"The message is in the M&Ms" by Emma Boersma

EDITORIAL: New M&M man policy insufficient; save announcements for National College Decision Day

Although the new policy regarding the M&M man is a step in the right direction, the most effective way to reduce the pressure it puts on students is to save the ceremony for May 1, National College Decision Day.

Not only do students with many  college acceptances use their admittance announcements to peacock, it can feel like the twist of a dagger for others who were rejected or deferred from the same colleges.

“(The accepted student) goes up there and has that honor, but to what extent does that rub it in for somebody else?” said Chris Kuipers, associate director of college counseling. 

According to Kuipers, the M&M man also emphasizes the prestige of a school, a “terrible” measure of a college’s worth. The most important aspect of a college — as any well-meaning college counselor or admissions officer will say — is fit, so underscoring reputation, as the M&M man does, is unnecessary.

For example, hearing that a student got into their top choice might be exciting, but continuing to hear acceptance after acceptance from schools they know they won’t be attending only boosts said student’s ego.

While some faculty members argue that announcing acceptances celebrates students’ accomplishments, is this necessary when students attend only one school? This tradition, no matter how well-meaning, puts a spotlight on the number of acceptances, which is not what matters. So announcing a multitude of relatively unimportant acceptances only undermines the goal. The change alleviates this issue by establishing a ceiling of five announcements but keeps the door open to stress.

Early in the college application process, students are told to keep their lists private, but announcing schools to the entire high school defeats that purpose and encourages boasting. 

This blatant showing off also directly contradicts our school’s message of community. Rather than encouraging students to support each other through this inherently stressful process, they are pitted against each other as they try to collect the most acceptances from prestigious schools.

Although some may argue that the M&M man tradition helps familiarize underclassmen with colleges, hearing a school’s name hardly gives students relevant information. 

For example, hearing that a student got into X University does not offer any information about its core curriculum, selectivity or study abroad opportunities. The only way a student could become more informed is to take the initiative to look up the school or approach said senior — something underclassmen can do with or without the M&M man.

While a poll released on Oct. 22 of 31 seniors revealed that 66% of the class thinks the tradition should not be altered, 33% of seniors agreed it causes stress. This demonstrates that many seniors don’t see the M&M man as the “celebratory” and “positive” icon it is promoted as.

Furthermore, Country Day is the only member of the Bay Area Independent School College Counselors with a tradition of this nature. Clearly, the M&M man contradicts the philosophy of the school and organization to “act compassionately.”

The new policy attempts to reconcile this issue of gloating while still maintaining tradition, but announcing four schools that a student won’t attend can still lead to heartbreak, and the competitive culture remains. This is not the “perfect compromise” the college counselors contend. 

Rather, the “perfect compromise” is to put away the M&M man for college acceptances and restrict its use to college decision announcements. This would eliminate the stress and extra competition already felt during the college season while keeping this two-decade-old tradition alive.  

If students want to celebrate their impressive accomplishment of getting into college, they can and will do so with their family and friends. But announcing acceptances high school-wide turns that innocent celebration into a competition.

Originally published in the Nov. 12 edition of the Octagon.

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