The process of applying to college is a game. And I feel like I've been blindfolded, stripped of my senses, and plopped right in the middle of the playing board of higher education.
If you asked me even just a few months ago what CSS, NMSC, midyear reports and SlideRoom were (among other more confusing things), I would have given you a blank stare, followed by a resounding "Huh?"
Now, only a few months later yet considerably wiser in terms of college application terminology (although there is still much more wisdom to conquer), I have not only recognized the meaning of such vocabulary but have also realized that this whole application thing — it's tedious.
But what is the process of applying to college if not for a huge game, where every move literally determines the outcome of your future?
Let's take the general concept of a college application. Prospective students have to pay a fee (anywhere between $50 to $90) to simply have the chance for their application to be reviewed by the university. Admission isn't even guaranteed — everything is a huge gamble, reliant on a mix of skill and luck, much like in a game of Monopoly or LIFE.
With that in mind, let's move on to the next topic: sending in official test scores and reports. Almost all colleges require an official score report from the testing company, so they know that you actually got that 1600 on the SAT (and you didn't lie). Makes sense, right? But here's the catch: I know from personal experience that College Board, the company that is in charge of SAT and AP tests, offers free score sends before you know your results.
It's another huge gamble — you could end up either acing or bombing the test, so if you decide to use your free report to send your scores to a certain university, you may be in danger of reporting an embarrassingly low score to your dream college. However, if you wait until after you see your score, you need to pay a $12 fee to send it to any school. (Seems pretty cheap until you multiply that with however many schools you're applying to that need official score reports.)
Those are just some aspects of the huge game of college. But in any game, there are people who seem to always stay on top and win, round after round. Whether through skill, sheer luck, or even cheating, there will always be people who outperform others, who stay in first place, who will do whatever it takes to win.
And in the game of college, that takes on the form of extreme smarts, college counseling, or (just like aforementioned) cheating, albeit on a much larger scale. Some people are just naturally smart and skilled at everything (including the college application). Others use their own (or their parents') resources to hire college counselors, essay editors, and the like. And the cheaters? They hire others to write their essays, complete their applications, even fake extracurriculars and test scores.
The bottom line is: college is a huge game, one that determines your future and your success. I definitely feel like I was plunged headfirst into this game, but I hope that when the time comes, I'll be able to say that I learned a lot from this game (and not just what FAFSA stands for).