• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


The Girl Throws Her Hat Into the Ring

The first few college applications have been sent.

October 27, 2021

The Girl sent off her first few college applications this week.

Afterward, she had an easy and relieved smile that I hadn’t seen in a while.

We don’t have the resources to risk going early decision and then getting a terrible financial aid offer. A few years ago, her brother had his heart set on going to the U of Michigan. He got in, but the financial offer was preposterous, so we had to turn it down. That was a tough conversation. He landed on his feet, but the sheer paucity (or audacity, depending on how you look at it) of Michigan’s “offer” taught us a lesson. So TG is doing applications in batches. Early action is OK -- because it’s nonbinding -- but early decision is out of the question. We’ll need to be able to compare offers.

Each school used the Common App, which you would think would help with efficiency. And it does, to a point. But each school adds its own idiosyncratic supplemental questions -- usually essays -- that require significant time.

(A word to the folks who write those essay prompts: “Have fun with it” is really grating. This is not a fun process. To get a sense of how it lands emotionally, imagine the instructions to the 1040 form ending with “but most of all, have fun.”)

She asked me a question I couldn’t answer. Every school to which she’s applying requires a copy of her high school transcript. So why do they also ask that she self-report every class she has taken in high school, along with every grade she received? What does that tell a school that the transcript does not? It seems like a gratuitous typing exercise.

Frankly, the same goes for SAT scores. If she’s sending her score report, why does she also need to self-report? Are they looking to catch people lying? At least with the SAT self-report the typing is minimal, but it still seems redundant.

Wise and worldly readers, is there a defensible reason for requiring a self-report of data that’s already on official documents that she also has to submit?

Even allowing for that, though, I was struck by how liberated she felt after she hit “submit” on the first one. The next three followed in short order, after which we had the most relaxed conversation in a long time.

It’s easy to forget how stressful the process can be.

Admittedly, this reflects the world of a high-achieving student with specific aspirations. She has some friends who already know they’re going to Brookdale next year, so their admission process is simpler, cheaper and far less stressful. She has others who are aiming at relatively inclusive schools, so while money is a concern, getting in is not. (She also has one who is applying early decision to a very expensive place. She’s trying to talk him out of it, to her eternal credit. We’re both worried about him.)

I shared with her tales of typing in the blanks of a paper application, then typing an essay on paper, and then taking it to the post office to send it certified. She gave me the look that young people have given their elders ever since the first use of the phrase “back in my day,” so I dropped it. This is about her.

She has a few more applications to go, and we have several campus visits scheduled for late next week. But for now, she made the leap. She took a shot. I couldn’t be prouder.


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