January, 2017
January 3, 2017
The Madness of American College Admissions

When I finished high school, I wasn’t a particularly interesting person. I didn’t have many discernible hobbies or interests. I played chess, but not very enthusiastically; I wasn’t even in the better half of chess players in my own club. I liked “reading”, but my tastes were eclectic and protean. I played no instrument. I proudly detested sports. I didn’t take part in any foreign exchange, and never visited foreign countries beyond family trips. I learned no foreign languages beyond English, and even that I dropped in favour of Latin. I took part in one summer school, only because my high school pushed me into it. I won a state Latin competition, but wasn’t particularly invested in Latin. I did no meaningful amount of “volunteer” or charitable work. I spent lots of time with my local church, where I helped organise events for children and teenagers. But that’s just what our church did; it wasn’t particularly glamorous.

So when I finished high school, my list of provable life achievements was remarkably short. But luckily that didn’t matter, because German universities do not care. I did well in school, and I could cobble together a not-terrible letter explaining why I liked philosophy. Most German universities simply select on the basis of GPA (Abiturnote), and I got places at all the universities I wanted to go. (Indeed, I only applied to three.) Because the system is transparent and uncomplicated, I never much worried about my “CV” before university. I didn’t have to; the system of applying to university wasn’t mad.


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