AP Education Writer
Though just teenagers, the applicants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are a scarily accomplished lot. They have started businesses and published academic research. One built a working nuclear reactor in his garage. In their high schools, they have led every extracurricular club and mastered the SAT.
But surprisingly few have done what Marilee Jones, the woman who actually decides which one in seven MIT applicants gets in, thinks 18-year-olds ought to be doing.
Not many sleep eight hours a night, or eat three meals a day. Few spend time each day just staring into space.
And Jones is blunt about the consequences.
The quest for perfection “is making our children sick,” the MIT dean of admissions told a recent gathering of college admissions professionals in Boston. She means it literally, snapping off statistics on the increase in ulcers, anxiety disorders and control disorders such as cutting and anorexia.
“Kids aren’t supposed to be finished,” she said. “They’re partial. They’re raw. That’s why we’re in the business.”
For years, high school teachers and counselors have been complaining about the emotional and physical toll of the competition for slots in selective colleges. SAT prep classes and an arms race of extracurricular resume-building, they say, are draining the fun out of life for their students.