The Loh Life is writer/performer Sandra Tsing Loh's weekly take on life, family, and pop culture in early 21st century Southern California.
Hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh

Breaking sad, part 2: fear high school

Sandra Tsing Loh's expectations for college admission.

It was after Halloween that I embarked on this year's scariest project.  Touring high schools for my eighth grade daughter.

As a 12th grade counselor recently told a group of us worry-eyed moms and dads, clutching Styrofoam cups of coffee at 8 o'clock on a Wednesday morning: "People used to buy houses based on the nearby elementary school.  Now they base real estate on the local community college!"

WHAT?  Let me back up.

Many think of Los Angeles as an ocean of faceless urban public education, culminating in what a Vermont girlfriend of mine uncharitably refers to as "those large metal detector high schools."

But, in point of fact, for parents with boots on the ground, the very opposite is true.  Yes, our freeways still overlook many of those forbidding large gray buildings, but they are peppered with increasing numbers of tantalizing new magnet schools.  We're talking visual and performing arts magnets, high-tech and media studies magnets, justice and environmental science magnets - !

And sometimes, if you're at an "enriched studies" school, these fields coincide!  Namely, you research the history of a social problem, collect data, create a power point, and then write music for and dance the solution!  At least that's what 10th graders are doing in the West Valley... as far as I remember from some tour I took last year.

But, back to college.

My impression - and grant you, I am hysterical - is that Ivy League colleges now require at least a 5.7 GPA (only obtainable by taking 17 AP classes), a 15,000 SAT, which is the combined score of many mysterious new formats, and they cost upwards of $80,000 a year.

Meanwhile - and here we go to what this LAUSD counselor actually said - now the UC's are almost as hard to get into as the Ivies, and Cal States and community colleges are like the new UC's.

In fact- check this out - and I quote: "If you don't live in the area, because it's so desirable, you're going to need at least a 4.2 GPA to get into Cal State Long Beach!"

Which is why kids are now starting to take the PSAT in sixth grade!

But then here's the turn.  Because things have gotten so imbalanced, the UC system guarantees admission to seniors who are in the top 9% of their senior class... regardless of which high school it is!  So, that's why you have families eschewing those competitive elite suburban high schools where they'd need a 4.3 GPA to qualify for a UC in favor of a social justice magnet.  In a less tony part of town.  Where they could get as low as a 3.7.  Yikes!

Next week: home-schooling, anyone?