Increasing college standards challenge new students

From freshman year onward, stakes are high for our generation. In order to be accepted to most state colleges, one must maintain a grade point average relative to what their desired school requires.

“I like the GPA system. The only negative aspect of it is that freshmen get the shaft in terms of being new and not taking grades quite as seriously yet,” Jake Kent, senior, said. “It can be overwhelming to realize that GPA suddenly does matter, and some kids are forced to dig themselves out of that ditch later on.”

However, many state colleges have set a high bar on high school GPA requirements, and high schools are pushing harder than ever in order to prepare their students.

“The traditional high school to four year college plan that the West Linn school system instills in you as the only way to go was not the ideal plan for me,” Jon Helmkamp, Class of 2008, said.

“I didn’t have the drive, motivation or direction to be successful at a four year college, so I didn’t go. I wasn’t willing to spend a large amount of money to go to a four year school if I didn’t have a direction or plan,” Helmkamp said. “Taking a couple years to learn more about myself and my goals has been very beneficial, and I now feel prepared to succeed.”

Why are grading requirements higher now than before? Colleges are running on scarce resources in which supply is rapidly decreasing and demand is rapidly increasing. Aspiring college students are expected to carry their own weight, now more than ever, which may be considered either a curse or a blessing.

Tougher grades are not an obstacle for quite a few students, as there definitely is a significant amount of students who hold 3.0 GPA or above. Some students have broken out of the mantra that unsatisfactory grades will dictate an unsatisfactory life. In fact, there have been an increasing number of students taking “gap years” in between high-school and college, where time is taken off to work, travel and generally self-actualize oneself.

“Looking back on it, I would love to have the workload that I did in high school,” Helmkamp said. “It was very manageable, as long as I organized and managed my time effectively, which I tended not to do. I think the high school did a pretty good job of giving a good amount of work that prepared the students for college life, while also not overwhelming us with a crazy work load.”

College requirements are undeniably higher than they once were. However, many students appear to be fine with the workload, aware that school isn’t the one-and-only way to go. A high school diploma isn’t even necessary to gain access to a college education, with the availability of General Education Development (GED)certificates. Additionally, community colleges remain open for individuals who are not eligible for a four year university.

“The number of college acceptances is staying at an overall constant rate, but the students who are being accepted into any given college are drastically changing. All school levels are also changing. Nowadays, you see parents trying to give their kids a leg up on all of the other children right from the get-go,” Andrew Lewis, senior, said. “They are trying to get their children into accelerated programs, extracurricular activities, and so on. Therefore, the education system has this pressure to keep up with all of the demands.”

If competition is a major factor in state colleges increasing their standards, then the problem only looks to worsen as more and more high school students graduate. As world population has increased from roughly 3 billion to 7 billion in the past 50 years, America’s population has increased sharply as well. The recent economic downturn only complicates things for many ambitious students who don’t do well in a classroom environment.

“If I were to get enough money for an almost-covered ride to go to my dream college, I would most definitely take that over any community college,” Lewis said. “But with the increasing costs of tuition, books, housing, and everything else, it’s difficult for students with a poor financial situation- students such as myself and others- to shoot higher than community college right out of high school. I’d be lying if I were to say that state college and community college are equal. They aren’t.”

No matter where students decide to go after high school, there is no denying that things just aren’t like they used to be. In the 1970s, a year off was almost unheard of. Now, it is commonplace in the wake of high standards and high prices which bridge the gap between many of today’s students.