High Schools Are Posting Their College Lists. Don’t Be Misled.

“These are CliffsNotes versions of multiple, untoldable stories that communities co-opt for their own accomplishments,” said Emmi Harward, executive director of the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools.

In addition, the publication of these lists is to encourage ill-advised comparisons. “There was a point where I felt like my job as a college advisor felt like the role of our basketball or soccer coach,” said Ms. Bell. “The results were public not only to our families but also to other schools and it was like ‘We hit them’ or ‘They hit us’. And I said, “No, no, no, that’s not what it is.”

A collective movement to ban the lists may also not be the right solution, given what could be lost. Many parents barely buy a greenhouse prep school, and a multitude of colleges on a list signal that a high school is not a pressure cooker or a factory. Ms. Bell likes being able to broadcast some students attending historically black colleges or certain public universities, for example, where some families may have turned their noses up a generation ago, she said.

There are probably no asterisks for these lists that don’t pose any problems of their own – and more detailed financial information runs the risk of invading family privacy.

So if the lists are indeed a necessary evil, at least for now, they may need a disclaimer. Please read this example before looking at another enrollment list. And when you write such rosters, you can hand-forge a version for your own community.

We are reluctant to publish this list at the request of both current and future parents, but we want you to ignore it.

Let’s face it, if you choose a school or a suburb based on this list, you are almost certainly getting it wrong. While we have a role to play in preparing teenagers for college, their readiness also arises from the privilege of the social class in which much of this community is absolutely drowning.

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