Monday, August 18, 2014

An Objective Critique of the College Application Process

I know that the title is a bit essay-like, but trust me on this one: the college application process must be criticized professionally or else I'll sound like some whining kid (which I, most definitely, am NOT)

August brings in the smell of fall, new shoes, and curriculum. Romantic isn't it? 
For seniors, this month also brings in the monster that we've created in the college application process
           What with the nervous energy created by looming future, and the overwhelming nostalgia, Senior Year can be an emotional roller coaster! It can't be made worse by anything other than the fact that it is also a pivotal year which decides the next 4 years of your life.

I've created a useful (at least I think so) timeline of senior year based on observations and experience...

SUMMER (June to September)

What they're supposed to be doing: 
  • Creating a College List (complete with estimated costs for each college),
  • Visiting Colleges ("While you're at it...why don't you stay for a week?"),
  • Creating Rough Drafts of our Applications essays (it's best to be prepared right?),
  • Volunteering in activities that will help the community (and, more importantly, look good on our applications),
  • Being a leader at some extra-curricular activity we are passionate about, and
(This one's the clincher...)
  • Having fun too.
The demands are...well, they're quite crazy. 
Of course, being passionate, and helping the community while also being on top of the applications process by writing 7-8 essays about yourself and your wit, knowing exactly what you are going to do with your life (and where you are going to spend it) for the next four years, and also having fun...is extremely easy! 

That is, it's easy if you are the kind of person who enjoys:
  • trying to sound witty on paper (but end up sounding tacky...wit on paper is always tacky, take it from the expert); 
  • volunteering at non-profits not because you like the cause, but because you want to add another item to your weighty college application; and
  • researching about your future, and trying to cement one thing you're going to do, when you're barely 17 years old, and have no idea what you want to do with your adult life.
The idea that we have to fake volunteering in the community, and be a "leader" at extra-curricular activities we "enjoy" is so forced to me. If a person is truly passionate about a cause, they will volunteer at events, and rise to positions of leadership because of their passion. If a person is just doing all these things because they want to go to college, they don't really deserve the credit  they get. These people aren't passionate about the cause, they're passionate about themselves and their prospects at college.

FALL (October to December)

What we're supposed to be doing:
  • COLLEGE APPLICATIONS!!
  • oh, and don't forget to...study (not as big a deal though..)
Suddenly the fun isn't even a part of the agenda. All that needs to be done is the college application process. Having fun is an added bonus, and one must be grateful if one even get's a hint of it. First semester/first quarter of high school studies are tolerated...it isn't really the priority right now. 
         Writing, writing, writing. That is all that is being done. Everyone's trying to be funny, and charming, and creative; they're exaggerating, and finally wielding the full power of the influence of those high test scores. The words "You are more than your test scores" fall on distracted ears, as anxiety brims up in every heart whose SAT score is less than a 2200. 
         We're high school students, we're supposed to be studying, learning, not finding new ways to portray ourselves to trick colleges into taking us in. 
All the advice is about how to make yourself look good; nothing is about how you are already good enough...the thing is to find the college that is right for you (all How To Find The Right College For You articles and advice columns are suddenly disregarded - Harvard, MIT, UCLA, NYU, and Yale are flooded with applications). 
           I'm drowning in the fake-ness and the advice that forces us to be fake. I wish someone would just stand on a high school rooftop, and yell for all the seniors to write what they feel like. I wish that someone would tell seniors to be themselves, to not exaggerate, and to do nothing they aren't really interested in. 

WINTER (January to March)

What they're told to do:
  • Have fun! Go on a fun spring break...be crazy, and wild. You're teenagers!
  • Oh yeah...don't forget to study (Grades are important)
      The two things that nobody cared about in the fall are now the only things left to do. This is when Senioritis sets in. It is the unique disease that high school seniors develop after the submission of their college applications; it is a form of laziness, and exhaustion so extreme that the most the infected can do is trudge out of bed, and get to school...and of course have fun.

Symptoms include:
  • Late Nights
  • Afternoons spent hanging out, and chilling instead of volunteering at events they were soo "passionate" about.
  • Slightly drooping grades
Now all the pretentiousness is gone, and the seniors admit that they deserve a break. They finally start doing what they want to do, and are relieved that they no longer have to put up the act of a "responsible, community-minded individual." Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, they do deserve a break, but a 6 month break from ones passions shouldn't be considered as a break, but as a letter of resignation. 
           For a while, all is well, seniors do what is absolutely necessary: they reminisce about high school; they hang out with their beloved friends, knowing that this is probably the end of all things familiar; they make some final memories; they laugh and cry and laugh again. Prom season is in the air and all is well

SPRING (April to June)

What they're supposed to be doing:
  • Calmly awaiting their acceptance letters, and
  • keeping a sleepless vigil over their grades
There ends the beautiful mirage of what senior year is supposed to be like. When these people look back at their senior year of high school, they don't remember the enervating application process; they remember the nervous energy: the needless giggling, and the fake excitement about any and every thing, of waiting for the acceptance letters. The air is slightly strained, but nobody admits it. All seems well on the surface: spring break trips to the beach, and happy pictures are everywhere (Especially Facebook), but the acceptance letters are swooping down like bats in a dark cave. 
         This is the time for religion, and prayers, and hope. The nerve-racking end for an overall nerve-racking year...