Have you ever wondered, “where is Waldo, really?” If you have, then you might be the perfect college applicant, because institutions of higher education are now posing such deep questions as essay prompts, according to the Wall Street Journal.
This would be my response:
It’s always ‘Where’s Waldo?’ and never ‘How’s Waldo?’ pic.twitter.com/1ZwoyUDHy3
— Rombutan (@rombutans) August 1, 2022
The admissions process begins in earnest this month, as the Common App, accepted at over 1,000 colleges and universities, officially became available on August 1, sending high-school seniors’ stress levels to the stratosphere and freaking out anxious parents.
— Common App (@CommonApp) August 1, 2022
Applications and essays are more important than ever as around 72 percent of schools have made college entrance exams like the SAT and the ACT optional. You better bring your A-game to your essay, as countless admission consultants will tell you. How exactly do you do that, though, when schools like the highly-competitive University of Chicago ask you, “What advice would a wisdom tooth have?”
“What am I supposed to do with that?” asks 16-year-old Rachel, who is still deciding on where she will apply.
Why would colleges ask such seemingly silly and irrelevant questions? The U of Chicago admissions director Peter Wilson explains what he hopes to learn from such queries. Per the WSJ:
“How do they think? How do they play with ideas?” Off-the-wall prompts, which have long been a tradition at the school, also tell the applicant something about the university. “Constantly pushing boundaries and creativity, that’s the type of culture we create here.”
Other such weird prompts abound:
- The University of Maryland asks what’s your favorite thing… about last Tuesday?
- Chapman University, meanwhile, asks applicants what dish would they cook for the school’s admission staff.
- Princeton University, not wanting to be left out, wants to know: “What song represents the soundtrack of your life at this moment?”
- The University of Vermont has a burning desire to find out, “Which Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor (real or imagined) best describes you?”
- More from the U of Chicago: “Genghis Khan with an F1 racecar. George Washington with a Super Soaker. Emperor Nero with a toaster. Leonardo da Vinci with a Furby. If you could give any historical figure any piece of technology, who and what would it be, and why do you think they’d work so well together?”
While these questions seem absurd, the admissions process is certainly not. Kacey Fifield, a high-school student writing for International Policy Digest reports that 4 out of 5 Americans think that the college admissions process is unfair. The Varsity Blues scandal certainly added to their fears that the system is rigged. Asians have also felt discriminated against, and sued Harvard University, losing the first round. However, the Supreme Court will hear that case and another one dealing with affirmative action on October 31, with many wondering whether the Justices will declare race-based admissions unconstitutional.
The entire process causes immense anxiety to young adults, says Ms. Fifield:
In fact, 66% of high school students reported “often or always” feeling worried about getting accepted to attend their chosen college, with the stress levels of modern-day teenagers far exceeding those of their adult counterparts.
One way for a student to stand out is to have extra-curricular activities, awards and leadership positions. This can cause issues:
However, at a concerningly rapid rate, high school students get involved in as many activities as possible, believing that spreading themselves thin is the only way that they can get into college. Being involved in activities solely for the purpose of college applications takes a toll on students; they’re often filling their time with activities that they don’t even enjoy while consequently jeopardizing their grades, social lives, and mental health. With an ever-growing “arms race” mentality, each generation of high school students increasingly attempt to one-up their peers, constantly adding onto their workloads in order to appear more impressive than their classmates in front of colleges.
The college admissions process is certainly flawed, but two of my kids have managed to get through it and find schools that were a good fit for them. What these colleges are actually teaching is a topic for another day (hint: RedState readers would be appalled). I’ve got two more going through the maze, though, and I only hope they can find their perfect schools and Waldo.