College Connect: Getting Into College: An Expensive Story

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By ANDERS MELIN, University of Missouri

I don’t buy many of the arguments coming from Republican politicians and activists, but they frequently touch on one subject that I can only fully agree with; that bureaucratization and documentization of the United States is a real problem and a massive waste of resources. Aside from filing taxes, the endless errands at the DMV, and trying to obtain citizenship, there is an even more perfect example of this faulty system that becomes a burden of ordinary citizens – college applications.

The northern-European country I grew up in has a surprisingly rational way of dealing with college applications. The grades of each student are stored in a huge database managed by a governmental agency. When applying for college, you simply log in to an online account, rank the programs you wish to apply for, and then sit back and wait for announcement of admission or rejection. Minus the time you have spent researching the respective programs, you haven’t lost a dime in the process.

My appreciation for this seemingly logical system increased drastically as I dove into the process of applying for graduate schools in the United States. I picked out five – didn’t seem too bad – and created the apply-yourself-accounts.

First off, I needed official GRE scores. Fair enough – a test for $160 was booked shortly thereafter. Two weeks later I received the official scores only to realize that two of my programs had not been adequately listed as recipients – another $46 out of my pocket for score reports.

Next came sending official transcripts. I sought but found no explanation as to why an admissions office need two copies – or why universities simply cannot transfer such documents electronically – but could only comply to this irrational custom. Add to the situation that I have attended not one but two undergraduate institutions; the number of sealed envelopes amounted to twenty, corresponding to a service-and-mailing-fee grand total of $250.

Next, I was requested to submit official TOEFL-test scores (Test of English as Foreign Language) that, due to my foreign descent, apparently were needed to ensure sufficient language proficiency. I managed to wrestle my way out of that by pointing out my soon-to-be magna cum laude degree in Business. Just having saved myself from a $200 outlay, I proceeded to submit my applications – only to find that the last form above the “Submit” button was credit card info in order to cover the non-refundable $120 application fee. Multiply that number by five, add up the previous charges, and my grad school application costs suddenly totaled $1,056.

With all documents submitted, I could finally relax and begin hoping for financial aid that I now needed more than ever. Eight weeks later, the email came:

On behalf of the Admission Committee, it gives me great pleasure to inform you that you have been admitted …. to reserve your place in the class, please complete the on-line enrollment response form and submit the nonrefundable deposit of $1000.

 Anders Melin, a native of Sweden, is a graduating senior in finance at the University of Missouri. He’ll begin graduate journalism studies this fall at New York University.  He is a NCAA competitive swimmer.

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