As a college admissions consultant, I can tell you that many students spend two to four hours in a weekday on Facebook and other social networking sites, and more on the weekend. They do their homework while constantly replying to the latest contact from a friend or peer, and interrupt themselves and others with constant text messaging while fitting in a little homework. If the computer is in the teen's bedroom, parents are generally clueless about what is going on. In class, they hold their phones under the desk and text constantly, regardless of classroom rules. Many regard this as the most important part of their lives. Not getting to sleep until after midnight is more the result of the priority attached to constant contact with peers than with educational demands. Telling parents they are doing homework until 3 a.m. obfuscates the issue.
In addition, for many students, every after-school minute until mid- or late-evening is programmed, mostly with sports. Students are shocked when I remind them that sports are not the most important thing in their lives, because for many, including some parents, sports seem to trump academics. The order of importance for college admissions is grades, test scores, the well-crafted essay, and then volunteering and extracurricular activities. Students who get into the upper echelon universities do not confuse their priorities. I would guess that Edison or Einstein had a little time to daydream; many of our teens do not.
Teachers should not be expected to be sympathetic or lenient when a student scores poorly on a math test or fails to hand in an assignment because of soccer practice or a game. Furthermore, blaming cheating or drug use on the school system should be regarded as an outrageous ploy and vigorously
rejected by thinking adults.
There are thousands of good colleges that accept B or B+ students, while aiming for a top tier college if you cannot manage to maintain an A or A- average in high school is unrealistic. California schools are about 48th out of 50 in quality of education. Our country is 34th of the 36 leading nations of the world in measurable quality and results of education, down from first place a few decades ago. We come in dead last on that list in math and science, and national surveys show that only 36% of our high school graduates are ready for college work. Colleges and universities have responded to this crisis by implementing a remedial curriculum for incoming freshman.
The reasons for this are complex and varied, and there are ways the school system could improve the quality of education students receive. However, placing the blame on our local education system for the out-of-school behavior of students misses the mark.
Susanna Gordon lives in Pleasanton and is a certified college admissions consultant who works with high school and junior college students in preparing for SATs, ACTs, and grad school admissions tests. Her children are graduates of Amador Valley high School, four are UC graduates, some with advanced degrees, and her youngest is a private school graduate.