News

Palo Alto High School's student newspaper opts not to publish college map

Student-editors urge peers to take a stand against 'toxic, comparison-driven culture'

The outgoing editors of Palo Alto High School's student newspaper The Campanile, from left, Kaylie Nguyen, Waverly Long, Ujwal Srivastava, Ethan Nissim and Leyton Ho, decided to withhold publishing the map of where seniors plan to go to college in its graduation issue. Photo by Veronica Weber.

A group of student journalists at Palo Alto High School has decided to break with a decadeslong, cherished practice of publishing a map that illustrates where seniors are going after graduation.

For some, The Campanile newspaper's annual college map, searchable by colleges and individuals, is a celebration of seniors' hard work and achievements.

For others, it embodies a toxic, competitive culture and enforces a belief many in Palo Alto and communities across the country are battling: that the only post-high school path worth celebrating is the one through the ivy-covered gates of a top-tier, four-year university.

"The decision was made to try and take a stand against the culture that we've created at Paly," said senior Leyton Ho, one of The Campanile's five outgoing editors-in-chief who together chose not to publish the map this year.

The five editors, all seniors, started to question the value of the map while they were writing their final editorial of the year, which urges the student body to challenge Paly's "culture of achievement." Their thinking was influenced by the nationwide college-admissions bribery scandal that exposed the extreme lengths to which some people will go to gain admission to the nation's elite colleges, including the parents of one of their Paly peers.

The map, which uses students' self-reports of where they're going, has long featured prominently at Paly. Seniors review past maps when they're applying to college and speculate on how or why a student got into a particular school.

Juniors, sophomores and freshmen read it faithfully. Parents wait eagerly for their child to be part of the yearslong tradition. In 2016, the Campanile editors-in-chief defended the map against criticisms from staff members as a factual list that "does not foster competition but rather encourages seniors bound for higher education or alternative paths to take pride in their postgraduate plans."

Yet the map is just one of many graduation trappings at Paly that can feel isolating to some students, from T-shirt day, when seniors come to school wearing clothes from their chosen college, to decorating graduation caps with college names, a practice Gunn High School abolished several years ago but Paly has kept. Conversations about who got accepted where — and who didn't — permeate the campus and social media. Even the subversive college-rejection wall, where seniors post their rejection letters, can reinforce an obsession with a certain set of schools, the Campanile editors said.

"It's not like people are sitting around talking about how much they hate to go to community college. But this is a place full of very ambitious students, and it's a place full of people who want to achieve a lot," outgoing Campanile editor-in-chief Ethan Nissim said. "If you are someone who maybe doesn't have much to contribute to a conversation like that, it does feel like you're being boxed out."

At first, the editors thought they would keep the map, which The Campanile has published since at least the 1980s, but add features that would "diminish the negative effects of it," said outgoing editor-in-chief Waverly Long, including removing student names and including verbatim quotes from seniors on their post-graduation plans. Gunn's student newspaper, The Oracle, publishes in print only a self-reported college map without students' names. Oracle student-editors decided to stop listing student names in 2015, according to journalism adviser Kristy Blackburn.

A few days before they were set to start production on their last edition of the year, debate among the student journalists started up again. After talking with several adults on campus, including Paly's college and career counselor, they decided to do away with the map all together.

"We realized that it's really the students who need to take a stand against the culture," Long said. "We were hoping that future students would (take a stand), and the more we talked about it, we realized there's really no reason why we shouldn't be those students."

The editors published instead a two-page spread with quotes from students and teachers on Paly's college culture and seniors who are choosing non-traditional paths after graduation, such as community college, gap years or international schools.

"College is always on our minds. There's always tension in the air. There's always some kind of looming fear that you're going to mess up. People can seem kind of fake sometimes and it's hard to be able to do what you want because you think there is some 'right thing' that you have to do," senior Andrew Shih told The Campanile.

The Campanile also quoted math teacher Arne Lim, who listed his name on the college map when he graduated from Paly in the 1980s: "You will always hear from us TAs (teacher advisers): College is a match; it is not a reward."

Reaction from students has been mixed, the editors said. Some are disappointed and expected that even if the map wasn't in print, it would still be online.

The decision also sparked some internal dissent at The Campanile, according to the new editors in chief, who learned of their predecessors' decision late into production of the last issue. Other staff members who found out when the paper came out were upset they weren't included in the decision, especially seniors.

"We pretty much agree that the college map is just a presentation of facts and information and it really does depend on how the reader interprets it," said Miranda Li, one of the new editors in chief. Culture change will come from changing peoples' attitudes about college, "not just taking away this information," she said.

Doing away with the map is "ultimately positive," though, in that it gives students the opportunity to reflect on the pros and cons of the tradition, Li said.

The new editors are still considering whether to publish the map next year.

The outgoing editors hope their own questioning of deep-rooted norms surrounding college will inspire others to do the same.

"The burden of improving Paly culture ultimately falls on students — administrators and teachers can only do so much," the editors wrote in their last-ever editorial. "It is the responsibility of students to spend time on things that matter to them, and it is the responsibility of their peers to not judge them for it. At Paly, we've created a culture of achievement. But sometimes, the superficial glory of goal-oriented accomplishment isn't enough to make someone happy on its own."

Related content:

The moments, songs and emojis that define the class of 2019: Seniors reflect on their high school careers

• Listen to "Behind the Headlines" where departing and incoming student representatives to the Board of Education discuss key district issues of the past year and ongoing concerns of students. The episode is now available on YouTube and our podcast page.

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Comments

68 people like this
Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2019 at 10:02 am

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

I am disappointed to read that current students may think attending Foothill/DeAnza is a step down. I graduated from Paly in 1962 and attended Foothill for 2 years, after which I transferred to Whitman College. I got a very good education at Foothill, with faculty dedicated to teaching, and all my credits transferred to the 4 year school.

