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什么样的学生可以进入顶尖大学?(上)

更新时间:2017-11-4 13:42:03 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

What Colleges Want in an Applicant (Everything)
什么样的学生可以进入顶尖大学?(上)

The admissions process is out of whack. Just ask the heartbroken applicant, rejected by her dream school. Ask high school counselors, who complain that colleges don’t reward promising students for their creativity, determination or service to others. Even the gatekeepers at some famous institutions acknowledge, quietly, that the selection system is broken.

大学招生过程已经乱了套。只需去问问被梦想中的学校拒绝的心碎的申请人。问问高中辅导员们,他们抱怨那些因为有创造力、毅力或乐于助人而前途远大的学生,并不能得到大学的赏识。即使是一些著名学府的招生者也悄悄承认,筛选体系非常糟糕。

Ask five people how to fix it, though, and they’ll give five different answers. Sure, you might think colleges put too much stock in the SAT, but your neighbor’s kid with the near-perfect score thinks it should matter a lot. More than half of Americans say colleges shouldn’t give children of alumni a leg up, according to a recent Gallup poll; yet nearly half say parental connections should be at least a “minor factor.”

然而,若是去问五个人该如何解决这个问题,他们会给出五个不同的答案。当然,你可能认为大学太过看重SAT考试,但是你邻居孩子的SAT成绩接近完美,所以他认为这个分数应该很重要。根据最近的一次盖洛普(Gallup)民意调查,超过一半的美国人认为大学不应该给予校友子女优先入学待遇;然而也有近一半的人认为招生时,父母的关系至少应该充当一个“次要因素”。

The debate about who gets into the nation’s competitive colleges, and why, keeps boiling over. The Justice Department has confirmed that it’s looking into a complaint, filed in 2015 by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations, charging discrimination against high-achieving Asian-American college applicants. Also, students for Fair Admissions, which opposes affirmative action policies, has filed discrimination lawsuits against Harvard, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Texas at Austin.

究竟什么人可以进入这个国家最优秀的大学,为什么?这一直是个热门话题。司法部已经确认,它正在审查一个由64家亚裔美国人协会组成的联盟于2015年提起的申诉,他们指控大学在招生过程中对成绩优秀的亚裔美国申请人存在歧视。此外,反对平权措施政策的“公平招生”(Fair Admissions)协会中的学生也向哈佛大学、北卡罗来纳大学教堂山分校(University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)和德州大学奥斯汀分校(University of Texas at Austin)提起了歧视诉讼。

Although the Supreme Court affirmed last year that admissions officers may consider an applicant’s race among other factors, polls show that a majority of Americans disagree with that decision. Critics of affirmative action see plenty of room for future legal challenges.

尽管最高法院于去年裁定,招生负责人可以把申请人的种族纳入考虑,但民意调查显示,多数美国人不同意这一决定。平权措施的批评者认为,未来它在法律上还有很多可以质疑之处。

Whatever happens, age-old questions about fairness in admissions will surely endure. For one thing, the nation can’t come to terms with a tricky five-letter word: merit. Michael Young, a British sociologist, coined the pejorative term “meritocracy” over a half-century ago to describe a future in which standardized intelligence tests would crown a new elite. Yet as Rebecca Zwick explains in her new book “Who Gets In?” the meaning has shifted. The word “merit,” she writes, has come to mean “academic excellence, narrowly defined” as grades and test scores.

不管怎样,关于招生公平的古老问题一定会持续下去。别的不说,国家首先无法就“merit”(大意为优点、才能、价值——译注)这个棘手的词达成一致。半个世纪之前,英国社会学家迈克尔·扬(Michael Young)创造了贬义词“唯才是用”(meritocracy),用来形容未来社会通过标准化智力测验筛选来新的精英。然而,正如芮贝卡·兹维克(Rebecca Zwick)在她的新著《谁进去了?》(Who Gets In?)中解释的那样,这个词的意义已经发生了变化。她写道,“merit”这个词已经成了“学习成绩优秀”的意思,“被狭隘地定义为”评级和考分。

But that’s just one way to think of an applicant’s worthiness. Dr. Zwick, professor emeritus at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has long been a researcher at the Educational Testing Service, which develops and administers the SAT. She disputes the notion that testing prowess — or any other attribute, for that matter — entitles a student to a spot at his chosen college. “There is, in fact, no absolute definition of merit,” she writes.

