Failing before I begin: the college application process


Hadley Corbett

The Common Application requires the entry of all educational transcripts received during high school. Entering so much information can be frustrating.

Hadley Corbett, Editor-in-Chief

Ask around and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who likes applications, and it’s easy to see why. It’s stressful to put yourself all out on paper for someone else to judge. Whether it’s an application for your dream job or your 100th credit card, the fear of rejection is present and it’s easy to get frustrated trying to answer all the questions.


For me, applications are my ultimate nemesis. I can’t stand even having to write my name out at the doctors’ office, let alone listing my insurance, social security, primary physician, preexisting health conditions, etc.. So when it came time to apply to college, I figured I was doomed.


The Common Application seemed like a promising solution to my dread. I had quite a few schools in mind including some state institutions such as the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois and some more ambitious choices like Carleton College and Amherst College. I thought that after filling out one application I could then simply forward it off to all the schools that interested me. I soon realized it’s not quite that simple.


I have homeschooled the last two years of high school while also taking classes at Elgin Community College. To apply to any college, I would need to send my transcripts from both my previous high school, ECC, and a self-created transcript from my homeschool.


If that wasn’t enough of a headache, almost every college has unique essay questions, expensive submission fees, specific teacher recommendation letter requirements including a letter of recommendation from a school counselor which I don’t officially have as a homeschooled student. Online forums told me to have my mother fill out that section of my application, but that even proved trying when questions didn’t seem to have easy answers. On top of that, the University of Illinois doesn’t even accept the Common Application so requires additional work for submissions.


While I greatly enjoyed the last two years of my education, I feel deeply frustrated that to continue on to another college I now have to prove myself through entering my GPA and class rank, both things I don’t really have and that I don’t feel are fair representations of me.


School isn’t easy and it shouldn’t be either, but we shouldn’t discourage students from attending by requiring them to fill out dozens of pages of questions. Maybe with some patience and persistence, I could have continued to power through applications, but I didn’t. I applied directly to a couple of schools (the University of Iowa and Northcentral College) that had no essay or recommendation requirements and quit after that. 


The thing is, I don’t feel like I failed at secondary education and am destined to end my educational journey here. Instead, I feel secondary education has failed me. It has failed to encourage me to apply to more schools, it has failed to make the application process easy and understandable, and it has failed to keep me focused on the importance of my learning and instead made me waste time trying to figure out how to forward transcripts.


It’s failed me and it’s failing many other students as well. This is a real problem and until there is a solution our applications will continue to weed out students not who aren’t intelligent enough to handle academia, but those who simply don’t have the patience to fit themselves into boxes.