My husband attended CSM and transferred to Stanford. We are both emeriti at Stanford now, having spent our careers as librarian/archivists at Stanford. I look back on my Foothill days fondly.

My younger brother also went to Foothill, graduated from UC Davis and earned a PhD from Stanford. His career was spent at Davis.

I hope our local community colleges remain of the quality I found 50 years ago.


16 people like this
Posted by I Like Charts
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2019 at 10:29 am

I think it would be interesting to see a physical map of the distribution of paly (and gunn) students at colleges - if not by individual institution, then perhaps just by state. No names. Just counts.


56 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2019 at 10:41 am

I graduated from Paly in the 80s and I'm thrilled to see this "tradition" die. Kudos to the courageous Campanile editors for taking this step.


48 people like this
Posted by Thank goodness
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 28, 2019 at 10:59 am

Thank goodness is a registered user.

I am so happy to hear this. I think students should be encouraged to feel proud and happy at graduation, focusing on what they have accomplished, not what ticket they may or may not have purchased for the next leg.


3 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2019 at 11:00 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by PAer
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 28, 2019 at 11:05 am

If it won't for the bad idea, they have no idea at all.


49 people like this
Posted by Good Riddance
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 28, 2019 at 11:13 am

It's all about bragging rights.

No different than social media. Good riddance.


21 people like this
Posted by DT North
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2019 at 11:35 am

I am glad to see they are abolishing this though it would be interesting to see anonymously where people end up just to see some of the options out there kids may not have thought of. I also wish Foothill, DeAnza etc. didn't get such a bad rap. Perfectly acceptable place to take general ed and prerequisites and and maybe get more assurance that you will enjoy the major you choose. And all that debt kids and their parents are bogged down with? Would be 1/2 if you took your lower division at a JC!


40 people like this
Posted by Joe Meyers
a resident of Downtown North
on May 28, 2019 at 11:40 am

Once again young people have taken a fresh view and a bold step. I have a nephew who did not go to college, but instead pursued his passion as a professional welder. Everyone has something to contribute--best college, community college, or no college at all. Kudos to the Campanile editors.

Joe Meyers (father of a Paly alumnus)


55 people like this
Posted by 5th Generation
a resident of Mayfield
on May 28, 2019 at 11:44 am

I felt I was a total loser at Paly because I wasn't top of the class, a jock, or born into money. Career Counselling only made things worse, being made to think all that was qualified to do in life was auto repair or air conditioning maintenance. That sense of worthlessness hounded me for years after dropping out. I made my own way and have had a very successful career without a 4+ year degree, thank you very much.

I applaud this tiny step in the right direction.


44 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2019 at 12:06 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

Is the map really a cause of stress? If your worth is influenced by what other people have acheived, then you're in for a very long and depressing rest of your life.

In addition, if your worth is based on what your kids have acheived, you're pretty pathetic.

The map isn't the issue.

More students usually go to Foothill/DeAnza/Canada/CSM than go to Stanford/Harvard.

If your parents or friends look at you differently for going to a community college then it says more about them, then it does about you.


23 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2019 at 12:08 pm

Wa-a-ay back when, college was not always respected, so, promoting it into a big positive made sense. Today, "college" is such a branding exercise for so many that I think it is time to emphasize other things. The recent/ongoing admissions scandal has documented in excruciating detail how for many rich people, college is just an exclusive accessory like a Rolex watch. These people need to find less socially harmful way to signal their status. The change at The Campanile makes sense. "Make college educational again."


4 people like this
Posted by Where is the map?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 28, 2019 at 12:37 pm

Where is the map? is a registered user.

This article and the video interviews of Gunn and Paly students done by PA Weekly both mentioned that Gunn's Oracle publishes a college plans map for Gunn that does not include student names.

Can this map be found online? I cannot find it on Web Link or anywhere else.


6 people like this
Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2019 at 12:38 pm

College admissions will likely laud students who subscribe to and promote this idea, while at the same time sending data to rankings publications promoting the colleges that actually create the toxic comparison problem.


23 people like this
Posted by Well done, Campanile!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2019 at 12:39 pm

Well done, Campanile! is a registered user.

Well said, Campanile staff. A thoughtful and courageous stance. You and your counterparts at Gunn High School make us all very proud.


20 people like this
Posted by MD Mom
a resident of College Terrace
on May 28, 2019 at 12:56 pm

MD Mom is a registered user.

The Campanile editors made a very wise decision. @Jim H., though the map shouldn't be a cause of stress, it is understandably so, because of the toxic glorification of elite schools and academic achievements here. It would be difficult for even the most self-confident student not to feel some stress and low self-esteem if not fitting into the Paly mold. As much as I abhor this culture, and as the mom of a Paly junior, I even find myself wondering what it would be like to tell my friends that she was going to a "lower level" college.

By the way, my good friend graduated from Stanford, and later took classes at Foothill. She said the teaching was much better there than at Stanford.


12 people like this
Posted by Shawn
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2019 at 1:04 pm

I hope that these students don't acknowledge that they graduated from Palo Alto High or Gunn High School because that too shows elitism since both schools are highly regarded. It should be adequate to just say, "I graduated from a school" and leave it at that....don't need to rub it in that they were privileged enough to attend a top tier school when they make their way into adulthood.


1 person likes this
Posted by Terman
a resident of Terman Middle School
on May 28, 2019 at 1:24 pm

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Where is the map?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 28, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Where is the map? is a registered user.

So again, nobody knows where this Gunn college map without student names can be found? Has anyone actually seen this mythical creature, or did the PA Weekly article and interviews contain misinformation, and the map doesn't actually exist?


19 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2019 at 1:33 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

@MD Mom
You have just illuminating the problem. Parents take their kids achievements as their own and are embarrassed if their children are not as "accomplished" as others. You say in your post, "I even find myself wondering what it would be like to tell my friends that she was going to a "lower level" college."

