CNN Traces Journey To College

Student featured in news special

Joseph K. Green ’05 gathered his blocking group together this weekend to relive his senior year in high school. He is the subject of a new CNN feature that first aired last Saturday night.

The special, entitled “Kids Under Pressure,” followed the Harvard first-year, along with two of his former classmates at Santa Monica High School in Santa Monica, Calif., through the process of applying to Harvard and other top schools.

“I got all nervous again watching the scene at the airport when I found out I had gotten into Harvard,” he said, “but my friends were cracking jokes the whole time.”

The film mixes footage of the students with commentary by parents, counsellors and experts, as well as attempts to show the costs—in terms of time, energy and money—of building a college resume.

“They came to select events of my senior year through April,” Green said, including his SAT preparation, his long hours of study, his extracurricular involvements in water polo and knowledge bowl tournaments—and finally his elation when he found out he was admitted to Harvard.

The program’s host describes Green’s senior year of high school as “a year on the edge of burnout” and suggests that the experiences of Green and his classmates are “a reflection of what seniors are going through across the country.”

Green was contacted in the spring of 2000 by filmmakers Barbara Leverwitz and Jamie Hellman, who had drawn their names from western Los Angeles high schools, and finally chose him and classmates Holly Sedillos and Corky Bennett to star in the documentary.

But Green said he’s not entirely satisfied with CNN’s representation of his own experience of applying to college.

“They had a title in mind from the start,” he said. “They came up with a thesis before getting the evidence.”

“It made our lives look more pressured than they actually were...they could have said we still manage to have fun,” he added.

Green said the filmmakers didn’t represent the variety of experiences of senior year at his diverse high school.

“They picked three rich kids from my school and they all lived within two blocks of me,” he said.

He was given a camera to shoot his own footage, but little of that was included in the film. Green says that footage might have shown a broader perspective on his life.

The film also exaggerated the cost of his private SAT tutoring, he says. The video quoted the cost of Kaplan classes at $799 and private tutors at $1,099, but didn’t mention that Green altogether spent only $300 on SAT preparation, through a private tutoring company.

“The company refused to be on TV,” he explains, “so they brought the Kaplan guy in to fake-tutor me on camera.”

But Green says he still enjoyed participating in documentary and considers it “something to show the grandkids on day.”

“It’s a lot more nerve-wracking finding out whether you’re getting into Harvard than it is being on camera,” he says.