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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

OPINION: A group of rising freshmen offers its recommendations for how to improve the new admissions process

A+panel+of+freshmen+shared+their+opinions+on+the+new+admission+process+after+being+the+first+to+go+through+it.+Image+by+Adrian+from+Pixabay
A panel of freshmen shared their opinions on the new admission process after being the first to go through it. Image by Adrian from Pixabay
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Throughout this week, The Classic has reported on how this year’s incoming freshmen handled the new admissions process that began last fall. In addition to that reporting, The Classic asked a group of freshmen to meet and discuss their opinions on the new admissions requirements. What follows are the reflections and recommendations of the group.

For context, in late 2022, Townsend Harris asked all applicants to write two essays, which connected broadly to the subjects of Humanities and STEM, and to film one video introducing themselves on a more personal level.

Video Recommendations

Our group had the most criticisms for the video component of the application. This aspect of the admissions process falls short of allowing students to showcase themselves in the most effective manner. Applicants were asked to highlight two interests or talents they have and describe how they would leave THHS greater than they found it. For students struggling with anxiety or self-confidence, looking directly into a camera and delivering a monologue about themselves could be quite stress-inducing. Production challenges also tend to surface, with factors like quality, lighting, and location playing a large role in the video, which some people were not able to provide. Some students may have had greater resources to produce a higher quality video, creating inequities. The video likely added a source of stress for students who did not have the luxury of a good backdrop or strong lighting or quality equipment. 

The sheer volume of the video-making process is also worth considering. Applying to other schools besides THHS meant multiple videos which meant multiple takes, scripts, and practice sessions. Admitted classes from previous years rarely saw such a demanding application process. 

Essays

The humanities and STEM essays for Townsend Harris were subjective in nature and did not closely relate to their respective topics. The first STEM essay prompt asked what students would bring with them on a deserted island. This question did not bear any specific connection with science or technology at all and was more a test of a student’s creativity. By making the essay more a matter of creativity than STEM knowledge, the essay became a second humanities essay and was, therefore, redundant. 

If the admissions committee wants to see a writing sample, one humanities essay with a stronger prompt would be sufficient (and would reduce the burden on students who are applying to multiple schools).

Seventh Grade Averages 

Another leading criticism of the process was that the role of seventh grade averages was somewhat diminished. Core course averages accounted for 40% of the overall admissions grade, while the written and recorded material accounted for the remaining 60%. Because students completed their seventh grade averages year without knowledge of what would be the new admissions process, they were under no impression that their grades would hold less value in the upcoming admissions cycle than it did in previous years. Therefore, we recommend that the averages count for a greater percentage of students’ grades. Students should be rewarded for their hard work done over the whole school year.

Overall

The newest screening system came about after citywide calls to restore a competitive admissions landscape, and did not take the stage without drawbacks. There remain, however, areas for improvement. We recommend making the video component more equitable (or offering a backup option for students with technological or anxiety-related challenges), removing an essay and making the prompts stronger, and increasing the value of seventh grade scores in the overall admissions equation.

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About the Contributors
Tabassum Ahmed
Tabassum Ahmed, Photo Desk Manager
Tabassum is a sophomore at Townsend Harris. Photography enables her to capture moments and share her perspective with others. When she's not running with the track team, she's most likely catching up on sleep.
Aki Benjamin
Aki Benjamin, Editorial Board Manager
Aki is a sophomore at THHS. He loves writing, traveling, and eating. After being on the opinion team for one year, he is very excited to be editorial manager this year.
Anusha Mahin
Anusha Mahin, Opinion Roundup Manager
Anusha is a sophomore at THHS. In her free time, she enjoys knitting tote bags and blankets, reading psychological thriller novels, and begging her parents for a kitten.
Sayemah Nadi
Sayemah Nadi, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Sayemah is a sophomore at Townsend Harris High School. She enjoys going on walks, journaling, and talking to her peers. She hopes to travel and try new foods in the future, as well as continue her love for journalism.
Donate to The Classic
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