Nirmy Kang: College Applications Conflicts

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The college application process stresses everyone involved and Nirmy Kang is uncomfortable with what it says about education.

College applications are upon us once again, and I am in a state of PTSD-ed deja vu as I watch my beautiful boy fashion himself into a candidate worthy of acceptance into the hallowed halls of our venerable institutions of higher learning. A holistic process during which he must show himself to be, in no particular order: a sustainer of academic rigor, a leader in his community, an elevator of some grand passion, and yet somehow still authentic. In short, a fully realized human being at the tender age of 17.

All lessons learned from the last time fall off to the wayside, as a challenging process is made even more so as I tinge it with my frustration and unsolicited opinions.

"When I was at Uni," I tell him, referring to a time 30-plus years ago and in another country, “we were only allowed to apply to five. There were no essays, and nobody even knew what an extracurricular was. Oh, and it was free—for everyone."

He rolls his eyes, and truth be told, I am internally rolling mine too, for how is this helpful? But helpful or not, it was the truth, and here perhaps is another truth. This system, our system, may no longer be fit for purpose; Overly complicated, unduly stressful, and with no method to its madness.


Why all this hand wringing, you may wonder, for after all is it not his journey? Of course, but I defy you to show me a parent who is truly hands-off. I am conflicted. I believe in the worth of a good education—for the betterment of oneself, for the betterment of society—and yet I struggle with my hypocrisy as I contribute to a system I consider to be flawed and unfair, one that has lost sight of its actual purpose: Education not for profit but for the endowment of knowledge. Education, not as a social stratifier, but as a great equalizer.

So, as I watch him, I want to say, “Please do not worry. The sum of who you will eventually be is going to be so much greater than which university you attend now.”

Instead what I say is, “Have you finished your essays yet?”

With a Perspective, I’m Nirmy Kang.

Nirmy Kang is a Punjabi-British writer whose work explores her plural heritage and the universality of our common experiences.