College Applications

This is a bit of a departure from the norm on this blog. I thought it might be interesting to switch it up a bit, and talk about my experience with the American college application process. This is in part inspired by my friend @arinerron’s post on school sponsored extracurriculars.

I think college applications have quite a lot of symbolic value. They’re the culmination of a twelve-year scholastic journey, a period in our sentence to pre-collegiate learning. Their finality is perhaps best exemplified by the seasonal afflictions of “senioritis”. After submitting applications, students have a tradition of slacking on classwork.

Of course, I too am afflicted. A testament to the fact that in the end, college applications underlie much of our scholastic life.


Overall, the college application process went quite smoothly for me. I applied to a total of 7 schools. To be honest, the essays didn’t take that long to write. After writing a good personal statement, I was able to copy paste essays for most of my schools - especially the ones I didn’t care much about. I did end up writing unique essays for my top choice though, CMU, which fortunately I got accepted into.

That’s one thing I dislike about the process. It feels like a numbers game where you apply to as many schools as possible. Even if the probability of getting into any single school is low, acceptance is but guaranteed once you apply to 20.

One thing I thought interesting was how effective “doing college applications” was as an excuse. A magic wand to make debate meetings disappear forever. I don’t think I abused this trick much, but it was definitely tempting.

At the same time, I don’t think the above circumstances apply to everyone. Many of my friends put countless days into their essays, and “college apps” was probably a legitimate reason for their leaves of absence.

Senior year was definitely a pretty lax year for me academically. With little essay writing to do, I had a lot of free time. Of course, like any other reasonable highschool senior, I spent my time having fun. For me - although this is a little sad in some regards - that meant cybersecurity.

A: what r some of ur interests? unless coding is your only interest…
me: hmmm
me: shoot

I feel the need to defend myself now. Contrary to popular belief, I do have other hobbies. Of course, a full list would be too exhaustive to list here and is left as an exercise to the reader.


Perhaps that’s one thing I regret. Some things - I admit - were done more so for the sake of having something that looked nice on a college application. “President of Programming Club” feels nice in the moment, but he who wears the crown bears the crown. It comes with some very real responsibilities.

There’s one line I particularly like from Hamilton the musical.

They think me Macbeth
ambition is my folly

My biggest source of guilt revolves around the inevitable decline of clubs. Clubs that I am responsible for. In a more perfect world, the pandemic wouldn’t exist and we’d have in-person learning. Virtual club just doesn’t work. At the same time, it does feel a bit disingenuous to be complaining about virtual-learning when entire livelihoods have been destroyed. Comparatively I’m very lucky.

I wonder if this is inevitable though. Did club die because I was at the helm? Or because of virtual learning? Or a mix of both. Perhaps I should have given the opportunity—and the responsibility—to somebody else. A constellation of unfulfilled ambitions.

Looking back, I suppose if I had a chance to do this again, I don’t think anything would’ve changed. The allure of college application padding is just too strong. Even if apps are a dice roll, club positions can’t hurt.


I think the past section was a bit overly negative. On net, I think I’m quite happy for my high school experience. Much of my time was devoted towards activities that I truly enjoyed. To steal a quote from Aaron:

But I will absolutely be grateful that spent my valuable time learning how to pwn things.

Even if much of what I did didn’t make its way onto the application, it was still worthwhile in and of itself. I think that should be the true metric by which activities are defined. In an ideal world, high school students would do only what they enjoyed, even if that’s impossible. It’s impossible to separate the ambition from enjoyment, resumes from passion.

But I’m still glad I chose to do what I did.