但这只是衡量申请人价值的一个方面。兹维克是加州大学圣巴巴拉分校(University of California at Santa Barbara)荣休教授,长期以来,她一直在负责开发和管理SAT考试的教育考试服务中心(Educational Testing Service)担任研究员。她不认为一个学生能否进入自己选择的大学,应该由应试能力或这方面的其他能力来决定。她说:“事实上,关于才能,没有一个绝对的定义。

That brings us to you, the anxious applicant, the frazzled parent, the confused citizen, all wondering what colleges want. It’s worth taking a deep breath and noting that only 13 percent of four-year colleges accept fewer than half of their applicants. That said, colleges where seats are scarce stir up the nation’s emotions. Each year, the world-famous institutions reject thousands and thousands of students who could thrive there.

因此我们明白,你们——焦虑不安的申请人、心力交瘁的父母、一头雾水的公民——都想知道大学究竟想要的是什么。我们有必要静下心来想一想,在四年制大学中,入学率低于五成的仅占13%。话虽如此,牵动国人情绪的是那些竞争激烈的学校。世界诸多著名学府每年都会拒绝本可在那里茁壮成长的莘莘学子。

Yes, rejection stings. But say these words aloud: The admissions process isn’t fair. Like it or not, colleges aren’t looking to reel in the greatest number of straight-A students who’ve taken seven or more Advanced Placement courses. A rejection isn’t really about you; it’s about a maddening mishmash of competing objectives.

是的,被拒绝令人伤心。但是大声说出来吧:招生是不公平的。不管你喜不喜欢,大学要找的不是修读了七门乃至更多大学预修课程并取得最好成绩的全优生。拒绝不是针对你个人的;招生是一个疯狂的大杂烩,各种目标混杂在一起,互相竞争。

Just as parents give teenagers a set of chores, colleges hand their admissions leaders a list of things to accomplish. When they fail, they often get fired.

正如家长会让青少年做些家务一样,大学也会给招生负责人列出任务清单。如果他们不能完成,往往会遭到解雇。

“We don’t live in a cloud — the reality is, there’s a bottom line,” said Angel B. Pérez, vice president for enrollment and student success at Trinity College, in Hartford. “We’re an institution, but we’re also a business.”

“我们不是过着脱离现实的生活——事实是,我们有一个底线,”三一学院(Trinity College)负责招生和学生发展的副校长安吉尔·B·佩雷兹(Angel B. Pérez)说。“我们是一个学院,但同时也是一个企业。”

On many campuses, financial concerns affect decisions about whom to admit. A recent report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that about half of institutions said an applicant’s “ability to pay” was of at least “some importance” in admissions decisions. Among other targets is geographic diversity, which is now seen as an indicator of institutional strength and popularity. (Some presidents have been known to gripe if the freshman class doesn’t represent all 50 states.) A campus might also need a particular number of engineering majors or goalies.

在许多学校里,财务问题会影响录取决定。美国全国大学招生咨询协会(National Association for College Admission Counseling)最近的一份报告发现,大约有一半的院校表示,申请人的“支付能力”在招生决定中至少“有一定重要性”。其他目标还包括地域多样性,它现在被视为大学实力和受欢迎程度的一个指标。(有些校长会因为新生不是全国50个州的人都有而不满)。学校也可能需要一定数量的工程专业学生或者球队的守门员。

Indeed, a college could accept 33 percent of all applicants, but that doesn’t mean each applicant has a one-in-three chance. Success depends on what a student brings to the table.

