Tales from the Dark Side of College Admissions

The Class of 2017 wrapped up their college application adventures recently. The word 'adventure' implies a trek, or an arduous undertaking. True that. Each application season, a billion words are written, hundreds of millions of blanks filled in, by a million or more students hoping to embark on the post-secondary journey of their dreams. It can be a nightmare!

Sample List of Colleges on Common App


My "Top Ten" true tales of woe are really just my personal pet peeves about the entire process. Certain peeves are eye-roll worthy; others are panic-inducers.  As always, procrastination issues top my list. I’m not surprised that it occurs in 17-year-olds. Frankly, this is the main reason college counselors exist.  I organize and remind, cajole and nag, whatever is necessary to get students to finish their apps and essays.

That major delays transpired this year within the realm of those-who-know-better was truly unsettling. Not sure a reduced caseload would have helped as snafus occurred at private schools, too. While not all schools can afford 21st century tech, apparently some choose not to use it or don't use it wisely. Fortunately, this year, it was not cyberspace itself harassing applicants. Glitches and bugs within the application world--Coalition Application notwithstanding—were minimal. Though this is a 'top ten' list, the Number 1abomination in the college admissions cycle, is assumed: the exorbitant cost of college. 

Top Ten Tales of Application Woe

  1. Transcripts/Letters. Student not requesting on time. 
  2. Transcripts. High School registrar not sending documents on time (despite early requests and double-checking)
  3. Grade inflation. Rampant! 
  4. College list. Engaging in expensive and wishful thinking.
  5. Test Score Stress. Self-explanatory.  Partial blame on #3.
  6. Test Scores optional. Yeah, right. 
  7. Naviance. High School not paying for or disabling key functions or worse, utilizing both paper and online components--Headaches for all!
  8. Coalition Application. Don’t even get me started.
  9. Spell Check ≠ Context Check. You no what I mean.
  10. Essays. Answering 'Why are you applying to this Ivy League' is ridiculously hard for most students. See #4.

To end this post on a more positive note: I’m ecstatic by the more than $750,000 in merit aid offers received by my clients so far this year. Merit aid is college admissions officers rewarding applicants for four years of hard work and creativity. Merit aid rocks!


Allison Henderson

If you want someone to help your teen organize and plan their college adventure, give A+ a call. I would love to help launch your teen!