The College Application Process Then and Now

I’m longing for the good old days. The days when applying to college wasn’t a three-ring circus of hoops to jump through, academic acrobatics and so many common app essays that you could fill a clown car.

Let’s all hop aboard my way back train as I recount the strenuous endeavor of applying to college back in the day. I, dressed in my bathrobe and drinking a Tab, filled out my applications in between painting my nails and watching All My Children. I’m guessing it took a good ten minutes per college because after I finished my second application my nails were dry and ready for a topcoat.

When that was done I found my dad and he wrote a $10 check to each school to pay the application fee. The whole process was finished before All My Children ended.

Now, granted I wasn’t applying to an Ivy League, but two of the colleges were considered in today’s lexicon as “competitive” and one is now classified as “highly competitive.”

Oh, all right, true confession time. I didn’t get into the highly competitive college. And umm yeah, my dad may have made a phone call to get me into Baylor. But let’s focus back on the point that applying to college wasn’t the saga that it is today.

I’m currently in hard-core recovery mode from just watching my daughter apply to college. Good lord, the essays alone were mind-boggling and then there’s the short answers section where you’re asked, “What music are you listening to while doing your college application?” Or “what would you want to ask an omnipresent being?”

I told my daughter maybe she should reply that her question to the omnipresent being would be “Why is the college application process so goofy?”

Now, the colleges assure you that the questions are just meant to get to know you better and” aren’t part of the official decision process.” Really? Then why make a prospective student answer 30 of them? And it’s human nature to ponder why are they asking this question and what’s the best answer to nudge my application to the top of the pile? Just google the topic, it’s a veritable tsunami about how to answer the “Who are you?” questions.

To really stir the cauldron of indecision is when some colleges give you permission to be funny when answering. That’s a great, big minefield. Humor is very subjective and let’s face it not everyone has been gifted with a sense of humor or even the same sense of humor. For example, I usually don’t find Saturday Night Live hilarious. Am I alone in thinking this? Probably.

Then there’s what’s called the “supplemental” part of the submission process. It varies depending on the school, but they all have something in common – being a huge time suck. My daughter had to shoot a video describing her best traits. Sure, the actual video part didn’t take long to do (and no it wasn’t because as her brother taunted that there “wouldn’t be much to talk about”). What made it hours in the making was over analyzing what traits the college was looking for. (P.S. Telling your child to “just be herself” is seen as “being not helpful at all!”)

I know more seniors in high school are applying to college than every before and I get that colleges are looking for that certain spark in a prospective student, but I think some of the admission process has gotten a little wacky.

It makes a mother long for the days of yesteryear when you could multitask by sipping a now defunct brand of diet soda, painting your nails “baby soft” pink and filling out an application in your best cursive all while watching Erica Kane. Yes, indeed those were the days.