事实上,一所大学可能会接收33%的申请人,但这并不意味着每个申请人都有三分之一的机会。申请成功与否,取决于学生能够带来什么。

Generally, nothing carries more weight in admissions than grades (plus strength of the high school curriculum) and ACT/SAT scores. With limited time and resources, those metrics offer a relatively quick way to predict who will succeed. But the measures have drawbacks. Grade inflation has complicated the task of evaluating achievements, and so has the variance in high school grading policies. Standardized test scores correlate with family income; white and Asian-American students fare better than black and Hispanic students do. Also, when colleges talk about predicting “success,” they usually mean first-year grades — a limited definition.

一般来说,在录取过程中,平时成绩(加上高中课程的强项)以及ACT和SAT成绩是最为重要的。在时间和资源有限的情况下,这些指标提供了一个相对较快的方式,可以预测谁能最终获得成功。但是这种措施也有其弊端。成绩的通货膨胀令评估工作变得复杂,各高中的评分方式也不一样。标准考试成绩与家庭收入相关;白人和亚裔美国学生的表现要好于黑人和西语裔学生。另外,大学的所谓预测“成功”,通常指的是第一年的成绩——这个定义是有局限性的。

And so, many colleges rely on “holistic” evaluations, allowing colleges to contextualize applicants’ academic records and to identify disadvantaged students who might lack the sparkling credentials of their affluent peers. Did they attend low-performing high schools or well-resourced ones? Did they participate in extracurricular activities? Do they have leadership experience?

因此,很多大学都要依赖“整体”评估,这让它们能够以申请者的学业成绩为背景资料,识别出那些或许不像富裕的同龄人那样拥有耀眼成绩单的弱势学生。他们上的是低水准的高中,还是资源充裕的高中?他们参加过课外活动吗?他们有领导经验吗?

What colleges look for sends a powerful message about what matters, not just to admissions officers but in life, and students often respond accordingly.

大学所寻求的东西清楚地表明,在招生人员眼里——以及在生活中——什么才是重要的,而学生常常据此做出响应。

Dr. Pérez, a first-generation college student who grew up in a low-income family, recently revamped Trinity’s process to better identify promising students, particularly the disadvantaged. While reading applications, its admissions officers now look for evidence of 13 characteristics — including curiosity, empathy, openness to change and ability to overcome adversity — that researchers associate with successful students. These are also qualities that the liberal-arts college values, inside and outside the classroom.

佩雷兹出身于一个低收入家庭,是家中的第一代大学生,他最近改革了三一学院的招生程序,以便识别出有前途的学生,尤其是弱势学生。现在,该学院的招生人员阅读申请材料时,会寻找13个特质,其中包括好奇心、同理心、乐于接受改变和有能力克服困境等。被研究人员拿来与优秀学生挂钩的这些特质,也是诸多文理学院在课堂内外所看重的。

Trinity’s officers can check as many qualities as apply using a drop-down box labeled “Predictors of Success.” They must note where they saw evidence of each quality in the application. “It can’t be just a hint,” Dr. Pérez said. He recalls a teacher recommendation describing how an applicant had taken a stand on a controversial social issue in class, even though other students vocally disagreed with him. Impressed, Dr. Pérez checked the box for “Comfort in Minority of 1,” a sign, perhaps, that the student would contribute to campus dialogues. Also on the drop-down: “Delayed Gratification” and “Risk Taking.”