Why not be proud of your child for making it through high school and moving on to college? Most likely, you projected that embarrassment onto your child which then makes them, as you say, "feel some stress and low self-esteem if not fitting into the Paly mold." But, it is you, and other parents shaping that mold.

Be proud of you student no matter where they go or what they acheive as long as they are happy, healthy and productive members of society.

When your now junior was 6 months old. If someone were to ask you your hopes and dreams for them, would you say that going to a top college was one of them? I doubt it. So, why should that change now?

Kids, and parents, need to be happy with who they are and what they've accomplished with the skills and talent that they have, not compare themselves to others.


17 people like this
Posted by BP Mom
a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2019 at 1:45 pm

Congratulations to all the students who are graduating from Paly, Gunn and any other local high schools. And wish them success in whatever path they choose to pursue next. And kudos to the Campanile Editors for making a significant and thoughtful change.

Listen to the children. They seem to know better than most adults in this town.


5 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on May 28, 2019 at 3:08 pm

Thanks to the students for ending this "tradition" that produced little more than bragging rights for the parents. This is similar to some of the stickup noses when I say I am from Barron Park. At one time this was still county, not Palo Alto and students at Gunn were considered second class. I am very glad that this is ending. We chose BP because we liked the area and the donkeys and goats and chickens there. It is gradually being gentrified, I hope not too much.
congratulations to all graduates from Gunn and Pally,


12 people like this
Posted by paradox
a resident of Green Acres
on May 28, 2019 at 3:14 pm

paradox is a registered user.

Dear Terman and MD Mom,
My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer while I attended Terman. My older brother had died a couple of years prior. My mother assuaged her sorrows in daily alcohol binges. This was not an environment conducive to academic achievement. I was one of the “losers”.
Recently my son graduated from Stanford. During his time at Stanford, he rode his bike to EPA to give weekly tutoring sessions to underprivileged kids. My son was empathetic to the fact that not all kids are blessed with privileged circumstances. As my dad used to say “ Palo Alto is filled with educated idiots”.


21 people like this
Posted by Class of 06
a resident of another community
on May 28, 2019 at 3:55 pm

I still have my Paly map--still look at it from time to time, even though I'm probably Facebook friends with 80% of my graduating class. What I think is interesting is seeing where people started and where they ended up--the people who transferred from a CC to a UC, the people who went away to college and then came back home, the people who quit four years and are now working as beauticians or bartenders, the Ivy grads who are now stay-at-home parents, and so on. It's a snapshot of where people were.

That being said...I understand the idea behind it, and it is the current editors choice to do it. Generally speaking, you know where people are heading to school (particularly nowadays, where May 1 has turned into a photo opp with everyone wearing their new college gear). You don't need a list. The student newspaper is for students, not for the parents who are nosy or using it to rank everyone. Is it necessary? No. Is it still fun for me to look at, thirteen years later? Yes.


14 people like this
Posted by About Time
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2019 at 4:01 pm

Amazing it has taken so long for the map to be removed from the Campanile. Has anyone in the past 5 years really even attempted to defend this "tradition"? Now, I hope we can do away with college T-shirt day and graduation college-cap decoration. It is great to students to have pride in their future college, but students are feeling enough pressure and judgement from those around them, and we all (students, parents, community) need to do all way can to send the right message.


7 people like this
Posted by Paly Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 28, 2019 at 4:06 pm

Gunn abolished the t-shirt tradition in 2015, but it made a comeback – Gunn seniors opted to wear their college t-shirts this year.


54 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2019 at 4:42 pm

@ Class of 06: That is an interesting point.

My husband knew a musician who recounted an interesting story. On the first day of a twelfth grade, the teacher asked people what they wanted to do with their lives and where they wanted to be in ten years.

One kid said that he wanted to join the Peace Corps and "make a difference in the world." Another kid said that he was going to go to Harvard and then Harvard Business and create or lead a company. Another said that she was going to be a pediatric surgeon working with needy individuals. Another wanted to be a scientist who would make a breakthrough with cancer research. One girl said that she wanted to be an architect who would design an iconic building.

This teenage musician was a bit worried that his goals just didn't seem lofty enough. When it was his turn, he said that he wanted to earn a double major in music and business and work as a professional musician.

The students in the class laughed. They didn't think he was serious (even though he was). The teacher laughed as well and even told him not to be afraid to "dream bigger" too.

This student went on to graduate from high school and college. He achieved his goal of a degree in music and business. He even went on to work in the music field. He enjoyed some success and even received several Grammy nominations.

At his ten-year high school reunion, he met many of his old classmates. The person who dreamed of joining the Peace Corp ended up as a manager of a fast-food restaurant. The one who was going to Harvard ended up becoming a marketing copywriter for a small newspaper. The would-be pediatric surgeon ended up dropping out of college and became a stay-at-home mom. The hopeful "scientist" went to jail for illicit drugs. The hopeful architect became a preschool teacher.

The musician recounted that he was the only one from that first-day-of-twelfth-grade class who ended up fulfilling his dream. He didn't feel smug about it at all. Life happens. It happens to all of us. Many students in colleges change their majors. Some work in fields that had nothing to do with those majors too. Most Americans (and people around the world) never graduate from college anyway -- and many of them still find some measure of success.

In the end, the musician said that many of those individuals were very happy despite never achieving their lofty aspirations. In fact, he said that the stay-at-home mom (the one who aspired to be a pediatric surgeon) was very happy and volunteers around that same community. He emphasized that the importance is not in achieving "status" but "contentment."

I think that this is the problem with many of these maps. I don't fault them (particularly if they are name-free). After all, life happens. It happens to us all. As such, life is going to become a sudden epiphany for each and every Paly graduate.

Most students will not be able to attend a top-tier college or university. It is a wonderful goal -- but most will rely upon Plan B (or C, D, E, etc.). Yes, those schools can open doors that a community college or public university cannot. And, yes, some jobs actively seek out graduates of "top-tier universities." However, they are not the "end all" of success.

