Our oldest daughter is a senior in high school. Last year she took a battery of standardized tests online. This past summer she started drafting college essays online. This fall she applied to 8 universities — all electronically. The Common Application or Common App is an online application used by most of the colleges she applied to. It is fairly intuitive stream-lined system that utilizes a common essay, college-specific supplements and recommendation forms. The Common App includes deadlines and notifications for each school. It even has links to additional information about the schools. However, when she asked some of her teachers to submit their recommendations online, most responded that uploading the form took hours of watching the spinning “color wheel” to make sure the session didn’t time out or suddenly disappear. Thankfully her teachers were persistent in their endeavor to send her recommendations in on time, but technology often hampered the process for them (and in a high school of over 3,000 students, I realized our daughter wasn’t the only one requesting a college admission recommendation letter). Although the technology assisted in housing information in one location, it did present glitches along the way. The admissions process is long. It involves ups and downs and a lot of waiting. Our daughter applied early admission to most schools back in August, but she is still waiting for final decisions until May. The waiting is often done in front of a screen.
It is completely different than my college application process. I typed out one application and mailed it in. Done. It was 1986. Old school. Snail mail. I went to the mailbox everyday during the next few months and eventually received a congratulatory letter regarding my college acceptance. My mother was so happy that she taped the letter to the refrigerator. Now colleges send their acceptance or rejections or wait list communication electronically. Although they do project a window of time in sending out these communications, it has often taken all of us by surprise. A ping will sound on our daughter’s phone and all of a sudden during a movie or walking the dogs or eating dinner, she will receive news about a college admission. We all stop. Breathe. Wait for her to open the e-mail. It’s a jarring thing. It’s almost too instantaneous to process.
Accepting an offer of admission is also done online. Tuition is processed online. Classes are chosen online. It’s all a paperless and sometimes “peopleless” process. We are excited for her next four years in college, but then again, I hope she gets more face time than screen time. Technology is terrific, but meeting your new college roommate for the first time in person is much better than finding them on FaceBook, right?