College admissions practices have receded further into the realm of excess and hypocrisy with the recent advent of a practice once reserved for social good graces.
As detailed in a recent New York Times article, thank-you notes are likely to become commonplace in college admissions. Some thank-you notes of note include M & M’s candies matching the desired school’s colors, others are written on college stationary, the article explains.
According to the Times, some admissions officers think thank-you notes reflect a measure of tact and keep them in an applicant’s file, while others like New York University simply throw them away.
Although college admissions officials are divided on thank-you notes – that is, whether they are really requisite or even beneficial for admission – the fact remains that college students should say ‘no thanks’ to thank-you notes and the burgeoning note-passing practice.
Consider the typical use of a thank-you note – ideally, it’s a reaction to a gift or kind gesture that ideally reflects true gratitude on behalf of the recipient.
A thank-you note rarely reflects such truthfulness, though, and is often written to uphold the mores of polite society: You write a thank-you note to the aunt who thoughtlessly buys you a heinous wool sweater – despite your allergy to wool – not because you like it, but because others oblige you to do so.
A thank-you note for a college admissions officer accomplishes exactly this – it’s basically thanking that officer for making it easier for a prospective student to shell out tens of thousands of dollars at an institution of higher education.
A thank-you note to a college-admissions officer also ups the ante for other applicants who rightly might not feel comfortable going through such ridiculous motions.
If the very shallow act of automatic thank-you notes becomes widely practiced, then it will reflect poorly upon other students who may choose to spend their time getting a real leg up on college – perhaps studying a bit more for AP or SAT II subject exams rather than writing a flimsy little note.
Underscoring the issue of thank-you notes is a bigger problem in college admissions. Teenagers are virtual wrecks when it comes to applying for college, and it’s not because of their grades or standardized test scores.
As detailed in an Associated Press article titled “Colleges seek ‘authenticity’ in hopefuls,” college applicants are told they should simultaneously show off their credentials and their flaws, creating the aura of authenticity. One counselor tells his students to intentionally make a small mistake in their applications so that they don’t look like “robots.”
Understandably, anyone vaguely familiar with the definition of authenticity must laugh at this idea.
And anyone with half a heart to guess at the likely psychological and social ramifications of telling kids to be authentic by following certain guidelines like engineered errors and thank-you notes must worry about this idea, too.