Aroundthe first of October, I came to be in possession of a certain very importantform. The instructions were quite explicit and printed in big, bold letters:"Please provide this page to a teacher. Include a stamped envelope addressedto the college."
All right, I thought. This teacher recommendationstuff isn't too hard.
My eyes then turned to another form in the packet,where I was to sign my name. The instructions again were quite explicit andprinted in big, bold letters: "Place this form, your essay, and your teacherrecommendations into the provided envelope."
That was when, being thecalm, rational person I am, I threw the whole mess into the fireplace and watchedwith great glee as it went back to the fiery inferno from which it - and allcollege applications - are undoubtedly spawned.
Well, maybe not, but thatdoesn't mean I didn't consider it. In the few months I've been working on this,I've learned that college applications were created for the sole purpose oftesting and tormenting high school seniors. I mean, half the stuff they ask theycan't really care about. Why should a school in Pennsylvania care where yourparents went to college or, as one form asked, what your blood type is? (I guessI should have known better than to apply to Transylvania University.)
Ifyou ask me, there is only one logical explanation: it's all a conspiracy.Colleges, especially small ones, have too many qualified applicants, so theycreate an application that only one in 100 will fill out correctly. The smallerthe school, the more dastardly the application. Fill in "United States"under county? You're gone. Forgot to dot an i so it comes out looking like an l?Too bad. And God forbid you write in blue pen instead of black.
Even ifthe applications weren't designed to be used as entrance exams, there's nodenying they are. An underpaid, overworked employee of the school isn't going towaste time trying to decipher mistakes. Plus, as far as he or she is concerned,your failure to follow instructions doesn't say much for you. This is one casewhere it pays to be just a little bit more careful with reading directions andwriting neatly, something which I, unfortunately, did not do the first timearound. This resulted in much pain and gnashing of teeth, and is not anexperience I would wish on my worst enemy.
Right now, I am in the midst ofwriting eight college essays for the four schools to which I am applying.Naturally, only one accepts the Common Application, so no luck there. Oddlyenough, half the essay topics assume that I've already been to college,graduated, and am preparing to return for my 25th class reunion. Case in point:"How will the (insert creative name here) program affect the way you liveyour life after college?" Let me just check my crystal ball ...
Butit's as I'm writing the essays that I begin to realize who the true victims are:the people who have to read all this. I don't know who they angered in a formerlife, but to be reincarnated (if you believe in that sort of thing) as thescholarly equivalent of a dung beetle had to take some doing. Their agony is madeworse by the topics colleges present students, which undoubtedly give birth tosome of the most woefully lifeless essays in the history of humanity (though I'msure my "Meditations on the Life of a Grapefruit" piece was a realcrowd-pleaser). It's amazing that anyone could stand to wade through these;personally, after reading a page-long dissertation on a trip to Wal-Mart, I'd beready to immolate the author with a rusty spork. On the other hand, it allows thecollege to easily differentiate the really good writers from the not-so-goodones: if the essay reader is not curled up in a fetal position by the lastsentence, then there's hope for a student yet.
So, all things considered,I guess my life could be worse: I could be on the receiving end of one of myessays. So as I sit here, tearing recommendation forms in half (one piece to mailto the college myself, the other for the teacher to mail), I'll remember: Life'sall about keeping things in perspective.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've gota sporking to attend ... and I'm the guest of honor.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.