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Fostering Learner Identities

HCRL's picture

A hot topic at Haverford, and it seems at Bryn Mawr as well, is having a diverse student body that hails from a variety of backgrounds. To do this, selective schools such as BMC or HC accept certain high-achieving students from many different schools across the country and world. It is likely that students who are accepted to these schools have some kind of learner identity, as they must have done quite well in school to gain acceptance. Alternatively, they might not have performed amazingly in high school, but written some kind of essay that expressed what prevented them from achieving great grades, and why an education is important to them for the future. My question for this post comes from what happens after we have been accepted. At that point, we all have equal access to an education, and to all of the resources offered on campus. But, as Haverford Dean of Admissions Jess Lord says in his annual speech during Customs, “50% of you will be the bottom 50% of this class.” I wonder if many students come to the Bi-Co with strong learner identities, but then when thrown into classes with so many other smart and motivated students, lose that learner identity. Based on my own experiences and watching friends, it seems that students from prep-schools fair quite well here, but that students from public schools with less training for college struggle a bit more, especially in the first few months of their first year. Even though students don’t talk about grades, it seems to me that students generally have an idea of where they stand academically. Personally, I know I try not to think about grades too much, but it is pretty difficult to completely ignore them. I wonder how Haverford and Bryn Mawr can foster a learner identity in every student, even with 50% of the students having to be in the bottom 50%. It is possible they are already doing this, but I am curious to hear what others think about this!