America’s fascination with the college admission process is disheartening and cheapens the high school experience as a whole. If you go to Barnes and Noble, you can find hundreds of books dedicated to teaching you or your parent how to get into the most prestigious universities of the world, and online, there are countless columns and forums that give advice on how to crack the mysterious code of the process. In school, you hear your friends saying that something “looks good on your resume” or “is good for college apps” when you ask them why they partake in a club, and it’s sickening to watch students obsess over single points on a test because they think it will drastically impact their class rank and chances of getting into one of the most prestigious universities that America can offer.
Just like every other year, seniors in the Class of 2014 began the college process early by visiting schools that appealed to them before nervously creating accounts on the Common App website. Common App became the bane of almost all teacher recommenders and students when it crashed continuously and had various bugs throughout the duration of the application cycle from October to January, with several students not getting their applications in by the deadline as a result of faulty coding. Upon further inspection, it was found that Common Application, the website that allows millions of students to apply to participating colleges online, had a staff that consisted of less than 10 members and no customer service representative. The exasperation and tensions increased as students and the public learned that the version of Common Application that had been released for the Class of 2014 had not been tested beforehand.
Though filling out the Common Application was tedious, what was more difficult was choosing the perfect essay topic for the Common App essay. The essay was the one that all colleges would see, and your first impression in the eyes of an admission counselor, so it seemed like the most stressful task of the time. You didn’t want to write about something that made you sound boring or suburban, nor did you want to write about your travels of the world for fear of seeming too privileged. You were told not to write about your mission trip to Ghana because mission trips had become cliché, and no matter where you turned, someone else was criticizing the topic you had chosen to write about. At the end, you went with your gut instinct and pressed your finger on the “submit” button on your essay in order to get it out of your hands so that you could spend your time on more pressing matters, like your separate college supplements.
The first cycle of admissions ended mid-December when several students learned the results of their early decision and early action applications. There were tears of joy and sadness as students who were accepted were ecstatic at the fact that they had finished the process several months early, but those deferred or downright rejected needed to step up their game and first semester grades to gain admission at a different institution. The fury of writing, credit card swiping (students spent over $100 per application (because of application fees, SAT and ACT score sending fees, and supplement fees)), and worrying began again over Christmas break, and by the last “submit” click, every student felt nothing short of relieved. Everything was out of their hands.
The late winter and early spring months were spent with a lot of hand wringing and nail biting, being FINE in Mr. Nogowski’s words (Freaked Out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional). Many students spoke to each other for comfort and support as they wondered where they stood at their first chose institutions, whereas others like senior Julie Adams remained silent. Adams stated that she felt that staying private about her admissions process let her make an unobstructed college decision, as she didn’t have to deal with peers trying to sway her left and right.
Seniors thought that the world was going to end in December as they furiously click-clacked away on their supplement essays, but in reality, the worst moments of the admissions process were in March and April as college decisions rolled out. No longer are we in the era of fat and skinny envelopes sealing your fate, but that of internet portals and emails telling the decision. Some students decided to be very public about their decisions, posting each and every acceptance and rejection on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, whereas others remained quiet. Others gathered at places like Nina’s Custard to open decisions together, hoping to be around their loved ones when finding out life changing news. Whichever way they did it, seniors opened webpages to see the news that they hoped or dreaded to hear, ripping each acceptance off like a bandaid. Some students felt that their dreams were broken and others were pleasantly surprised at the results, but it is important to note that no one had a perfect experience with the admissions process.
I believe that the admissions process was the worst part of high school by far. Though I do agree that junior year was not exactly the most pleasant of times, having to put a brave face on to rejoice for your friends when you were sad and vice versa was a very trying experience. Sometimes it really did seem that decisions were illogical, when students with higher class rank or SAT scores were rejected when students with lower ones were accepted by the same institution, and I honestly can’t explain how I got into college at all when so many of my peers were much more hardworking, talented, and smarter than me. I honestly believe that no matter where you end up, with a good attitude, you will love wherever you go.