So for the past week I’ve been teaching high school students how to write college admissions essays. The kids were on campus for a week to attend a series of lectures and labs meant to expose them to careers in science and math, and over the course of four days I only got six hours with them. This compounded with the fact that these students are sophomores and still a few semesters away from actually submitting an application essay… and with the fact that each night they reported staying up until the wee hours stacking mattresses in the dorms or engaging in a very intense video game tournament… needless to say, they weren’t that into it.
But I was surprised about how savvy they were regarding applying to college, especially since most of them will be the first in their families to earn a degree. These students are from a charter school in south Texas called the YES Academy. They have the idea of college drilled into them from day one of high school. They make numerous campus visits each year, and they can’t graduate without an acceptance letter to a four-year university. It’s impressive.
Yet despite the fact that each student seemed to know exactly what branch of science or medicine he or she wanted to pursue (everything from cardiology to nano-somethingorother to pediatric anesthesiologist), they had no idea how to read directions on a damn worksheet. Case in point:
Directions: Choose one event from the past week at Rice. Describe this event in vivid detail, and brainstorm briefly about how this experience could be incorporated into a college application essay. Remember that you must connect this event to your future goals as a college student.
Most of the students discussed the video game tournament. Or the mattresses. Or some combination thereof. Which truthfully I would not have had a problem with, but when asked how this relates to their personal or academic goals in college, most of them put in their earphones and started looking for some high school booty on myspace. This is why you don’t teach high schoolers in a computer lab.
There was one student, however, who came up with something great. Apparently one of the labs the students attended involved cutting chicken in half with a laser… and then melding the chicken back together with another laser. The chicken was returned to its pre-laser state! Of course, this did not relate to said student’s college goals any more than a Playstation marathon, but it got me thinking. If performing this chicken experiment could be my sole responsibility — if I was promised the task of amazing high school sophomores with my chicken laser skills every day — I think I could stomach being a scientist. And, as a scientist, I would certainly make more money. The laser chicken! The laser chicken is the answer!