Freshman Study Abroad

Or, "pre-freshman," really, since these students will not be earning college credit:

Princeton is working to create a program to send a tenth or more of its newly admitted students to a year of social service work in a foreign country before they set foot on campus as freshmen.
...such a program would give students a more international perspective, add to their maturity and give them a break from academic pressures. [Princeton's president] called it a year of “cleansing the palate of high school, giving them a year to regroup.” ... Princeton would not charge tuition for the year abroad, and would even offer financial assistance to those who needed it.
At this point you're probably thinking, like I am, that this sounds like a great thing: an awesome life-changing experience for a teenager who's never seen another part of the world, in many cases, even if it is more of just a lark for the high-achieving well-traveled set. Nonetheless, one must admit the upperest crust U's seem to be getting more meritocratic, lately, what with everything Harvard (and now other Ivy league schools) are doing to diversify their students by income, etc.

Growing numbers of high school students have opted to take a “gap year” before entering college, and many colleges offer one-year deferrals to students they admit. A small industry has developed to place some of them in work or travel experiences in other countries that often cost thousands of dollars. But experts say they believe that Princeton will be the first university to formalize such a program for entering freshmen, though many institutions offer study-abroad programs for students already on campus.

Proponents of the year off say it allows students to discover themselves and the world before they enter college.

“People are too young when they start college,” said Allan E. Goodman, president of the Institute of International Education. “This way, they would have a year to mature, and they can do something constructive.”

That's when it hit me: people entering college are 18 years old. My parents were married with kids at 18 years old. My grandparents too. Job-holders. Tax-payers. Mortgagees. Draftees. There's nothing about the age that makes you immature. It's the life-choices you made. Couldn't Princeton create more of an effect by just admitting more non-traditional (different-life-choice) students?

Instead, they're going to be accepting the same babies, then trying to mature them themselves with this program. And since these experiences won't be of their own doing, but will be part of a Princeton "program," and since they won't be surrounded by different people, but rather by other Princeton "program" members, won't this just backfire into extended summer camp and another way to delay growing up?

Maybe if, instead, applicants knew that another year of age or a year of work would "look good on the college ap," and maybe put their application above the rest, that would change the choices they make, in the same way college aps make skinny nerds take up sports, the unmusical take up clarinet, and the generally mediocre take years of test prep classes. If they knew they had to compete with single mothers, war veterans, and recovering drug addicts, maybe then they'd get out there, start families, start wars... oh wait, this is a bad idea, isn't it?

Nevermind. ;-)

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