Absences due to college touring has consequences
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Each fall, seniors at Granite Bay High School and across the nation apply to dozens of colleges, in hopes of attending one of many sought-after schools.
While most would agree that when it comes to acceptances “the more the merrier,” getting into increasing numbers of colleges presents a separate dilemma: deciding where to enroll.
The decision process is perhaps the most trying step. Besides program strength, students have to consider tuition, location, and crucially, the campus environment.
Before committing to Texas Christian University for swimming, senior Chloe Miller traveled across the country to tour several schools.
For these official visits, Miller had to miss a significant amount of school, however she believes it was worth it.
“They’re quite important because you need to be at the school to see yourself there,” she said. “You’re going to spend the next four years there.”
To avoid missing school and getting behind, assistant principal Melanie Pando (formerly Anvari) recommends that students try and travel over holidays and summer vacation.
Unfortunately for many students, the timing and availability of college tours are very challenging.
Many colleges only offer tours on weekdays, when classes are in session. This might accommodate the university staff who hold the tours, but it puts many prospective students at a crossroads.
Students within Roseville Joint Union High School District have an allotment of 9 uncleared absences before they are faced with consequence. Assistant Principal Jessup McGregor says that this policy is intended to allow for illnesses, family matters, and even college visits.
“The coding of absences for college visits is due to the way that we have to report student attendance to the state,” McGregor said.
Per the California Education Code, only a select few reasons are acceptable for an absence to be excused. Those that are college-related don’t fall in that group.
Thus, when GBHS students must be absent for any number of days, whether it be for an official sports visit or campus tour, their lack of presence on campus is marked “unexcused.”
Known and feared by many seniors is the RJUHSD Senior Conduct policy, which prohibits seniors from partaking in school activities because of bad behavior or, relating to this issue, attendance.
This is problematic for seniors, since the 9 days includes those missed for illness or family affairs. The days can rack up quickly, leaving minimal days left over.
GBHS graduate and salutatorian of the Class of 2016 Savitri Asokan ran into this issue last year.
“I attended… for example, an interview and exam in Cambridge, which couldn’t be held at any other date, and admitted students’ weekends at a few colleges,” she said.
Asokan noted that she had accumulated avoidable absences “which exacerbated the situation.”
“I understood why I was placed on senior conduct, despite my reservations about the rules that caused it,” she said.
Soon after being placed on conduct, she appealed and was eventually cleared of the penalties.
“I think it was because I was the salutatorian that they took me off senior conduct (since I couldn’t really be prevented from walking at graduation.)” she said.
Though she looks back upon the situation as a “minor inconvenience,” she still doesn’t agree with the rules in place.
“I think the school should definitely adopt a more forgiving policy,” Asokan said, “since sometimes college-related absences are unavoidable.”
Reaffirming this, Miller emphasized how athletes “don’t really have a choice when they go” as coaches typically select dates for prospects to visit.
She so far has missed nine days of school for college visits, and with any more absences could be placed on senior conduct.
However to her benefit, “All students placed on senior conduct have the opportunity to appeal in March/April if they haven’t already been removed from conduct by then,” according to Pando.
Though the penalty can be lifted, it can make seniors in the positions of Miller and Asokan feel like they must compromise either high school or college opportunities.
“I don’t think it’s fair that they count them against us because we are going there to figure out our future,” Miller said. “It’s not like we are just missing school for fun we are going for a specific reason.”
Many alumni, including Asokan, note that their campus visits were critical to finding their college of best fit, and think the policy is too harsh.
“Especially during the senior year, when students should really begin thinking of themselves as part of a larger context which goes beyond high school, such regulations may end up doing more harm than good,” Asokan said.
Students with experiences like Miller and Asokan would like to see more lenience in absence policies when it comes to college visits. Mostly, they just want to assure they make the right decision about their future, without being penalized.
“Sometimes you’ve got to give a little now so that you prepare for that next step,” Miller said. “Nothing would suck more than to pick a school without visiting it or meeting the people you’ll be around and then and realize you hate it there.”