Cambridge, MA-In order to select the "most qualified" undergraduate candidates from an increasingly selective applicant pool, Harvard College has added a Standardized Hoop-Jumping Test (SHJT) to its admissions criteria, and the rest of the Ivy League and many other elite colleges have decided to follow suit.
"Our goal in admissions is to attract the best students to the college," says William R. Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions at Harvard. "Our students must have excellent grades and test scores, rigorous classes, strong character, and leadership experience-but we are simply drowning in qualified candidates. So, in addition to those prior qualities, Harvard wants applicants who can soar through the air, leaping through flaming hoops like graceful seals, or perhaps majestic killer whales."
"Of course, the SHJT is 'completely optional,'" Fitzsimmons added, making exaggerated air quotes with both hands. "But what better way is there to show that you are a truly well-rounded student than the noble art of hoop-jumping?"
"I think this test is a great addition to the college application process," says Jasmine Thompson, a nationally ranked gymnast with a 4.0 GPA who, in her spare time, started an organization to defuse landmines in Cambodia. "I'm filled with so much excitement over taking the SHJT, I can barely hold it in!"
Yet the SHJT has already become the source of controversy. High scores on the SHJT tend to correlate closely with parental income, as richer families can afford more extensive hoop-prep. "In the fall, I give three lessons a day to juniors and seniors who want to improve their hoop-jumping," says Victoria Woodhouse, a former professional dog trainer and SHJT tutor. "I'm fully booked for the next five years!"
"Really, it's such a joy working with these students," continued Woodhouse. "They're so smart! After the first two or three lessons, I don't even need to feed them treats to make them jump."
Low performance on the SHJT for students who cannot afford tutoring has been linked to decreased self-esteem, as well as first-through-third-degree burns. "Whenever I mess up and burn myself, I try to just slap on an ice pack and keep going," said Andrew Moore, a student at PS 505. "This way I might be able to pay off my medical bills before my student loans."
Many students also feel that the SHJT is an additional burden during an already hectic and stressful time of year. "I feel exhausted," says Kevin Lin, a BHSEC senior (or a "Y2," as he insistently called himself). "After doing my homework, doing chores, writing college essays, studying for the SAT, volunteering, and leading several clubs, I now have to practice my hoop-jumping. Oh well. Who needs sleep, or friends, or any sort of personal life? Kids who aren't going to Princeton, that's who!" Lin then held out his hand for a high-five and immediately fell asleep.
When asked if he felt the SHJT accurately assessed students' capabilities, Fitzsimmons laughed. "Come on," he said, "it's still a better judge of merit than the SAT."