College apps are up again, and crunch season is just starting
College applications appear to be up this fall after a pandemic dip, according to the Common Application's report on early applicants. For ambitious 12th-graders aiming at selective colleges, this is stress time.
With a large majority of colleges and universities going test optional, and grade inflation turning everyone into an "A" student, there will be even more pressure to craft the most intriguing persona and write the most compelling essay. Can an hour at the food pantry be framed as a lifelong commitment to social justice?
All the fuzzy admissions criteria favor children of the affluent, who can provide math tutors, computer or theater or soccer camp, cello lessons, sports equipment, the service trip to Mexico, the internship with a family friend's company. If Mom wasn't an English major, they can hire someone to help with the essay.
Affirmative action is probably doomed, but the Supreme Court hasn't ruled yet, so it's the final year for college hopefuls to invoke the great-grandmother who might have been Cherokee (but probably wasn't), or the grandfather whose last name sounds Spanish (but is really Portuguese).
With student loan forgiveness on hold (and probably doomed), I hope students and parents will be realistic about the costs and benefits of college. If you're going to eat pizza and drink beer with friends, you don't need to be paying inflated tuition or taking on heavy debt.