Who is college for? What are the rituals of "getting in"? How does the college application system affect individuals, families, high schools, and colleges?
This interdisciplinary class draws on work in the Humanities and Social Sciences to examine the college admission process. Throughout, we will keep returning to the college application essay, that peculiarly American institution. Why do colleges solicit stories of the self? What role do these stories play in admissions?
Readings will provide the critical tools that we need to address these questions historically, culturally, and in the context of public policy. Students will write in response to the readings; they will also write about their own college application experiences while studying relevant national trends and debates. A field trip to the Bentley Historical Library will introduce students to a research assignment using documents that reveal the history of applying to the University of Michigan from the nineteenth-century to the present.
In the second half of the term, we will shift to a more practical approach, as we locate, learn about, and help to support programs in our immediate community that mentor high school students through the college application process. At the end of the term, students will evaluate what they learned from their reading, writing, and community engagement. These reflections will lead to group presentations and an individual final paper.
Reading assignments will be drawn from a digital course pack posted on CTools and from three required paperback books. Readings include all or parts of:
- Addams, Twenty Years at Hull-House;
- Dewey “The School as Social Centre”;
- Cintron, "A Boy and His Wall";
- Dunbar-Odom, Defying the Odds;
- Lemann, The Big Test;
- Stevens, Creating a Class;
- Elbow, Writing Without Teachers; and
- Brandt, Literacy in American Lives.
Written work may include individual and group assignments such as reports on community-based activities, critical response assignments, in-class freewrites, ethnographic interview with introduction, critical analysis of college admissions web sites or "how to get into college" books, and oral presentations. A draft of your integrative final paper will be revised for submission in final form. Attendance required.