Appreciating College Apps

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Sabrina Abesamis, Editor-in-Chief

America finds sick pleasure in complaining about and ridiculing its own higher education system. Students are surrounded by headlines decrying the university system, then questioning its relevance, then continuing to support it by releasing the latest college rankings. Lying in the middle of all this fuss is the notorious application process, infamous for both opening doors and —more often—slamming them hard enough to break hearts.
Putting Perspective on the Process
This issue feels especially relevant with college application season in full swing. As much as teens love to hate the college admissions process, from the nerve-racking standardized tests to the formidable essays, they should also consider the alternatives. Many countries, such as England, Turkey, and South Korea, solely rely on standardized test scores for university placement. Though these tests are usually subject rather than aptitude-based tests, they still present a highly stressful method of getting into college. In particular, according to the Economist, South Korean students live in a one-shot society, where one exam determines not only their college, but also future employment, leading to the highest suicide rates in 15 to 24-year-olds of any developed country. American students complain so much about the SATs/ACTs that they fail to realize that other countries’ students have it a lot worse.
Other countries’ systems don’t care about a student’s volunteer work helping underprivileged unicorns. They definitely won’t consider an applicant’s resume listing the seventeen different clubs she started, in which she became president of each. These systems probably scoff at the idea of reading essays on overcoming dentist phobias or dreams of becoming lawyer-doctors in space. While it may be more work on a student’s part to complete an application, and heaven forbid, attend an interview, it seems highly preferable than taking a one-shot test that determines one’s future.
American Education Ain’t that Bad
Many also believe that America continues to lag in the middle of the pack when it comes to the education rankings of developed countries. However, most of these studies, including the oft-cited Council on Foreign Relations and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ones, have focused on either elementary or high school education. Only one major study has been conducted recently on higher education specifically, and it ranked the U.S. as first. Yes, interestingly enough, a 2013 global study by the educational organization Universitas 21, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne, ranked America as first by a relatively wide margin in its review of the top countries for its college system. Basing its results on four major areas: Resources, Environment, Connectivity, and Output, the study found that, despite mediocre scores in lower education, America continues to lead the world in its higher counterpart. This shows that, while Americans may worry over the state of national education —and don’t get me wrong, we should be— things aren’t as bad as the media may make it seem.
In the end, the stress of writing applications and gathering recommendation letters is probably a blessing compared to having everything depend on one test, like so many other countries do. Furthermore, as seen by the Universitas study, this initially arduous process truly pays off in the long haul. As such, students should be grateful for the opportunity to prove themselves during the application season, beyond the standardized test score.