Entering College from a Neighborhood High School

Several decades ago, on the first day of my freshman physics class at MIT, the professor asked how many students had graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, a most highly selective high school. When several hands were raised, the professor said that after two weeks, all students would be at the same level of proficiency.  More than five decades later, during my fiftieth college reunion, I chatted with a Black undergraduate student from Atlanta, Georgia. He told me that in the summer before the start of his freshman year, he had attended an intensive course at MIT designed to upgrade the mathematical and scientific competency of new students entering from economically disadvantaged communities.

These two experiences suggest that bright students in the United States and Israel who work hard can expect to receive a fine college education and enjoy a satisfying career regardless of whether they attend a highly selective high school or their neighborhood high school which may have a diminished curriculum. Bright students can petition their neighborhood high school for permission to enroll in advanced courses offered by adjunct teachers or by other organizations.

A bright student who works hard will most likely graduate near the top of the class from a neighborhood high school filled primarily with average students. A top graduate of a neighborhood high school may have as good a chance of acceptance by a selective college as an equally bright student who, with a 50% probability, graduated in the lower half of the class from a highly selective high school filled entirely with very bright students. (Of course, all graduates of highly selective high schools are fully qualified to be admitted to selective colleges.) Furthermore, any accredited college can provide a good education.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is an emeritus professor of industrial engineering and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, and Jewish Voice.
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