The New York Times article, "College Admission Angst Finds a Forum on Web," spotlights the negative side of participating in online applicant forums: increased anxiety and stress.
It’s true. Reading forum posts with a non-critical eye can be anxiety provoking. The article implies that the forums are wastes of time and full of misinformation. The truth: they can be. But they can also be places where people trade helpful and valuable tips while feeling less lonely in the grueling application process.
How can you use the forums constructively? How can you talk to other applicants in person?
- Maintain perspective. The short posts that you read on the web cannot reveal everything that the adcom sees and reads during the application process.You have incomplete information about the other applicants.
- Be skeptical. No Virginia, not everything posted on the Web is true. In fact, not everyone on the web is nice and helpful. Realize that some people posting on the web do not have your best interests at heart. They couldn’t care less about you.
- Realize that adcoms aim to create a class not reward your performance. That is a critical understanding. Admissions is not exclusively about merit and you. It is about the school’s determination to create a diverse and rich learning environment by choosing from more highly qualified applicants than it can admit to its class.
Also realize that the online friends you make through these forums can become your offline network in school and beyond.
Consequently decency and self-interest should converge to make sure your posts are constructive, valuable, and reflective of someone others would want to associate with. Your forums posts should not bring to mind the Groucho Marx line: "I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT ME AS A MEMBER."