By: Rafeea Tamboli
Dear admissions officers,
I am confused.
I am not old enough to vote. Nor am I old enough to rent a car. Nor am I old enough to drink. However, apparently, I am old enough to decide what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Like most seniors, I’m currently buried under a mountain of college essays. In almost every single one of them, I’ve had to write about what I want to be. Now you may think that it’s not too tough of a task; there must surely be some profession that intrigues me. And you are correct. I’m intrigued by International Relations. And Near East Studies. And neurology. And artificial intelligence. And Spanish. And culinary arts. The problem is not that I don’t know what I like but rather that I like too many things.
From preschool to twelfth grade, my peers and I have been pushed to expand our horizons and experience new things. We’re encouraged to take a plethora of classes, join multiple clubs, and do whatever we can to learn the most. However, as soon as senior year starts, we are mandated by colleges to tailor our interests so that they can admit a “diverse” class of students with different areas of studies. In doing so, we are forced to get out of the ocean and sit in a kiddie pool.
While I am well aware that what I write on my Common Application or on any other college essay does not lock me into any specific major or field, I find it absurd that my peers and I need to force ourselves to pick a profession and describe our “passionate interest in being a/an _______ in 650 words or less”.
If the purpose of writing college applications is to get a close glimpse of the applicant’s personality, asking him or her to write about what they want to major in and want to become is the wrong approach. Asking such questions force some students to lie or over-exaggerate their passions. Moreover, the major that a student chooses as his or her first choice on the Common Application can be a result of parental or peer pressure. Because of this, the applicant can be more likely to change their major when in college, rendering the “what major?” question useless for colleges who admit students based on what major they indicate on their application. In fact, nearly one-third of undergraduates end up changing their majors during their four years in higher education (National Center for Education Statistics).
Instead, as college admissions officers, you should ask questions that give applicants a platform to display their distinctive qualities and allow students to think about real-life problems or concepts and provide their own viewpoints on them. For example, ask me what kind of person I aspire to be when I’m 40 years old. Ask me why I think people cry when they laugh too much. Ask me what’s the best dream I’ve had. Ask me anything except for how my major will influence me. Personally, I think that you’d be able to better gauge who I am with the former question than the latter.