The goal is not to achieve some "status" as programmed by society or even some teachers. The world certainly needs STEM workers and "disruptors." However, this world needs more than that. The key is to find contentment in what you do. If you're not feeling that contentment, keep up the search.

The happiest and most content person that I know is a woman who works as a massage therapist. She earned a post-graduate education in psychology or sociology; but, she ultimately changed careers. Her husband works in business selling medical supplies. They are far from wealthy. However, what they lack in money they more than make up with a happy marriage and family.

Paly and Gunn graduates have been blessed with a tremendous education in a wonderful community. They have had fantastic teachers who push them to stay curious and motivated to see the "big picture." I've met so many of these kids who express dizzying intellects.

In my small town, our family was very poor (migrant workers) but we stood out intellectually, academically and in terms of a scholastic work ethic. Students from Paly and Gunn have this wonderful gift that fans the flames of intellectual fortitude and drive. I am confident that most realize that life is a journey and the drive is up to them (and not the GPS programmed by others). The important thing is in learning that personal contentment offers the most satisfying moments of that journey.

Like my husband's musician-friend, the best dream is the one that you're living in the here-and-now or working happily to achieve. I don't have a problem with a map (preferably one without names) because it can remind you where you came from and where you go or hope to go. Still, it's nice to remember that "success" can come no matter where the road ultimately takes you.


4 people like this
Posted by An Enigma Of Sorts
a resident of Community Center
on May 28, 2019 at 6:02 pm

Honore de Balzac once wrote than a banker can never be an artist. Pretty much true with the possible exception of Paul Gauguin who gave up a career as a stock broker in France to become a impressionist painter in the French Polynesia.

Not many bankers have the vision to be a true artist...most are too busy counting money.


14 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 28, 2019 at 6:43 pm

I am not opposed to information, but, sadly, the college map became an aggressive bragging statement. A list of institutions and number of pending attendees would be ok (these can change, btw). The current over-sharing narcissistic culture is an unfortunate part of our lives; try to show some decency and modesty. Sharing big wins with your buddies has always been fine; aggressively intimidating peers is a nasty thing some Palo Alto teens have done at times....exaggerating, secret prep paid by parents, self-promotion....don’t reflect well on you even if you get away with it and get to go to Harvard.


16 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 28, 2019 at 7:51 pm

Hats off to the editors for making a courageous decision. The college map has been in existence since at least the late 70s. Back then, we had no internet, no videos, plenty of time to hangout. Now, it’s all a race to college. AP courses are much more rigorous and time consuming. Colleges want to see extracurriculars and volunteer work. Add social media and gaming and the results are sleep deprivation and awkward social skills because no one (besides the partiers) hangs out as much as we did. I know there are students who think they need to take 8-10 APs to be competitive applicants so their friends try to keep up. They are misguided, there is no reason to take more than 5-7 APs for elite school admissions. Even parents are busier these days with technology and high mortgages and this affects children too.

Agree that graduation hat decoration and college tee shirt day should be eliminated too. This would greatly reduce student stress. The bragging does damage to more students than it helps. Each class has 500 students, only 40-50 go to elite colleges.


19 people like this
Posted by Not Accurate
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 28, 2019 at 9:05 pm

Great decision, Campanile editors! The problem with the College Map is that there is no more information besides the college of choice. No mention of acceptance into Stanford but the student chose Cornell. No mention that the student chose the college for a particularly great department (but the college is otherwise not considered a top school). No mention that the student's GPA is less than XXX but something on the student's application wowed the admissions committee into accepting the student. No mention of the student being a legacy or parent has other connections for admission. No mention of acceptance into a top school but the student preferred a different campus vibe or preferred the location of another school for a better college experience. Since there is no background information, everyone is left to judge that the college the student chose is the best they could do academically, when this is entirely untrue.


14 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 29, 2019 at 4:23 am

On the other hand, broadcasting one's intentions is a time-honored method of motivating oneself to follow through, even if it becomes just to save face. The Campanile is depriving students of the all-important audience. The football game now has nobody in the stands. Because not everyone makes the field.

But we are all on a field somewhere. Anyone not wanting an audience can just opt out.
"The map ... uses students' self-reports of where they're going"


9 people like this
Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 29, 2019 at 8:26 am

Maybe a college map without names is a better choice. I’m a parent of incoming freshman this year, I would like to see the statistics of the college acceptance rates within PALY.


7 people like this
Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2019 at 10:59 am

@Sarah: “Paly” is a nickname not an acronym, therefore, it should not be capitalized. Each letter does not stand for a word, therefore, it is correctly written as “Paly”. PAUSD’s English teachers were outstanding back in the 80s; this mistake would never occur back then. Maybe you’ve seen it capitalized on clothing but that is a graphic design choice.


12 people like this
Posted by Unfortunate Choice
a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Unfortunate Choice is a registered user.

Eliminating the college map was a missed opportunity to revise the approach instead of just throwing it out the window. The Campanile could've written about the wide range of graduates' choices, showing current students that graduates have a plethora of options and plans: 2 yr community college, 4 yr college, gap year, vocational programs, caring for a grandparent or sibling, reading, working three jobs to save money, whatever. It's shortsighted and ridiculous to squelch all info in the name of protecting students from stress instead of celebrating different paths. Do the editors think students don't talk? How will the editors protect students from hearing about their peers' life plans once graduates hit the real world? My Paly graduate found it very valuable to know of other Paly students going to the same college, students who otherwise wouldn't have crossed paths. Knowing there were other Paly students going to the same university actually reduced stress because my student knew there would be a few friendly faces at a large school out of state. Dumb editorial decision to keep everyone in the dark instead of broadening the story.


8 people like this
Posted by Unfortunate Choice
a resident of Midtown
on May 29, 2019 at 12:03 pm

Unfortunate Choice is a registered user.

