Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why the Common Application Sucks

I'm currently a rising senior, and college applications are starting to flood my life. I'm applying to a few colleges which use the Common Application (CA). At first glance, I thought it was an amazing thing - a somewhat universal application to make the college admission process easier. In some ways, this is true, it does add a sense of ease to the hectic process. However, in retrospect, the College Application is rather discriminatory, "limiting," to put it lightly.

When filling out the biographical portion of the CA, I feel a sense of oppression, namely when specifying the languages I know or speak. Being born in the U.S. and having Taiwanese parents, I know three languages fluently - English, Taiwanese, and Mandarin Chinese. The CA on the other hand lists "Chinese" as a language...period. This is rather repulsive in a couple of different ways. One, what's Chinese? and two, what do I fill out for "Other proficient languages?"

Educators, in my experience, have always been the ones to distinguish between Mandarin and Cantonese, emphasizing that Chinese is NOT a language. Luckily, I don't speak both. On the other hand, I speak Taiwanese; where does that go? So, being the lazy type, I thought whatever, I'll just put down Chinese. Well, that became an issue - What would be my answers for the next query?

The next section on the CA wants people to list the other languages they are fluent in. So I got somewhat excited, because I could say the other languages. That hope was immediately flushed down the academic toilet. The entry lines were, again, supposed to be answered from the same list of languages available. So I picked Chinese twice (one for Taiwanese, and one for Mandarin). Not only is this incorrect information, but how stupid do I look?! "How many languages can you speak?" Three! English, Chinese, and....Chinese.

I actually considered defending the CA by saying Taiwanese isn't a language since it has no written characters. Making a quick search on Google, my subconscious was right - a language is simply a spoken way of communication. Nowhere was writing a prerequisite.

At this point, you probably get the idea. I could go on with other limiting factors, such as parental background or sibling information. However, these are pettier concerns since their circumstantial to me.

Make sure to check out the poll on the right hand side

Thanks for reading,


  1. Hey, Matt here.

    That's incredibly ignorant and stupid; but since when have we known the college application process not to be? After all, these are the same people who put down "Middle Eastern" under "White."

    Anyway, going off-topic, a language is more than communication, really. A lot of animals can communicate, but we're the only ones with a comprehensive and complex linguistic system. I like to think of it as communication with a predefined grammar (of course, said grammar is subject to change).
    But, no, the languages that have writing are actually in the minority, because only about 600 of the current 6 or 7 thousand languages in the world use writing.

  2. Hey, thanks for commenting. I definitely agree with all of the above.

  3. C'mon. The difference between Taiwanese and Mandarin is negligible.