Applications for college need fixing

Walter Wang

 The steps for applying to college are staggering. There is an endless stream of essays, monotonous paperwork, difficult coursework and a need for increasingly higher standardized test scores.

There needs to be a better method for applying to colleges that does not involve a number and some not-so-insightful essays. This way, students will not need to try to kill each other for coveted spots. By the time students actually go to college, they are burned out from trying too hard to do so much in high school.
This is detrimental to America, as it results in students doing poorer during college, a more important aspect of higher education than high school.
College applications revolve around good standardized testing scores and taking hard high school courses while maintaining an amazing grade-point average. However, even those “most challenging of courses” are getting more difficult as students rise to higher standards and try to show each other up by going beyond that. According to, while a 4.0 GPA and good extracurricular activities would have nearly guaranteed acceptance into Ivy League colleges a few years ago, this is no longer the case.
Besides, tests like the SAT show no difference between someone who just walked in and scored high and a student who studied for hours to get that exact same score.
Taking challenging classes has also become a necessity for getting into top-notch colleges. The College Board implemented Advanced Placement courses in 1955 for select students who wanted to prove they were capable and already had learned the skills needed for entry-level college courses. Now, AP courses are almost mandatory for entrance into top-tier colleges.
In addition, colleges expect students to convey the essence of their entire life into a personal statement. It is difficult to express all of one’s beliefs, experiences and individuality in 500 words. No essay can truly embody a student’s life; rather, actions speak far louder than words.
What students do in their lives should show colleges what they believe in. A student who enjoys an academic challenge will pursue academic interests; others who like athletics will play sports, yet others who appreciate service will volunteer their time.
However, the way that colleges approach the application process has limited many students’ potentials. Colleges like to see students achieve perfection in all their classes and activities. Students shy from AP courses with the threat of a grade below an A, even though the course might greatly interest, engage and benefit them. Likewise, students are scared of focusing on just one extracurricular for fear of colleges needing to see other activities they were stellar at.
This limitation is restricting progress; if students are allowed to pursue what they desire without fear of recriminations, they will learn a better lesson for life than if they learn to conform to what is expected and do nothing audacious.
Instead of increasing expectations every year, colleges need to settle on a standard of excellence. This new system would track what the students have done over four years and focus more on interviews so colleges could get a feel for who the student is, rather than forcing students to write an ineffectual essay. To get a clearer picture, colleges must look beyond simple essays and tests. Standardized tests and short essays cannot convey the essence of a person; that can only be seen through experience.
Students should be able to begin the application process as freshmen rather than having to wait until senior year. With interviews spanning four years, colleges can really see the maturation of a student, giving far greater insight into a student’s personality than simple essays. The job of colleges is to groom students for the future.
To do that, they must find what is best for each student, which the current application process does not do because of its impersonality. This process does not put a face on the applicants; instead, it turns them into numbers.
Instead of trying to outshine everyone, focus on what you are truly passionate about. This will show colleges who you truly are; if they do not like that, it is too bad for them. Everyone is unique; colleges cannot expect to see perfect cookie-cutter students. Prospective freshmen should be who they are, and express their interests to the utmost, instead of conforming to college standards that homogenize society.
By Walter Wang