三一学院的工作人员可以使用一个叫做“成功预测因素”的下拉框,勾选他们发现的所有特质。他们必须注明自己是在申请材料的哪些地方发现每一个特质的。“不能仅仅是一种感觉,”佩雷兹说。他还记得,一位老师的推荐信描述了一名申请人如何在班上坚守对某个有争议的社会议题的立场,尽管其他学生都出言反对。这令佩雷兹印象深刻,他在下拉框勾选了“乐于成为唯一的少数派”(Comfort in Minority of 1),这或许标志着这名学生会促进校园中的对话。下拉框里还有:“滞后满足”(Delayed Gratification)和“勇于冒险”(Risk Taking)。

While Trinity still values conventional measures, the new model has expanded the staff’s understanding of merit. “We’re trying to give students more credit for these characteristics, especially those who’ve had some challenges,” Dr. Pérez said. The new approach, along with the college’s recent decision to stop requiring ACT/SAT scores, has helped it diversify its classes. Low-income and first-generation students represent 15 percent of this fall’s freshman class, up from 8 percent three years ago.

三一学院仍然很看重一些传统的标准,但这种新模式拓展了工作人员对才能的理解。“我们正试着让拥有这些特质的学生得到更多的肯定,尤其是面临某些挑战的学生,”佩雷兹说。这种新模式,还有三一学院最近做出的不再要求提交ACT/SAT分数的决定,已经帮助提高了其班级的多样性。今秋的大一班级中,来自低收入家庭以及身为家中第一代大学生者占比15%,三年前则是8%。

“I’m trying to increase the tools we have, and get beyond a system that is absolutely antiquated,” Dr. Pérez said. “As the country becomes more diverse, as we learn more about the correlation between standardized test scores and wealth, we have to be a lot more creative in predicting for success in college.”

“我正设法让我们多拥有一些工具,摆脱一个绝对过时的体系,”佩雷兹说。“随着这个国家变得更加多元,我们对标准化考试分数和财富之间的关联有更多了解,我们必须采取更具创新性的方法来预测谁能在大学里获得成功。”

What most colleges ask for from applicants doesn’t reveal much about the many skills and talents a student might possess. But what if colleges asked for more? The admissions process at Olin College of Engineering includes a live audition. After completing a traditional application, selected students visit the campus, in Needham, Mass., for an intense two-day tryout. In addition to sitting for interviews, they work in small groups to complete a tabletop design challenge, such as building a tower that can hold a specific weight. On the second day, they are given another task, like designing a campus building. This time, evaluators observe each student, noting how well they communicate with others and adapt on the fly.

大多数大学要求申请者提供的材料,无法很好地揭示一个学生或许具有的很多技能和才华。但如果大学提出更多要求,会怎么样?奥林工程学院(Olin College of Engineering)在招生流程中加入了现场选拔。走完传统的申请程序后,被挑选出来的学生会造访位于马萨诸塞州尼德姆的校园,参加为期两天的紧张选拔。除了坐下来接受面试,他们还要与人结成小组,完成一项桌上设计挑战,比如制作一个可以承受特定重量的塔。第二天,他们会接到另一项任务,比如设计校园里的一栋建筑。这一次,评估者会观察每一个学生,注意他们能否与其他学生进行良好的沟通,能否快速适应环境。

The experience is meant to help prospective students understand Olin’s collaborative culture, while giving the college a better glimpse of each applicant before finalizing acceptance. “It’s hard to nail down a student’s mind-set from the traditional elements of the application,” said Emily Roper-Doten, the dean of admission and financial aid. “This allows us to see them in motion, in an educational moment.”

这道程序旨在帮助未来的学生了解奥林的合作文化,同时也让这所大学在做出最终录取决定之前更好地审视每一个申请者。“通过申请材料中的传统内容,很难判定学生的思维方式,”奥林工程学院招生和财务资助部门主任艾米丽·罗珀-多滕(Emily Roper-Doten)说。“这种办法让我们在一个有教育意义的时刻,看到他们处于兴奋状态时的样子。”

A desire to see what students can do with their hands inspired a recent change at one of the world’s most renowned campuses. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (motto: “Mens et manus,” Latin for “Mind and hand”) now gives applicants the option of submitting a Maker Portfolio to show their “technical creativity.”