Eliminating the college map was a missed opportunity to revise the approach instead of just throwing it out the window. [Portion removed due to factual inaccuracy.] It's shortsighted and ridiculous to squelch all info in the name of protecting students from stress instead of celebrating different paths. Do the Campanie editors think students don't talk? How will the editors protect students from hearing about their peers' life plans once graduates hit the real world? My Paly graduate found it very valuable to know of other Paly students going to the same college, students who otherwise wouldn't have crossed paths. Knowing there were other Paly students going to the same university actually reduced stress because my student knew there would be a few friendly faces at a large school out of state. Dumb editorial decision to keep everyone in the dark instead of broadening the story.


21 people like this
Posted by Merry
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 29, 2019 at 12:26 pm

I hope we do not lose “culture of achievement”.
Achievement is a good thing.


8 people like this
Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Southgate
on May 29, 2019 at 1:43 pm

Bravo, well done... to this thoughtful, courageous group of student editors.


15 people like this
Posted by Benefits of College Map
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2019 at 2:28 pm

Benefits of College Map is a registered user.

We found the college map very helpful for seeing which colleges Paly graduates go to and how many attend. What surprised me the most was how many kids stay in state. It was also helpful for giving ideas as to schools our kid might not have thought of. However, the biggest benefit was it helped our kid reach out to upperclassman who were currently attending those colleges and hear what it was really like for a Paly kid to attend. Interestingly, that actually strongly dissuaded our kid from considering one of the top brand name schools they might have otherwise ranked high on their list and boosted the perception of other schools.

I do think a middle ground is to just not list the kids names although that removes one of the benefits above.

I think its a valuable lesson for high school kids to know someone who gets into Harvard, MIT, Yale, Princeton, etc... or another name brand school but that they do not get accepted to those schools. How are they going to be able to handle basic events in life otherwise, like their co-worker getting a promotion or a friend having an expensive house in a nice neighborhood. As people above have stated (and I have seen countless times) attending an Ivy league college does not equal success and is not necessary. I'm also very proud of the many kids who focused on fit over brand in making their college decisions. At the end of the day I wish every kid pursue their dreams and have a very enjoyable and enriching college experience.


14 people like this
Posted by Not Accurate
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2019 at 3:24 pm

@Musical, when students opt-out of stating their destination everyone assumes they are either working or going to community college and in Palo Alto, that is embarrassing because we have so many Ivy League/elite school parents who are graduates and parents who value elite schools. Viewing in the newspaper, it's printed alphabetically on two pages, much easier to see missing names.

The publication is merely for bragging rights for less than 1/4 of the senior student body. And no, musical, it won't make students work harder, it will make most students feel like failures. I'm not a socialist and I disapprove of participation trophies but ending the College Map was the right decision. Most schools do no publicize their acceptances and if students really want to know, they can check SnapChat, Instagram, or Facebook.

@Sarah, you can sign into Naviance (for students and parents) and look at the charts which show data on acceptances without names. But, it is skewed because sometimes the same students are accepted to the same schools so it appears more are being accepted when it's actually the same students.

@Benefits of College Map: Your opinion: "I think its a valuable lesson for high school kids to know someone who gets into Harvard, MIT, Yale, Princeton, etc... or another name brand school but that they do not get accepted to those schools. How are they going to be able to handle basic events in life otherwise, like their co-worker getting a promotion" Do you really think kids are that stupid? They have already learned in PAUSD that not everyone gets A's in classes. They already ride their bikes through Old Palo Alto and see that others have more wealth. They already experienced a difficult teacher while others have easy teachers in the same subject. They have learned inequality in life already, they are not 5-year-olds. In addition, if students want to see a list of where Paly students are applying to colleges, they can sign into Naviance and view the drop-down menus of college acceptances. They can read College Confidential.com reviews about schools, Yelp review, or social media postings of Paly students to connect with them. They can even contact the colleges and ask to speak with alums; there are plenty of paths to find alums to speak with. The "benefit" of being able to contact a Paly student does not outweigh the negatives of the College Map.

The College Map is inaccurate because it's not necessarily the highest ranking school where the student gained admission. Sure, some students are forced to attend the highest ranked school, but others choose for different reasons.

On a side note, everyone I know who attended UC Berkeley within the past 5 years has been/were miserable. It's so competitive that females sleep with their instructors and students are studying constantly. As for safety, there is crime and homelessness but liberal Berkeley ignores it. Someone got her computer stolen while she was at a coffee shop tying her shoelaces. A Paly grad said his bag was stolen as he sat inside a restaurant; he ran after him but could not catch up. Moreover, his apartment was burglarized twice. Berkeley is next to Oakland! The only reason to attend UCB is for the brand name. College should be a good experience with happy memories instead of leaving with PTSD.


13 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2019 at 4:09 pm

Annette is a registered user.

This little hamlet of ours has morphed into an utterly bizarre place in so many ways. I know people who strategize pre-school. Things can really only go downhill from there. I join those who are applauding this action by the students; it is a small step towards a more balanced perspective.


16 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2019 at 4:17 pm

Here's data from Paly's 2016/2017/2018 graduates:

27/15/17 UCB
10/10/5 Stanford
12/13/11 NYU
11/7/11 U Michigan
4/10/6 UCD
0/2/3 UCI
7/8/17 UCLA
5/6/3 UCSD
13/10/13 UCSB
2/4/5 UCSC
1/2/2 MIT
0/3/1 CalTech
1/0/4 Duke
1/3/2 UPenn
1/1/1 Harvard
3/1/3 Princeton
2/0/2 Yale
7/6/12 USC
5/5/2 Columbia
4/2/2 Cornell
5/5/0 Brown
5/0/2 Georgetown
4/4/2 Northwestern
1/3/1 UT Austin
1/6/7 Boston Univ.
1/1/0 Boston College
4/3/2 Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
1/4/3 Pomona
0/1/2 Johns Hopkins
0/0/1 Harvey Mudd
0/1/2 Rice
2/3/4 Tufts
2/3/2 Vanderbilt
1/4/2 Wellesley
1/0/0 Wake Forest
1/2/2 Tulane
7/4/9 Carnegie Mellon

Usually Stanford acceptances are due to affiliation with Stanford: parent professor, parent big wig employee, of which there are many in Palo Alto.

