“These are CliffsNotes versions of multiple, untellable stories that communities are co-opting into their own achievements,” said Emmi Harward, executive director of the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools.
Moreover, to publish these lists is to encourage ill-advised comparisons. “There was a point when I felt as though my job as a college counselor felt like the role of our basketball or football coaches,” Ms. Bell said. “The results were not only public to our families but to other schools, and it was like ‘We beat them’ or ‘They beat us.’ And I said, ‘No, no, no, that is not what this is.’”
A collective movement to ban the lists may not be the right solution, either, given what could be lost. Plenty of parents are very much not shopping for a hothouse prep school, and having a diverse variety of colleges on a list helps signal that a high school isn’t a pressure cooker or some kind of factory. Ms. Bell likes being able to broadcast that some students go to, say, historically Black colleges or certain public universities that some families may have turned their noses up at a generation ago, she said.
There is probably no set of asterisks for these lists that wouldn’t bring their own problems — and more granular financial disclosures run the risk of invading families’ privacy.
So if the lists are indeed a necessary evil, at least for now, perhaps they need a disclaimer. Please read this sample one, before you look at another college matriculation list. And if you write such rosters, maybe hand-forge a version for your own community.
We publish this list with great reluctance, at the request of both current parents and prospective ones, but we sort of wish you would ignore it.
Let’s be blunt: If you’re picking a school or a suburb based on this list, you’re almost certainly doing it wrong. While we have a role to play in preparing teenagers for college, their readiness is also born of the social class privilege in which much of this community is absolutely drowning.