为了看看学生能用自己的双手做些什么,全球最负盛名的学校之一也做出了改变。麻省理工学院(Massachusetts Institute of Technology)的校训是“Mens et manus”,也就是“Mind and hand”(手脑并用)的拉丁文。现在它给了申请者一个新选择,可以提交一份“创客档案”(Maker Portfolio)来展现他们的“技术创造力”。

Applicants can send images, a short video and a PDF that shed light on a project they’ve undertaken — clothing they’ve made, apps they’ve designed, cakes they’ve baked, furniture they’ve built, chain mail they’ve woven. M.I.T. also asks students to explain what the project meant to them, as well as how much help they got. A panel of faculty members and alumni reviews the portfolios.

申请者可以发送图片、短片和PDF文档,阐明自己参与的一个项目——他们制作的服装、设计的应用程序、烘焙的蛋糕、制作的家具,或编织的锁子甲。麻省理工学院还要求学生们解释这个项目对他们的意义,以及他们得到了多少帮助。一个由教职员工和校友组成的小组负责对这份档案进行评审。

Last year, about 5 percent of applicants submitted a Makers Portfolio. “It gives us a fuller picture of the student,” said Stuart Schmill, dean of admissions and student financial services. “Without this, some applicants might not be able to fully get across how good a fit they are for us.”

去年,约有5%的申请者提交了自己的创客档案。“它能让我们更全面地了解某个学生,”招生和学生财务支持部主任斯图尔特·施米尔(Stuart Schmill)说。“如果没有这个,有些申请者可能无法全面展示自己多么符合我们的期望。”

M.I.T.’s experiment has sparked discussions among admissions deans, some of whom say they plan to offer similar opportunities for applicants to send evidence of project-based learning. They describe the Makers Portfolio as an intriguing glimpse of how a college might better align its process with its culture and values. The catch: Reviewing all those portfolios takes time, something admissions offices lack. Even a small college like Olin, which welcomed fewer than 100 new students this fall, must scramble to pull off its elaborate evaluations. Larger campuses couldn’t even consider such an approach.

麻省理工学院的试验引发了招生主任们的讨论,他们当中有些人表示,打算为申请者提供类似的机会,证明自己通过项目学到的东西。他们认为,创客档案生动地反映出,大学可以更好地将招生过程与自己的文化和价值观统一起来。问题在于:评审所有这些档案需要时间,而招生办公室缺的就是时间。就连奥林工程学院这种今年秋天只招了不到100名新生的小学院,也必须匆匆忙忙才能完成复杂的评估。更大的学校甚至根本不可能考虑这种方法。

Thorough review has become more challenging over the last decade, with waves of applicants overwhelming big-name colleges, victims of their own popularity. The University of California at Los Angeles received more than 100,000 applications for about 6,000 spots this fall. Stanford got 44,000 for just over 1,700 spots, and M.I.T. juggled more than 20,000 for 1,450 seats.

在过去十年里,全面的评审变得更具挑战性,名牌大学受名声所累,总会收到大量申请。今年秋天,加州大学洛杉矶分校(The University of California at Los Angeles)收到了10万多份申请,但它只有约6000个新生名额;斯坦福大学收到了4.4万份申请,而名额只有1700多个;麻省理工学院则需要在两万多份申请中挑选1450名学生。

Most colleges are considering more incremental ways to enhance evaluations. The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, with more than 130 prominent campuses as members, recently established an application platform with a feature called a virtual college locker, a private space where students can upload materials, such as videos and written work, that they could later add to their applications. Among its stated goals: to make admissions more personal.

大部分大学正在考虑采用更具增值效果的方法改进评估。前不久,逾130所著名大学加入的“入学、可负担和成功联盟”(The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success)建立了一个名为“虚拟大学储物柜”的应用平台,学生们可以往这个私人空间里上传视频和书面作业等材料,之后可以把它们添加到自己的申请里。它宣称的目标之一是:让招生更个性化。

So far, most of its members aren’t asking applicants to send anything different than before. But that could change. A handful of colleges are planning experiments using alternative ways to measure student potential. One hopes to enable applicants to demonstrate their “emotional intelligence,” or E.Q., to showcase their ability to work with others, according to Annie Reznik, the coalition’s executive director. Another seeks a way for prospective students to display their “fire” for learning.