Look at the Ivy acceptances. Is it really worth it to push your children so hard? I heard that overall admissions this year at Paly/Gunn were terrible.

Conversely, the Paly College Counselors are doing the students a disservice by recommending CalState colleges to those who have 3.75+ GPAs.


9 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2019 at 6:19 pm

Number of 12th grade students at Paly in 2018 was 510.

More data:

1/3/3 University of Chicago
1/1/0 Carleton College
2/3/2 Claremont McKenna
1/0/2 Dartmouth
0/0/2 Colby
1/0/1 Colgate
2/0/0 Bowdoin
3/3/3 Brigham Young
1/2/2 Brandeis
0/1/2 Swarthmore
3/1/0 Scripps
2/0/8 Purdue
1/0/1 Middlebury
5/6/1 Northeastern
0/1/2 Lehigh
2/1/2 Emory
4/1/1 George Washington
1/1/2 Grinnell
2/0/0 Barnard
2/0/0 Baylor
1/0/2 Amherst
2/1/3 Case Western
2/0/1 Worcester Polytech
U of Notre Dame


2 people like this
Posted by Bananaphobia
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 29, 2019 at 9:04 pm

Funny. With all of this cheating going on to get into elite colleges & universities, why doesn't anyone raise the bar on their post high school destinations?

You never see a local high school graduate heading of to Cambridge or Oxford or Sorbonne.


1 person likes this
Posted by Paly Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 29, 2019 at 9:49 pm

Current Paly junior here (will be starting college applications in the fall).

I definitely think this is a step in the right direction, so good job to the EICs. However, I do agree with some of the other commenters that the culture of achievement should not be totally squashed (students should be allowed to celebrate achievement to some extent).

One of the large issues that I have seen with the college map is that people love to pigeonhole others into different groups (the user "Not Accurate," who is clearly another Paly student, is doing so in their comments). However, there is so much more to every single person's story than the rumors that fly.


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Posted by member1
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2019 at 8:25 am

member1 is a registered user.

Great Kids and neat to see.

Now they need to look at wearing military camo The style is to wear black underewear and unbutton the top buttons. Do any of them realize how disrespectful it is to treat a uniform worn by current and past military as a kind of joke. They are all just following some old tradition and do not know what it represents. It seems hopeful there may be some leaders and not followers coming up. Fine if they know what the tradition is and want to participate, but all of them like lemmings not even knowing why and trying to just be part of the crowd is sick.


3 people like this
Posted by member1
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2019 at 8:29 am

member1 is a registered user.

something seems very wrong about publishing kids' locations in a school newspaper. Wonder if it is even legal without the kids consent to have identifying markers by their names? Glad they stopped.


16 people like this
Posted by Reverse
a resident of Community Center
on May 30, 2019 at 8:56 am

Publishing how many kids go to each school each year or other profession (such as the military) actually shows only a few kids go to the top Ivy's and most go elsewhere, which seem to be a positive message. Not publishing the names (like Gunn does) would be a plus. However, if you can't handle knowing someone else in your grade went to Harvard (one Paly grad each year), you are going to have a tough time in life. As far as I'm concerned, the major issue is the parents who pressure their kids into going to a top school for their own prestige or kids who fail to recognize that department and major or more important than overall school brand. A philosophy degree from Princeton isn't going to be particular helpful (unless you plan to be a philosophy school teacher). I'll take a Carnegie Mellon CS grad any day of the week over a Harvard or Yale CS student. Kids, make your own choices about what's best for you.


2 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2019 at 10:16 am

Its funny ... most school districts and employers would celebrate having a culture of "goal-oriented accomplishment". Here it is discouraged. In any case, I believe college matriculation information is useful for students considering if/how/where to apply for college and can be obtained from the guidance counselling services (at least at Gunn).


14 people like this
Posted by Because They Don't Know Any Better!
a resident of Stanford
on May 30, 2019 at 1:41 pm

> With all of this cheating going on to get into elite colleges & universities, why doesn't anyone raise the bar on their post high school destinations?

> You never see a local high school graduate heading of to Cambridge or Oxford or Sorbonne.

^^^ probably because the students & their parents have never heard of them.

why bother cheating trying to get into an unknown college or university?

to most Cambridge = Harvard & Oxford = a pair of shoes.

Sorbonne is probably perceived as a sorbet variant.


1 person likes this
Posted by Where is the map?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 30, 2019 at 2:43 pm

Where is the map? is a registered user.

@Stats, some of your data is inconsistent with the Paly map as published in last year's Campanile issue. For example, you put the 2018 UCLA number at 17, while the Campanile had it at 6. Where did you get your data?

And on another note, it looks like no one has been able to say where this Gunn map without student names can be found. It must not really exist?


8 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2019 at 4:03 pm

To "Where is the map?" The last 3 years, it's been online in addition to the newspaper. It is possible that the newspaper was released first and then students got off the wait list and contacted them to change their college online. But yes, that is a big difference. Here is the 2018 map: Web Link The other consideration is that students have so much peer and public pressure that they lie, which happens.


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Posted by Where is the map?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 30, 2019 at 4:53 pm

Thanks, @Stats. So just to make sure I understand, you're saying that your 17 figure for UCLA in 2018 was based on the print edition, and the 6 number I saw is what the online version now shows (I just re-viewed the map in the link, and it indeed shows 6)? All of which would imply that the # dropped from 17 to 6, correct?

