Al Rasheed: Education standards poorly measure students’ potential for success

By Sophia Al Rasheed / Columnist

Like many of my peers in the senior class, I’m going through a stressful grad school application process. Testing anxiety made taking the LSAT a real treat, and my general humbleness and borderline self-loathing made bragging about myself on applications even less enjoyable. It’s safe to say that my transition into the real world feels anything but graceful.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when all these law schools — top law schools — were emailing me, expressing “sincere interest” and observing my “potential for great success,” along with a list of established alumni who have gone on to attain some fabulous titles.

I was obviously flattered. But after some research and realizing that I have a zero percent chance of getting into these schools based on my numbers, I knew something else was going on. I started to experience some other emotions, and finally regressed to the self-doubt that carried me through the application process.

I originally viewed the traditional system of ranking for graduate school admissions — where grades and test scores decide where you stand on the imaginary scale — as an anxiety-inducing, yet necessary, process. There is no simple way to establish a comparison between students and, on the surface, it seems perfectly fair to grant higher status to those with the highest scores. But after further research and time spent establishing a spot on this scale, I really questioned how valuable it is to place such importance strictly on numbers. 

The method used to rank and parallel students to match the “appropriate” school might be convenient in terms of comparing a large number of applicants, but it fails to take into account the individual strengths of an applicant. 

Moreover, the high regard of the institutions is inflated at the expense of those struggling for admission underneath — here’s where we get to the real reason for all those fee waivers. Aside from the personal proof I have in my mailbox and the fact that law schools will send out warm and welcoming packages even before LSAT scores are released, multiple blog posts — like one from Law School Expert — indicate that the admissions staff, on certain occasions, is more interested in maintaining a high status and rank than the actual applicant. 

Due to the decreasing amount of law school applications this year — an average of a 20 percent decline since 2012 — admission staffs from top schools are increasing the amount of emails they send to students who have a very little — if any — chance of being granted admission, even submitting fee waivers in order to keep esteemed numbers. This way, they accept the class size they normally would despite the staunch decrease.

Sounds like the admissions staff listened to Ke$ha and decided to get a bit sleazy. Students are not being rewarded for the efforts they put into four years of undergrad, but are actually being misdirected into discovering that they don’t fit into a standard, ideal category of success. Whether this is a result of students being judged or the result of a prestigious application-to-acceptance ratio — such as the University of Chicago’s 190-to-5,000 — that the institutions boast, it furthers the realization that the numbers don’t match.

Standards in education might be valuable as comparison tools for institutions, but these head honchos teasing me with interest aren’t realizing how detrimental these standards can be toward the applicants. It’s a bit depressing to think that no matter how much time may have been placed into LSAT preparation, no matter how much effort was placed on balancing a college career of school, volunteer work, extracurricular activities and an internship, the ability to even be considered for top schools comes down to one’s LSAT score and GPA. Not to mention hearing those flattering personal messages from strangers who simply want to add to their esteemed rejection list is a bit sad, as well. 

I know that millennials have a few faults, but it’s incredibly discouraging to see that students who’ve exuded passion, drive and direction throughout their educational career might not be able to attend graduate programs for the simple fact that numbers do not match. I’m fully aware that there are applicants who have earned and should be rewarded for their higher stance on the grading scale, but I’m also very aware that many equally deserving individuals are excluded from this.  

Despite the fact that we worked incredibly hard, followed the instructions of choosing a major that we were passionate about as opposed to one that will manifest into a career (my first advising appointment, verbatim) and attempted to bring a well-rounded mindset that could only manifest from incorporating aspects other than strict studying into our college experience, we are still regarded as the generation that didn’t live up to the measures carved out for us. 

Write to Sophia at [email protected].