Fall is finally here. The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, the nights are longer, and for KO seniors, college applications are looming, like a hideous leviathan, in the not so distant distance. The process is an inevitable rite of passage, as we soldier on to the next chapter in our young lives. However, instead of feeling excited, for many, applying to college can feel militaristic, calculated, and devoid of emotion, making the entire process unpleasant for students and parents alike.
While applying to anything, let alone to places that will impact your life trajectory, is an intrinsically stressful endeavor, there are ways to approach college applications that can reduce the unpleasantries, and perhaps inject some small semblance of joy into the next maddening couple of months. And while I promise we’ll get to the joy and happiness, it is necessary to diagnose the fundamental flaws with the college application procedure before we can begin to talk about potential cures.
Let’s forget for a moment the overwhelming tedium that is actually completing applications and take a look at the effect the particular amalgamation of information required has on applicants. As seniors at a self proclaimed “college preparatory school,” applying to college had been at least in the back of our minds since our freshman year. And as the years flew by, those once dormant thoughts festered, influencing the classes we took, the clubs we joined, the sports we played, and the time we spent. And, after all this diligence, all of our hours spent practicing, studying, and playing, our effort and achievements will be reduced to mere letters and numbers on a few pages. Pages that admissions officers will pour over for a grand total of around 15 minutes.
15 minutes. That’s it. It’s as dehumanizing as it is disheartening: having out entire selves relegated to a snapshot, a glimpse into the intricacies that make us who we are. And thus is the fundamental flaw in the college process, and in higher education all together: the impersonality. Focus is placed on grades and scores rather than humanity and individuality. Memorization and regurgitation are prioritized over the ability to think critically and thoughtfully. And perhaps most detrimentally, being “right” is glorified while being wrong is demonized and stigmatized. Rather than being given the opportunity and incentive to make mistakes academically and to learn from those mistakes, we are taught from a young age that correct answers supersede correct thought processes.
This notion is hammered in with the standardized tests taken by high school students applying to college. Juniors and seniors have the choice of taking either the SAT or the ACT, two slightly different iterations of the same survey style test concept in which test takers are given a multitude of multiple choice questions across a variety of subject matters. Scores on these tests are often heavily considered factors in students’ applications to colleges. As a result, students and parents alike often associate good scores with academic and intellectual proficiency, leading to students measuring themselves against their peers and their scores. Not only is this unhealthy; it is also, as outlined above, incredibly inaccurate.
Rather than measuring ourselves by our test scores and grades, we should, both peers and parents, encourage our friends and children to measure themselves by the content of their character.