New college applications put too much pressure on students

Jane Mather-Glass, Opinion Columnist

Freshmen, get ready to start your college applications.

Although that sounds daunting, it may be reality due to a new college application that entails creating a portfolio starting freshman year. This application is marketed as equalizing, but in reality, it puts way too much pressure on students.

According to, 80 colleges and universities have adopted this new application, which helps students make portfolios of their work online. In theory, this application will help create a level playing field for students who don’t have access to academic counselors and prepare ninth graders, but it is problematic for a few reasons.

Freshmen should not be pressured into thinking about their post-high school plans so early. Most people don’t think about what they want to do until junior or senior year. At the end of sophomore year one of my teachers pressured me to start my college search, and even that was way too early. I just stared at Naviance for 40 minutes and freaked out.

What I’ve wanted to do after my four years here has changed so many times throughout high school, from journalism to landscape architecture to dance to liberal arts and so on. I know most people are the same way. If you ask a freshman what their plans are for the future, they’re will be unsure, and if they are sure, that plan will most likely end up changing. Freshman year should be meant for getting acquainted to a new environment and learning about your interests, not college prep.

The other claim about this new portfolio application is that it helps people who don’t have access to personal guidance counselors at school. I decided to do some investigating and signed up for an account on the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success website to explore the application.

Once you have an account made, you can start your portfolio. There is some personal information to fill out, and then you can start putting things in your locker. However, one of the things that you have to put in your locker is a counselor recommendation. This seems to negate the purpose of the application; it still requires many of the same things that the common app does. Plus, the lack of instruction on the website indicates that you may actually need more support from a counselor to put everything together.

This application also hasn’t been marketed enough. I can assume with some confidence that this column is the first time many people are hearing about it. If the 80 schools who have adopted this application want people to put it to use, they should be making people aware that it is an option. Otherwise, people have no way of hearing about it and it isn’t useful in any way.

The portfolio application, though, is useful because it is more personal than many current applications. It shows personal growth and values more than just test scores and GPA. It gives students a chance to show how they have grown throughout the course of high school. For that reason, this new application does seem like a better option.

However, the common application can be personalized as well. The pressure of this new portfolio application is too much to put on young high schoolers. They face enough pressure as it is, with the transition of a new school and higher expectations. The positives of this type of application don’t outweigh the negatives, and it doesn’t live up to its claim of students without access to as much counseling. That, as well as its lack of instruction, make it no better than the common app or any other application. Colleges and universities should stay with the common application rather than transitioning into portfolios. This provides students with enough time to figure out what it is they want to do.