College-bound students have mountain of paper to climb

September 26, 1999|By Nathan Burstein

EACH DAY, with the arrival of yet more mail from colleges around the country, I get a clearer picture of what the next few months hold for me: late nights spent battling both my parents' moody old typewriter and a pile of applications that now threatens to topple over on innocent civilians standing below.

It wasn't always like this. Applying to college used to be fairly simple, with most university-bound students aiming for just a few in-state schools.

However, as a greater percentage of 18-year-olds head off to college each year, the admissions process has grown increasingly competitive.

No longer is it wise to send applications to just one or two schools. Many students now apply to a minimum of four or five colleges to ensure acceptance at one.

My complaint isn't with the increased competitiveness. What bothers me are the number of forms we must fill out. Why hasn't the college application been standardized? Some will point out that the National Association of Secondary School Principals has created a "common application" form, and nearly 200 colleges accept it and evaluate it as equal to their own. The problem is that this application isn't common enough. Fewer than 20 national universities ranked in the top 50 in this year's U.S. News & World Report survey accept it, and almost no public universities accept it.

Colleges, instead of spending time and money to create their own forms and mail them out to students, could pool their funds to create one universal application that students could pick up at their schools.

Teachers and guidance counselors, who often must write individual recommendations for each school to which a student applies, could conserve their energy and write one excellent recommendation for each student.

Saving time, effort and money -- if these aren't reasons enough to ease the load on us high school seniors, then colleges should do it for the sake of our collective sanity!

Nathan Burstein is a senior at Mercer Island (Washington) High School. He wrote this article for the New York Times.

Pub Date: 9/26/99

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