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November 18, 2002

-- Senior journal --

The agony of college essays...

By Mike Nguyen

When did anyone care how long my parents have been permanent residents of Connecticut? Well, apparently UConn does.

I'm caught in that uber-stressful stage in most high school seniors' lives called "Applying to College."

There's that confusing task of deciding whether you should begin your insanity two months premature and apply for early decision to your childhood dream school, or take the SAT...again.

And there's filing through all those college viewbooks you've gotten which all look the same at around midnight.

But the worst, yet critical, task of getting into college is applying.

First, you have to request an application from all the colleges you're interested in, which means filling out dozens of online forms, or making calls to admissions offices, all of whom request the same old thing: your name, address, social security (optional), and major of choice, to name just a few.

Some colleges are kind enough to send you an application without even asking, but I'm always wary of schools that desperate.

And after three or four weeks, you get these large envelopes that never fit in your mailbox correctly from the colleges you've begged to.

Sometimes, they'll send you two or three of the same oversized paper package, one with an application, and another with a bigger viewbook or prospectus.

Well, you now have your application, or maybe you don't, because your request is still rotting on the admissions computer, but let's assume you do.

Inside each application is the same hassle you went through to get your form in the first place.

You'll need yet again to provide your name, your address, your major of choice, and so forth.

But added to the same repetitive stuff you've been filling out all summer and fall, are more useless if not annoying questions. They need to know your your parents' names, any alumni in the family, your (lack of) participation in school and out of school, awards, essays, recommendations. They're all there.

Sure, they're crucial, but for the less organized of seniors, applying means rummaging through your messy room looking for test result sheets, certificates, report cards, and medals to brighten up your resume.

This is before you realize your school keeps track of everything that has happened to you in school in the form of a transcript. And, that you'll need to probably pay money to send your SAT scores out to colleges that you haven't already, because it's not enough for admissions to take your word for it in the application.

Then there's those recommendation letters you'll need to get from your teachers.

It's tragic payback if you spared no teachers in your relentless tomfoolery. If you still can, be nice or at least tolerable to at least one teacher.

Be prepared though, because they're going to need a list of your activities, awards, and other accomplishments, which means you'll have to rummage first, ask later.

Oh, and those horrible essays.

There's those vague prompts that ask you to write anything about yourself.

You know they're looking for that stage in your life where you grew up and became a mature, responsible adult who can write with good grammar, which of course never happened.

Or maybe they'll have those specific questions that deal with your "life's goals" or "page 271 in your unpublished autobiography" or "the person who's influenced you the most."

In reality, your worldly topic is how cool Amsterdam is because they legalized

marijuana, or how on page 271, you'd probably talk about how you hooked up

with your best friend's girlfriend, or that the most influential person in

your life is your drinking buddy.

But of course, we all write about how we want to become president of the United States, or how we dealt with when we discovered the world isn't filled with white teenagers, or how Jack Kerouac fits into your beatnik lifestyle.

Eventually, it's that false image of yourself that colleges love to reject.

But, hey, something is better than nothing, which is what you've done all through high school.

Once your piles of papers are all filled out, there's one last hurdle: giving it to the guidance counselors.

There's only one person who has it worse off than you at this point -- your counselor. They'll take your applications and fix all your spelling mistakes, find and print out

your transcript and list of activities, write their own letter of recommendation, fill out their own forms, and then have the task of mailing an application to California from Connecticut in two days or less. Even worse, they'll do it ten times over everyday.

God forbid high school procrastinators would change their ways in their senior year and submit their application way before deadline. That'd be unnatural.

After you've done all you can, I assume you wait in total agony to find out whether you really had all the right stuff for that dream school, or any of the schools you filled in applications for.

I wouldn't know, as it hasn't happened yet, but you'll hear from me when it does.

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