Letter to the Editor

Reader cares about opportunities for future students

Sunday, October 23, 2011

To the Editor:

After my last letter, there is something I would like to clear up.

I don't write to the paper because I want to see my name in print. I don't say that I want to talk to anyone who will listen about education because I want to remind people that I go to MIT.

Instead, I'm trying to speak now because I care very much about the educational opportunities of current and future students.

There is a fairly obvious relationship between education and career prospects in the broadest sense, but looking at numbers showing higher career earnings at increasing degree levels gives only a very rough sketch of reality.

Graduates with degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields go on to have a higher median salary, both at the entry level and mid-career.

Beyond this separation, institutional statistics for career earnings were released this week and the top two schools were MIT and Caltech. Is it just coincidence that the two schools focus heavily on STEM subjects?

I mention these rankings because not every high school or college graduate is alike. We should not be aiming for the minimum passing score for all students and generic, "advanced," course loads are simply not enough preparation for rigorous college degree programs. An applicant who has only taken advanced classes in the humanities will have a difficult time applying for programs in the sciences and vice versa.

My senior year in high school, there were no AP science classes for me to take -- out of more than a half dozen classes, biology may have been offered, but that wouldn't have mattered, since I'd already taken the class.

Beyond the issues with taking any of these classes, there was no one to suggest that I should be trying to take college classes instead, that I should be doing more.

There was no one to point out that the list of colleges to which I was applying wasn't entirely reasonable -- while I may have gotten into MIT, it was the only school to which I was admitted outright.

I was rejected from two schools and wait-listed at two others. After all my experiences throughout the last five or six years, I've learned quite a bit outside of the classroom.

I have no idea in what sort of perfect world the advising system at Northview is actually effective: With only three counselors for nearly 1,200 students, there is absolutely no way they can be expected to provide more than cursory advice to anybody, let alone point advanced students in the right direction.

Nor do I see how the current plant will do anything to prevent students from dropping out of school.

Besides hoping for a serious discussion about the importance of advanced STEM subjects, I am asking to help in whatever way I can.

I'm not asking for money; I'm looking for results.

And right now, it seems to me like this is a cause that can use all the help that's available.

Devin Ahern,

Cambridge, Mass.