Amy Chong

The Nightmare of College Admissions

It’s that time of the year again. This Thanksgiving break, seniors across the country will be sitting at their computers, desperately trying to complete their UC/CSU college apps. “Don’t submit your application at 11:59 p.m.,” advised my UC Irvine tour guide last weekend, “The server will probably be jammed, and after midnight, it’s too late.”

On my campus visits last weekend, I can fondly remember the Q-and-A session I attended. I wanted the details on whether city college or AP credits were transferable, and I remember the heads turning in my direction as I asked. Even more fondly, I can remember the avalanche of urgency that followed, where students and parents shot the staff with details on SAT scores, dual-enrollment courses, and college credit. The speakers failed to look in my direction again.

Meanwhile, students drift in and out of the computer lab, struggling to decipher the language of college admissions. “Maybe my alternative major should be ‘saxophone,'” jokes the boy in front of me, a jazz musician, the son of a doctor and first-choice Biochemistry major. The adults don’t think it’s very funny.

I’m meticulously entering every class I ever took in high school with their corresponding grades while I listen to one woman instruct another woman on the details of the college process. She discusses the best time to take students on campus tours (spring break of junior year) and what classes colleges want to see (GATE and AP). She talks about her son attending Bishop Diego while I wonder what she’s doing at a public high school such as mine. I can see the listening woman’s anxiety levels rising, and I already feel bad for her son. The anxiety she feels has been following students since junior year, when the pressure for college searching begins.

Now in the midst of my senior year, not a day goes by that I don’t hear someone mention college. Often it’s the girls behind me in math class comparing their SAT scores or worrying about their essay responses; sometimes it’s students in Economics who puzzle over scholarship instructions and complain about counselors. It’s a contest to see who is most appealing to college admissions and what kind of connections they hold otherwise.

According to my theory, the only thing that should matter in college admissions is intelligence-not financial background, and certainly not familial connections. While I just love to hear people list all the relatives they have who went to so-and-so university, I can live without. While it’s true that I’m annoyed because I’m not favored, I’m even more annoyed that schools will prefer kids because of their relatives, and that they even have the nerve to ask. When most schools have need-blind admissions to ignore financial differences, why are alumni so important?

Luckily, the college application process is ending soon for public university applicants, and I raise my hands in gratitude.

Getting accepted is the first hurdle-finding tuition money is next.


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