senior year of high school and don't know how you're going to possibly get into a good school, remember that there's an alternative out there that's nothing like the Common App. Now, go enjoy your summer – life is too short to be stressing out about college when it's so nice outside.