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Kai Burgman, North Thurston HS: "Applying for College Poses Unprecedented Challenges"
 1/24/2019 12:00:00 AM

Author: Kai Burgman
Grade: Senior
School: North Thurston
Mascot: Rams
League: South Sound Conference
Classification: 3A

Applying for College Poses Unprecedented Challenges
From elementary school all the way through high school, the same phrase has rung in my ear like a beating drum: “Do well in school, so you can go to college and get a good job.” Although that has been true in the past, the same phrase does not necessarily apply today. The costs of colleges continue to rise exponentially, with a similar increase in post-college debt, while the number of high-paying jobs after college have declined. I do not intend to merely bash on colleges; after all, I plan to attend one, but there are admittedly significant flaws regarding financial planning that need to be addressed. For most people, planning for college does not provide a great return on investment.

One of the biggest issues with the current college system is the ever rising cost of attendance. With the prevalence of student loans college has normalized large amounts of debt for teenagers to undertake before even having a stable job. With approximately 44 million borrowers and a $1.5 trillion combined debt, the problem is evident. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, the average monthly payment on debt for students was $227 in 2005 and reached $393 in 2016. Nearing $5,000 a year college debt can significantly impact a student’s ability to carry out essential actions such as putting a down-payment on a home or purchasing a car. The investment in borrowing for college could be justified if the return were more significant.  However, considering that four out of ten of graduates experience immediate underemployment (in jobs that do not require a degree), it becomes much more difficult to justify the cost of college (Source: Strada Institute for the Future of Work). The reality is that unless a family or individual has ways to counteract this debt (through scholarships or wealth), the weight of this debt will have a significant impact on them.

Another big issue with college (and one that is harder to remedy) happens before college even begins. Though there has been an increase in the ease of applying to colleges with the online common and coalition applications, applications and requirements remain a massive issue for students. Many colleges accept these generic applications, but most of them also require additional writing components that drastically increase the time it takes to qualify for admission. Furthermore, the application costs inevitably start to add up, averaging around $80 per application. With most students applying for reach schools, match schools, and at least one safety school, this greatly deters students from fully exploring their options as they feel restricted by the costs. Perhaps an even more significant problem is the wide variation in requirements when applying to various colleges. Though freedom to decide the process of acceptance is valuable to each college, the great disparity among colleges in requirements greatly harms those who do not know their plans far in advance. Certain schools require three years of lab-sciences, while other schools only require two. Some “recommend” three or four years of foreign language, some “require” it, while still other schools only require two years.  Most colleges require either the ACT or the SAT tests. Select colleges not only require the SAT, but SAT subject tests as well. The mounting number of requirements as colleges compete for more competitive applicants only serves to alienate those who find their dream school a little too late.

For better or for worse, in our increasingly technological society we will continue to need an adept workforce educated beyond high school and a significant percentage of post high school education happens at college. To ensure proper preparation for work, the system needs to change and become more accommodating in every way.


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January 2019

1/24/2019 Kai Burgman, North Thurston HS: "Applying for College Poses Unprecedented Challenges"

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