The flaw in the university personal statement

1326285_graduation_2Off the top of my head, I can think of about seven things I’d rather talk about than my future, and five of them involve eating dirt. However, transfer applications for fall quarter have opened and this means that for me and countless other students at Bellevue College, the last few months of our lives have been spent gathering letters of recommendation, meeting with advisors and perfecting the all-important personal statement. I can avoid it no longer; my future is now the only thing on my mind.

When I was a senior in high school, I was rejected from nearly every college I applied to. While to 18-year-old me this was a crushing blow, 20-year-old me is thankful for the opportunity to attend BC. I used to spend a lot of time thinking about what my life would have been like if I had actually gotten into my dream schools, but I’ve come to the conclusion that if I had never attended BC I wouldn’t be in the same place as I am right now, and I wouldn’t trade my current friends or job at The Watchdog for anything. While I like to think that I’ve grown and matured over the last two years of my life, as I prepare to submit my first college app on Feb. 15 to the University of Washington, one of the schools that rejected me as a senior, I’m filled with a sense of familiar dread.

My life has completely changed since I first applied to college, but the actual college application process hasn’t, and this makes me angry. After getting seven rejection letters, I spent a lot of time imagining groups of faceless admissions officers sitting around a table reviewing my application. The idea that I had worked for months on my personal statement, perfecting it and pouring my heart into it only to have it deemed not good enough was horrible.

The higher education system in the United States is unfair. The personal statement is, quite simply, stupid. There is not one person in the world whose life can be described in 500 words, and it isn’t fair that a subjective admissions committee gets to decide who gets in and who doesn’t based on less than a page of information about a student. Universities say they review each student holistically and that the function of the personal statement is to get to know students as more than just a number, but this in itself is ridiculous. Numbers like grade point average and test scores are a massive oversimplification of intelligence, but expecting someone to describe their academic goals, hopes, dreams, passions and abridged life story in one page is the biggest oversimplification of them all. College applications are hardly more morally sound than beauty pageants. Applications are simply another forum wherein the youth of America are judged based on subjective standards that I know I didn’t buy in to.