Not long after the dawn of the nuclear age, with foreboding prospects of mutually assured annihilation looming on an uncertain horizon, Albert Einstein was asked what weapons he thought would be used to fight the next war. Einstein responded, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Perhaps a prophesy, yet to unfold...

On a less weighty front (after all, it's only college), and given the flaws, foibles and incomprehensible misadventures of the Common Application -- the high school senior's impotent weapon of mass distraction - one has to ask with what tools will the next generation of college applications be completed and submitted?

Will students (and colleges) turn to other 21st Century vehicles, such as the Universal College Application, as a means of preparing their applications and transporting them through the ionosphere to the colleges of their choice? Are they going to once again be applying to colleges through the schools' own proprietary online applications? Or is tomorrow's (literally, in some instances) college applicant destined to complete and submit those applications the old fashioned way, with paper, pen and a postage stamp? [Somehow, it worked!]

The thing is, we have a system of higher education, along with the supposed means of gaining entree to our institutions of higher learning, that, not unlike gridlocked government, is intrinsically unmanageable and irreconcilably broken. An application process that hinders students and perplexes parents, counselors, and education pundits, seemingly replacing round wheels with square pegs on a daily basis. An infrastructure, from Common App to College Board, that, notwithstanding stated mission (designed more, we sense, to garner not-for-profit status while pocketing huge profits, than it is to assist and benefit students), has grown into a McMansion industry. Tuition, and the means of financing a college education, that has become an unsustainable burden not only to students and parents, but upon an entire nation. Academics, who sit in their ivory towers spewing forth the value of Common Core, while lacking even the essential basics of common sense. Fear-mongering, fee-imposing, even race-baiting (are you Hispanic or Latino?).

Oh, the humanity!

Where does it all end? When will we say, "enough?" The slippery slope, downward spiraling effect of angst-induced mania, propagated by an artificially manufactured competitiveness, fueled by meaningless rankings, hyped and hyperbolized by so-called standardized tests which themselves prove suspect and trivial, and road-blocked by such inanities as sanctioning commissions for folks who recruit international students to fill seats in American colleges, while our own are turned away from those same ivy-covered gates.

Believing in the hope that help, comfort, sustenance and a workable college application and admissions process will one day trickle down to the masses from the entrenched and well endowed powers-that-be is as futile as viewing the PDF of your Common App application after you hit "Preview and Submit" (or seeing the actual Signature page, should you manage to get that far).

The American dream, at least in terms of getting a college education (let alone, learning for the love of expanding the mind, rather than solely filling the coffers of those who make Number 2 pencils and the oval-filled answer sheets), is swiftly slip sliding away. With every step we take, promises of fixes, patches, and reformatted paginations (the likes of which would bring visual appeal to the distorted look of the inserted Common App essay) aside, we come perilously closer to the abyss rather than to beginning that joyful jaunt along the road toward Nirvana.

No, dismantling the Collegiate Industrial Complex will not come from up on high, machinations of the movers and shakers dancing like so many sugar plum fairies. What is required of us, and absolutely necessary -- perhaps the one thing that can save us from the coming college application and admissions apocalypse -- is to lay aside our complacency, being that spectator on the sidelines whose only participation in the game is to bemoan every play on the field and curse at the final score. Refuse to accept what has always been and that which is, and begin to embrace, with every fiber of our being, each beat of our hearts, that vision, that ideal, of college being one of the most wonderful and uplifting experiences of our lives, and the journey to get in -- the act of "getting there" -- at least half as much fun!


When college applications (and the Common App) get to you, YOU NEED TO GET TO US!

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Plan. Prepare. Prevail!  

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