Every year, during the Upper School Awards Ceremony at Marlborough, the College Book Awards are distributed to a select group of juniors. Each award goes to a student who has achieved academic excellence while displaying aptitude in a specialized field. For example, the Brown University Book Award is given to a student who excels in English literature and written expression, and the University of Pennsylvania Book Award goes to a student with exemplary involvement in community service. While we at the UltraViolet believe it is justified for high-achieving and passionate students to receive recognition, we feel that awarding College Book Awards is an underhanded attempt by colleges to drum up student interest in their schools.
Colleges use book awards as a means to market themselves to certain high school students. Though the entire faculty nominates and selects the book award winners, the alumni associations of each college establish the criteria for their school’s book award in the hopes of honoring a student who would thrive at their alma mater. In a sense, the college gives a student the award as an enticement to apply there, though the award certainly does not guarantee admittance to that college. Of course a student may deserve an award, but she is also a part of a nationwide marketing ploy to bolster application numbers, which taints the integrity of the award and in a way diminishes the student’s efforts by suggesting that students only work hard in order to gain acceptance into prestigious institutions. We at the UltraViolet believe that Marlborough should not associate students’ achievements with names of prestigious colleges. Instead, the School should honor students purely for their hard work and dedication.
Furthermore, for the most part, book awards grant visibility to the Ivy Leagues and other highly-selective institutions. As students watch the awards ceremony in Caswell Hall, we hear only the names of schools like Harvard University, Princeton University and Yale University, emphasizing the notion that these colleges are the worthiest and most prestigious, when in reality there exists a myriad of smaller, overlooked schools that do not receive as much attention. Simply because a university belongs to the Ivy League does not mean it is the right fit for a student.
We agree with the concept of awards tailored to students’ achievements but believe that the awards should go by different names, and the criteria for the awards should be established by the Marlborough faculty, not by colleges. It should not be assumed that students excel and follow their passions solely to be recognized by selective universities. Awards should acknowledge the labor put into improving one’s school work, deepening one’s extracurricular interests and strengthening one’s moral character and not how well a student might potentially fit into Dartmouth or Yale.