Applying to College Shouldn’t Be This Hard

Applying to College Shouldn’t Be This Hard

Autumn Lloyd, Editor

College application season is looming over Fruita seniors. Most are either beginning or finalizing their college lists and trying not to think about the sheer quantity of personal information they have to submit to admissions officers across the country. Tax returns, family education, test scores, school transcripts and more all must be meticulously entered into the Common App or a school’s specific application page over the coming weeks. But by far the most daunting part of the application process is the essay. 

College essays are a genre unto themselves. One must strike the balance between promoting oneself and seeming humble, and between writing an entertaining essay and sounding authentic. The Common App this year asks students to “discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others” or to “recount a time when [they] faced a challenge, setback, or failure” and describe what they learned. 

Questions like these encourage students to glorify their lives, to exaggerate their successes and failures to a ridiculous degree in order to satisfy what they think admissions officers want to read. Most high schoolers have not yet faced challenges or setbacks that feel worth writing about, or, if they have, they may feel uncomfortable sharing those hardships with admissions officers. Likewise, many seniors have trouble thinking of successes that live up to the essay prompt. It requires a significant victory to “spark a period of personal growth,” and most struggle to answer this question without skewing reality. 

Senior Anna Paul expressed similar concerns, stating “college essays are meant to show college admissions officers who students are as people, but their prompts often just encourage students to exaggerate their lives and make themselves seem deeper and more interesting than they really are.” 

The point of college for many is to gain the depth and experience that high school has failed to give them. Why, then, are students expected to be able to write essays about life-changing achievements and setbacks?

Some colleges are choosing to skip the hassle of essays and the holistic admissions process, opting instead to base application decisions solely on grades and test scores. This is known as automatic or direct admissions. Stephanie Hughes at Marketplace reports that the Common App conducted an experiment in which it partnered with different schools to offer guaranteed admission to students meeting certain criteria. The experiment found that “students who received the offer were more likely to actually apply, and the biggest effects were among students who are historically underrepresented in higher education.”

Advocates of direct admission claim that guaranteeing students a place at a school can increase the number of students who matriculate and pay tuition, which helps to support the bottom line of universities and saves underrepresented students from having to navigate the daunting admissions process. Public universities in Texas have been required to use automatic admissions since 1997, when then-Governor George W. Bush signed Texas House Bill 588 into law. April Maguire for Collegevine reports that this bill, known as the Top 10% Rule, “requires public universities in Texas to admit all Lone Star students who graduate in the top 10% of their high school classes.” Maguire claims that this law has allowed Texas universities to better deal with large applicant pools as well as increasing diversity by admitting students from differing socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Many FMHS students would prefer direct admissions to the grueling essay-writing process they are currently slogging through. Senior Jack Kelly, for example, stated “I don’t really like college essays because all schools should be looking at is academics and extracurriculars.” 

Students like Kelly feel that their high school records should stand for themselves. 

Performance in classes and outside activities show a more accurate picture of how a student will do in college than a story about their greatest success or most substantial hardship. The point of college is to continue one’s education, so one’s previous academic performance should be all a college needs to understand how that student will perform at their particular institution of higher learning. 

The current admissions process is unnecessarily difficult and time intensive, which is stressful for everyone and discourages low income and first generation students from applying. High school seniors should be spending their final year of high school learning, not figuring out how to make their life events sound meaningful to admissions officers.