And no one knows where to find the Gunn-sans-student names map despite multiple references to its existence?


15 people like this
Posted by Sport
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2019 at 6:15 pm

The student newspaper should stop reporting on all athletic achievements by students by this logic. Sports emphasize a culture of competitiveness. Clearly some kids are athletically gifted - some are tall, some are strong, some are fast, etc. What about those who fit none of these bills - each student athlete or student team that is discussed, mentioned or glorified has got to hurt the self-esteem of those didn't or can't make the cut. Aren't sports just glorifying the privilege of having good genes?


5 people like this
Posted by Stats
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 30, 2019 at 11:07 pm

@Sport: Sports are different. The entire city, parents, adults, other students, and non-residents are awaiting the map to judge students. There is a much smaller audience for Paly sports.

@Where is the map? Ugh, my mistake! UCB is 17, UCLA is 6 in 2018 according to the web link. I checked both UCB and UCLA for 2016/2017 and those numbers are correct.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 31, 2019 at 1:10 am

Illuminating distribution on that map. I had not seen it before. Well done.

(Noted longitude sign-error, Rhode Island School of Design is mapped in Kyrgyzstan.)


2 people like this
Posted by Sport
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 31, 2019 at 7:34 am

@Stats: Results in sports, business and academics, etc. where there are complex challenges to navigate, skills to master, unique personalities, coaches, and family cheerleaders, are inherently interesting. I certainly don't judge and I suspect neither to do most others. And like after the Superbowl, or the current Warriors series is over, people move on. The kids graduating will move on to the next stage of their lives and we will wish each and everyone of them great success and happiness.

Our kids in Palo Alto are privileged. Whether its the beautiful sports complex at Paly or the wealthy donor contributing to the expansion at Addison, or the mothers and fathers sharing their unique experiences, or seeing world-class talks at Stanford, this is a uniquely fertile place for supporting the academic growth of young students.

Therefore, it is not surprising that people are curious about post high school plans. But that is it, it is curiosity driven by the uniqueness of the environment. Any judgement, if at all, is fleeting. People move on and get on with their own lives.

To all grads: Congratulations!


8 people like this
Posted by Bill Bucy
a resident of Barron Park
on May 31, 2019 at 9:26 am

Bill Bucy is a registered user.

Let's put this in a broader context.

According to the numbers posted by Stats, only 15 percent of the schools noted were public institutions and most of those were UCs. So we're really chewing over gradations among the elite. In most communities around the country the debate would be over a map of who got into college at all.


13 people like this
Posted by Dishonest
a resident of Downtown North
on May 31, 2019 at 11:56 am

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Meredith
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 31, 2019 at 3:06 pm

My children didn't attend school in the Bay area but we have played sports at Gunn HS and others in surrounding areas for 6 years. We have many friends there. My two sons are freshman at two CA colleges. They are both athletes and one of my son's actually turned down an offer from Dartmouth. For me that was hard, but I realized I needed to have a happy individual vs. forcing him to pursue a path he didn't want. My second son has decided after his first year at a 4 year university that he would rather go to our local JC and pick a new shcool. Both are good students and D1 athletes, but by no means were they pressured to take a particular path at 18 years old. I think the pressure, especially in the Bay area, is too much for young students. They might end up with good jobs, but will they find happiness? Will they have a sense of well being? Or, will they end up miserable in their 30's and 40's. Where you start doesn't matter as much as where you end and what type of person you become. I put pressure on my kids to do their best, but if their best was a C, a state school, or even a JC I was happy if they were living full lives. I went to a JC and then to a 4 year university and turned out just great. Everyone has their own path and the status of these universities does not define who you are, it only gives you bragging rights. In the end who cares? I don't respect a Harvard graduate any more than a state school graduate.


6 people like this
Posted by Ph.D. From Sorbonne
a resident of Stanford
on May 31, 2019 at 6:25 pm

> You never see a local high school graduate heading of to Cambridge or Oxford or Sorbonne.

And you probably never will. Too esoteric & besides, how many local high school students are 100% literate in upper division collegiate level French? Zero.

Tis better they set their sites on the aforementioned US colleges & universities.


2 people like this
Posted by Ph.D. From Sorbonne
a resident of Stanford
on May 31, 2019 at 6:27 pm

TYPO > sites = sights *L*


8 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad Mom
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 31, 2019 at 6:43 pm

What I would like to know is how many of these Paly and Gunn graduates returned home after their first and second year of college, and ended up enrolling at one of our local community or state colleges?
There is so much peer driven pressure within both of these schools for kids to apply to costly out-of-state private colleges. Many of them have no idea where a lot of these little private colleges are located. They kids just send out mass applications to numerous private colleges which spend a lot of money promoting themselves as some kind of elite institution.
It is both costly and unnecessary. We have great teachers and professors right here.
I noticed that many of my sons friends returned home after a terrible (and expensive) first year (or two) at out-of-state schools.
They should not have had to apply to them in the first place.
The counselors at both of our high schools should direct more students to our local community colleges, CSU's, and UC's.
Seems like quite a lot of students returned home were they realized that they were not as prepared for college as they thought - especially in the math and science areas. Math, especially - since it is a prerequisite for courses in science and engineering.
Meanwhile, the foreign students who paid cash to get into the "elite" places are sourcing paying people to write their papers, or getting caught cheating, and booted out.
So some other data would be more helpful rather than boast where these high school kids aspire to attend.


14 people like this
Posted by Hypocrites
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 31, 2019 at 8:23 pm

Once again... The Weekly and community being hypocritical. What's wrong with celebrating the map that Palo Alto students cover as they venture out into the world? We have articles in the Weekly and in the Palo Alto High School papers celebrating accomplishments every week. Weekly, are you going to stop with your top athletes of the week? Hypocrites. All of you. So if a child get into an Ivy league school we need to suppress that news? Cowards. All of you.


