Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Application Season, Part 2

About a year ago, an article came out about the book that my wife and I co-authored. The newspaper that published the article will remain anonymous. But in the article, the writer wrote, "After Josh and his wife struggled with infidelity for six years, they turned to adoption."

Staring at the computer screen (online version), I did a double take. Did she really use the word "infidelity"? My face went ash white with horror. I looked a bit like that ghoulish figure in Munch's expressionistic painting "The Scream". My public reputation was sure to suffer irreparable damage!

At about that time, I got a call from the chief editor. Her voice quivered through the entire explanation. Come to find out, the writer had used the appropriate word, infertility, but in a final spell check, the program had changed the word to infidelity. I was reminded then that words do matter. Even letters and their proper ordering.

The moral of the story perhaps could go like this: the devil can be in the details.

It's important then that seniors invite a couple of editing eyes to comb through the application to look for blunders. Because in the end, it can be the difference between being "accepted" to college and being "excepted".

Recently, The Times wrote an article on this very topic. It read like a good horror film, filling my gut with paralyzing fear and howling laughter.

Here's a sample from the article.

You’ve filled out the application and added the personal statement, supplemental essay and activity sheet. Finally, it’s time to click “submit.”


Take a few minutes to proofread. Applications that are sent electronically don’t permit students to unseal the envelope and take one last look on the way to the post office.

Admissions offices see files littered with misspellings, grammatical mistakes and poor word choice. Students rely too much on programs that purport to check spelling and sentence structure.

A computer failed to catch this slip: “I love to turn on soft music and light scented candles because I love the smell of incest.”

To read the rest of the article click here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Application Season, Part 1

We have officially entered the application season.

From now until early January, 84 Casady seniors will be filling out applications to hundreds of colleges and universities.

So to kick off this Application Season, I'd thought I would do a trilogy of blog posts on this crucial topic.

So let's begin.

It goes without question that Application Season is often when the madness really begins.

It's as though college suddenly becomes the only planet in the family's solar system, and like the sun, everything else seems to revolve around it.

Parents can't stop nagging their senior about it.

There seems to be like a hundred little tasks to accomplish from writing essays to stamping envelopes for teacher recommendations.

And all the while the clock is ticking, ticking, ticking.

Deadlines are imminent.

And if it is not postage stamps or plastic zip lock bags to separate applications from each other, it's the ubiquity of the college topic thanks to grandparents, and friends, and teachers, and coaches, and youth pastors, and even your college counselor (yes, I am guilty as charged!)

It's like you feel you have no place to just be yourself.

Where you aren't reduced to your GPA or ACT score.

It wouldn't surprise me if I don't see a few Casady seniors slumped down in the back row at AMC Quail Springs, wearing shades and a hoodie, sitting among 3 year olds like Silas, my son, watching Toy Stoy 3, just in search of a couple hours of respite from the constant, unstinting, 24-7 college talk that is rife with a staccato of pressing questions and unsolicited advice and doomsday statistics.

"So where are you applying to college?" Um...

"Thinking about rushing? What house?" Um...

"Possible majors?" Um...

"Are you taking the ACT again?" Um...

"You're thinking about applying where? Never heard of it? What does your mom and dad think about that? I mean aren't you interested in an Ivy? Or at least going to a college that is ranked high in Newsweek?"

"Oh, wow, you're applying there. I heard like only 1 out of 35 got accepted in the whole state last year. Good luck with that application."

Someone just shoot you now - right?

If one person can feel your pain it's Lloyd Dobler. Who's Lloyd, you may ask? He's just an 80's icon from the movie Say Anything. In one famous scene, Lloyd, a rising senior in high school, faces a firing squad of adults who want to know what his plans are for after high school.

Lloyd's response is a cult classic.

As we launch into this application season, I hope that you will remember that what is most important to you.

The people you love.

Lloyd certainly understood this.

But how easy it is to forget this when you are competing for a spot at colleges during a time when 1.5 million seniors will attend college, where colleges are tripling the volume of applications they are receiving (Standford topped 50,000 applicants last year), and where international students are flooding admissions with applications, many willing to pay full price to get in.

There will certainly be stressful moments.

Maybe even heated exchanges at the dinner table.

But my hope is that parent and student are both able to maintain a healthy sense of perspective and humor through it all.

Because in the grand scheme of things, it is just a season of life. A single chapter.