到目前为止,它的大多数成员还没有要求申请者发送与以往不同的东西。但情况可能会改变。少数几所大学正在计划试验用其他方法来衡量学生的潜力。据该联盟的执行董事安妮·雷兹尼克(Annie Reznik)称,有一所大学希望能让申请者展示自己的“情商”,展示他们与他人合作的能力。另一所大学在设法让申请者展示自己的学习“激情”。

“We want better inputs,” said Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid at Yale. “The inputs we have predict success academically. Now, we have the ability to get to know a student better, from a different type of submission.”

“我们想要更好的申请内容,”耶鲁大学的本科生招生和财务援助部主任杰里迈亚·昆兰(Jeremiah Quinlan)说。“我们目前看到的内容能预测学术方面的成功。现在,我们可以通过一种不同的申请更好地了解一名学生。”

Like many deans, Mr. Quinlan has grown wary of polished personal essays in which applicants describe their achievements. “They feel like they have to show off, because we’re so selective,” he said, “and it’s completely understandable.” Technology, he believes, can help colleges get to know the student beneath the surface of a résumé, to gain a better sense of their passions, the kind of community member the applicant might be.

和很多招生主任一样,昆兰也越来越警惕那些经过精心修饰,描述个人成就的申请信。“他们觉得自己必须炫耀,因为我们太挑剔了,”他说,“这是完全可以理解的。”他认为,科技可以帮助大学了解简历背后的学生,更清楚申请者的激情所在,以及他们可能融入哪种群体。

Last year, Yale allowed students using the coalition’s application to submit a document, image, audio file or video in response to a prompt (they also had to reflect, in 250 words or less, on their submission). When Justin Aubin heard about that option last fall, he thought, “Cool!”

去年,耶鲁大学允许学生使用该联盟的应用程序,根据提示提交一份文件、一张图片、一段音频或视频(他们还必须用一段250个单词以内的话概括自己的申请)。去年秋天,贾斯汀·奥宾(Justin Aubin)听说有这个选项后心想:“酷!”

Mr. Aubin, from Oak Lawn, Ill., was then a high school senior hoping to attend Yale. The following prompt caught his eye: “A community to which you belong and the footprint you have left.” He submitted a short video documenting his Eagle Scout project, for which he oversaw the construction of a monument honoring veterans. Even a well-written essay, he figured, couldn’t capture his experience as well as four minutes of footage, shot by his older brother.

来自伊利诺伊州奥克朗的奥宾当时是一名想上耶鲁的高三学生。下面这段提示引起了他的注意:“你所在的社区和你留下的足迹。”他提交了一段短视频,记录了他的鹰级童子军(Eagle Scout)项目——他监督建造了一个纪念退伍老兵的纪念碑。他认为,哪怕是一篇写得很好的文章,也不可能像他哥哥拍摄的这个四分钟视频那样展示他的经历。

The content of the video impressed Yale’s admissions committee. “People sat up in their chairs,” Mr. Quinlan said. “You could see how he handled his leadership role, and we felt like we got a good sense of him in a way that we didn’t get from recommendations.”

这段视频的内容打动了耶鲁大学的招生委员会。“人们从椅子上坐直了身体,”昆兰说。“你能看到他如何发挥自己的领导作用,我们觉得我们对他的了解是难以从推荐信上获得的。”

Mr. Aubin is now a freshman at Yale.

奥宾现在是耶鲁大学的大一学生。

Did the video tip the scales? “That was a difference-maker,” Mr. Quinlan said.

这段视频起作用了吗?“它是决定性因素,”昆兰说。

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