10 people like this
Posted by Humility and Kindness
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2019 at 11:15 am

I graduated from Paly in the late 70s and then we didn't decorate our mortar boards. Since I have kids at Paly, I can attest to the fact that the extreme focus now on elite schools is worse than it was in my day, when the same zero-sum game applied as well. The changing demographics here are producing an ever more intense atmosphere. Back then if you did exceptionally well and got into elite schools as I did you didn't want to brag, you wanted to be humble and not lord it over other people. Go ahead and criticize me by saying these kids today are just celebrating success, but we all know they are parading their "victory" when it would behoove them to start modeling the humility and kindness you need in life.


53 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 1, 2019 at 2:17 pm

Bravo, well done, Paly student journalists, so proud of you!

@Stat,

Thank you so much for sharing the data. A group of small vocal parents advocated WGPA two years ago, and PAUSD adopted controversial WGPA. Based on your data, WGPA made no difference and didn’t help on college admissions.

Also we all heard the overall the college admissions this year at Paly/Gunn were terrible. Gunn counselling even sent out the information through the Titan Talk and told parents “...For parents who are bewildered at the outcomes that students caught this year or did not catch…I am reminding you it was NOT that your teen was NOT GOOD ENOUGH, s/he was simply not selected and there are many reasons that happens....”

Maybe it is time to reverse WGPA decision, and it created toxic environment and armed race at both high schools. You can compare data before and after WGPA, let data speak.


3 people like this
Posted by In The Public Interest
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 2, 2019 at 7:50 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by I gots to know
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 2, 2019 at 12:57 pm

I gots to know is a registered user.

@Resident,
Both schools report WGPA.

Where is the data to back up the claim that admissions we're down for Gunn. How does that compare to Paly or Hugh schools around the state, country?

Gunn's counselors could have put out that note in order to receive some of the pressure from kids not getting accepted. It says nothing about the actual story. Stats' number say nothing about WGPA when you look inly at one school. Maybe schools are shunning PAUSD because they have realized that those in charge care only about grades and acceptances and not about the student or the climate of the school.

So many factors to look at. You came to the conclusion you wanted to based on your personal bias.


1 person likes this
Posted by Reality check
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 3, 2019 at 7:52 am

While I liked looking at the map, I do understand that it could cause unnecessary stress. That said, I think Palo Alto needs to toughen up its kids. We spend so much time in elementary school keeping them in a protective bubble and then they get to high school and can't cope with the real world. For example, kids soccer leagues making sure everyone gets a "participation" trophy in soccer at the end of the year and kids games that end without scores so that "everyone is a winner." We need to show kids early on that life is not always fair, that you will fall down, but can get back up. You can lose a soccer game and it won't ruin your day/week/life, so that by high school, they realize that there are plenty of ways to win at life, including going to any one of the 3,000 colleges out there.


7 people like this
Posted by Green Acres parent
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 3, 2019 at 9:48 am

Green Acres parent is a registered user.

I just want to correct @Parent's comment:
> A group of small vocal parents advocated WGPA two years ago, and PAUSD adopted controversial WGPA.

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you intended "small" to refer to the group and not the parents, some of whom would probably take offense to being called "small".

The district's own surveys indicated that the majority of parents, students, and teachers preferred weighted GPAs. I don't recall the exact numbers but support for weighted GPAs was strong among each of these groups. The only group with any significant opposition was Paly teachers. Given the environment at Paly at the time, this isn't surprising.

Referring to a group you disagree with as a "vocal minority" is a common strategy. It only works when there is no way to determine how big the group actually is.


36 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2019 at 11:33 am

To Green Acres parent,

Are you a member of vocal group for advocating WGPA? If you think WGPA is great, can WGPA help better outcome of the college admissions? otherwise it is meaningless and makes no difference. College Board will add adversity score for everyone taking the SAT, maybe on WGPA too.

PA community has many helicopter parents, please listen to our students:

Web Link
Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Let Me Fix That
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 3, 2019 at 11:40 am

@Parent. You wrote:

"A group of small vocal parents advocated WGPA two years ago, and PAUSD adopted controversial WGPA"

Oops, not quite right. Let me fix that for you:

"A small group of vocal parents *objected* to WGPA two years ago, but the Superintendent recommended and the Board unanimously approved a WGPA reporting policy supported by most parents, students, and teachers and similar to most other high schools."


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Posted by Member
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 3, 2019 at 5:25 pm

Except transfer students. They give no weighted credit for UC approved officially weighted ag classes officially transcripted. They give punitive damages to transfer students graduating from paly and kids have inaccurate transcripts because of this. They also take all weighted credit from kids in the new College Niw program every other student gets accurately weighted credit except paly kids.


4 people like this
Posted by HS Parents, check out Naviance!
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2019 at 6:21 pm

HS Parents, check out Naviance! is a registered user.

Both High Schools use NAVIANCE, which (more than the headcount) gives info about the actual academic profile of graduates from Paly or Gunn by college. It also allows you to enter search criteria to determine fit by size, program, location, interests, etc. Naviance accounts are available to families beginning 9th grade, so don't wait until Junior year to explore. There are self-assessment and career exploration features, in addition to the College & Career planning piece.

Good job, Campanille editors!


6 people like this
Posted by kidnotatIvy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2019 at 6:33 pm

I think removing the map was a mistake. If anything, the map served as a reality check for kids and parents who thought that everyone had gotten into an Ivy except them. Removing it won't reduce competition (and opting out is an easy option) or kids being disappointed that they didn't get into a dream school.

It's also a way to look back and find people--and see if there are connections.

The reality is that a handful of kids get into the Ivies and Stanford--many of those kids are legacies or connected. Some have truly done outstanding work. If we truly value non-Stanford and non-Ivies then we shouldn't be upset by the world know ing that our kid isn't going to Harvard.

What I'm really hearing here is that you think people should be ashamed of going to Foothill--so much so that no one should know about it.




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