For the past year my mind has been consumed bythoughts of college admission: where to apply, how and when to fill out theapplication, what to say and how to say it.
I began the arduous,immediate-reward-lacking task by struggling through the paper version of theCommon Application, patiently filling in my name, rank and serial number. I thenrealized that, even after a concentrated effort, just my atrocious handwritingmay be enough to get me rejected. And so, I spent the next six hours in search ofan online application. When I finally found one that seemed reliable and easy, Ispent several hours waiting for the system to stop crashing. It didn't. Back topaper.
Steaming with frustration and in need of comic relief, Ipressed on to the activities chart. This had columns for "hours perweek" and "weeks per year," i.e. time spent on each activity,right next to the checklist for the grade levels during which I participated. Ilaughed, because it is ridiculous to expect a senior to approximate the hours heonce spent in an average week on any given ninth-grade activity. (However long Ispent, though, I'm sure it was longer than I slept last night.) This column seemsto cry out, "Please, fill me with false information! I don't care if therearen't 200 hours in a week!"
The greatest folly of this part of theapplication, though, is in the title: "Extracurricular, Personal andVolunteer Activities." Whoever created this application egregiously excludedsome important, time-consuming activities. The chart should be accompanied by asimilar one entitled "College Research, College Visits, CollegeApplications, College Interviews and Other Drawn-out Attempts at CollegeIdentification by the Applicant that Coincide with Applicant Categorization bythe College." Within this chart there would be a column, like on the first,entitled "Hours spent per week," right beside a column titled,"Activity which would have been a more productive use of these samehours."
The truly perfect applicant for any college wouldn't havetime to waste filling out the application, and this is why the perfect applicantdoes not exist.
Each college expects to be each applicant's first choice.It is this haughty attitude, fueled by desire to increase a particular school'syield of the most qualified applicants, that pressures students into applying toEarly Decision programs. This same attitude leads many institutions of"higher" education to make up their own essay questions, without beingable to ascertain just how much, if any, of the essay was actually written by theapplicant. I suppose some of the long-windedness of the application is a gauge ofan applicant's ability to deal with real-world stress levels. But I was unawarethat the real world functioned on the honor system.
I'm sure my rancorwill pass eventually, although I have spent nearly as much time on applicationsas I did participating in the very activities that render me the desirablecandidate the colleges are seeking.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.