Since statistics show that the average candidate for admission to Harvard College obtains almost exactly the necessary 26 points, it would seem that the requirements for entrance are well adapted to the curricula of the schools at which men prepare. It is true, however, that this average is a mean of two extremes, about which the individual cases tend to group themselves. Men are liable to enter either with points to spare or with conditions; and a subject for discussion lies in the fact that the latter class is composed almost wholly of students who come from public schools which plan their programs of study without reference to Harvard. These conditions have given rise to the criticism that Harvard is losing its grip upon the high schools and to a plea that an effort be made to renew its hold. But has the University ever had any influence on the plan of study in such institutions? When it is seen that more than half the public high schools of Massachusetts have not sent to Harvard a single boy in ten years, it is clear that the true answer is negative. The great mass of high schools throughout the country do their own work in their own way, regardless of the regulations of admission to Harvard or any other college.
The University might, then, attempt to make its requirements conform to the curricula of the public schools. That an increased number of students from such institutions would be a benefit to the College is apparent from the investigations which have shown that a preponderance of students of the "preparatory" school type is detrimental to the scholarship of Harvard College as a whole.
It would seem that the problem may be solved by making admission requirements more general. Questions of detail involving mere abstract facts, which with sufficient study a scholar even of low standard may acquire, should appear much less frequently on the papers. Their place should be taken by questions requiring a good general knowledge of a subject and demanding a certain amount of careful and accurate thought. This might prove a sure and speedy way of raising the standard of scholarship.