Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Top Ten Percent Rule

In response to my classmate’s Government blog, “talking texas politics”, and to the post "Texas' Top Ten Percent", I would like to add some thoughts and make some suggestions. My classmate defined Texas’ Top 10% rule by explaining that a high school student that graduates in the top ten percent of their class is guaranteed automatic acceptance to any Texas college of their choice. This Texas law was instituted to increase minority attendance in colleges, but has seemed to lead to other problems as well. While my classmate has very valid points, I would like to extend an additional point of view.

There seems to be a dispute between the students who attend “stronger” schools, graduating below the top ten percent line while taking harder courses, and the students who attend “weaker” schools, graduating in the top ten percent while taking the minimal required courses and while also maintaining a much lower GPA. Many are frustrated because the student who graduates in the top ten percent of the class at a “weaker” school is guaranteed acceptance regardless of his GPA, SAT or ACT scores, or extra curricular activities. Many students feel this is unfair, due to the fact that there are many students carrying 3.9 and 4.0 GPA’s, mastering the SAT’s, and holding leadership positions in many activities, but yet are not guaranteed admission to the college of their choice. While I understand the frustrations of some students (and I will present a solution in a moment), I also can see how some assumptions can create this tension.

First, it is important to define “weak” schools. Are people referring to a school zoned in a low-income area? Or, is “weak” in reference to a small school? If referring to a small school, where the competition may seem less, thus giving some students the opportunity to make their way to the top of their class, I have a personal testimony to bring some misconstrued ideas to rest. I, personally, graduated from a small 3A school with only 89 in my graduating class; the competition was intense, to say the least. I managed to graduate eighth in my class with a 3.87 GPA. This success did not come from just taking the minimal course requirements, but rather- it was the victory at the end of a long, hard road that took much dedication and hard work on my behalf. Coming from a family to be the first in many generations to even hope to attend college, I worked sacrificially in order to land myself a place in the top of my class. Not only did I keep good grades, but I took advanced placement classes, held three leadership positions in extra curricular activities, volunteered in the community, worked a twenty-hour work week outside of class, and managed to make somewhat decent SAT and ACT scores. With only graduating eighth in my class, having so many accomplishments, the competition was tough. I hope this sheds some light on the fallacy that graduating in the top ten percent of a 3A school class is easy. Needless to say, I was admitted to the Texas school of my choice, Texas A&M University. Do I feel that I was able to attend a college of my choice at the expense of someone else? I absolutely do not.

Those that view “weak” schools as those schools located in low-income areas, full of minority students, must also consider the atmosphere those students live in. One might complain, stating that a student that attends a low-income school could graduate valedictorian with a 3.6 GPA. Is this not note-worthy? Forgive me, but a 3.6 GPA from a person who may be the first in their entire family to ever pursue college is a pretty good grade! Although a student who graduates in the top ten of a low-income school may not have taken advanced placement courses nor have participated in as many extra curricular activities, does not determine his/her readiness for college or determine whether or not they deserve college acceptance. It is important to note that schools zoned in poverty stricken areas, have students who may not have the motivation and confidence to succeed. The teachers may not be as motivated to teach or to encourage the students to pursue their dreams through furthering their education. I see it as exceptional that students from these communities soar to new heights through their own personal motivations. And, I applaud our Government for allowing these students opportunities to be accepted to the university of their choice.

Now, do I feel that there should be restrictions on the amount of students allowed to attend each University? Yes! I suggest the idea of universities only being allowed to accept top ten percent students estimating fifty percent, nor more than sixty, of their incoming freshman class. This would allow for fifty percent of the freshman class to consist of those other, hardworking and dedicated students who maintained high GPA’s and good resumes, but were not able to graduate in the top ten percent of their class.

I can understand the frustration among students who see no hope of attending the college of their choice due to overpopulated schools (because of the top ten percent guaranteed admission rule). I present the idea of setting limits on the number of top ten percent students a university can accommodate. In return, I hope that students who do not graduate in their top ten do not disregard the hard work that other students, who did graduate in the top ten, have contributed.

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