Applying for college? Be ready for some hurdles
Stars and Stripes August 30, 2009
Error. The following fields must be completed: mailing address, telephone number.
I closed my eyes and gave a frustrated sigh. They were rejecting me, again, because I lived overseas.
Applying for college is no joke, but it gets even harder when you’re a military brat. Problems exist that you wouldn’t dream of if you lived in the United States. I had been applying online for a summer program back in the States. The system, however, would not take my international phone number or my military address.
So, what do you do when you’re faced with these problems?
Military AP addresses
Let’s start with the problem that was giving me heartache. I’ve noticed that many applications for summer camps, colleges, special seminars, etc. require your mailing address. They do not, however, accept the AP state code. For students who don’t have a U.S. address, that poses a serious problem.
"Just put CA as the state code. All AP mail goes through California anyway, so your mail will get through," said Seoul American High School graduate Teresa Kim, who is now a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
I headed over to the post office for verification. Here is what they said: Put in CA, put in your AP ZIP code, and if there’s a "Remarks" section, write your correct address and explain the problem.
Inability to visit colleges
Plane tickets to the States aren’t cheap. Students must also miss out on school days if they want to visit their prospective colleges during the academic year. As I’ve learned this summer, visiting colleges during the vacation season doesn’t give an accurate portrayal of the school.
"In this day and age of computers and Web sites, we just might have to make do," said SAHS counselor Alice McHan.
Colleges frequently provide online tours and a plethora of information on their Web sites. Also, admissions officers or alumni often visit schools overseas. Keep track of the overseas activities of your prospective colleges online.
Long mailing distances
A high school graduate I spoke with told me that seven out of the 10 colleges she applied to did not get her transcripts until two to three days after the deadline, although the transcripts were sent on time. Since she paid approximately $70 per application, she lost almost $500. Another student told me that express mail for AP addresses was, at best, two to three days faster than regular mail, but still unreliable.
"You could fax your transcripts," said my brother, West Point sophomore Dennis Cho. "It seems like the obvious solution, but the average teen has never used a fax machine. I, myself, didn’t think of using it until I was really desperate. Just ask your guidance counselor or your working parent to fax your transcripts for you."
And here’s an extra word of advice: Follow the fax with a telephone call to make sure your paperwork got there.
On the other hand, one guidance counselor believed the problem was procrastination.
"The biggest problem arises since most students apply online and wait until the last minute to submit their applications — once the student applies, he/she must notify the guidance office to send the transcript," McHan said. "If the student submits at the last minute, the transcript will be late."
She also said that as long as the student had notified the guidance office, the mailing dates would be tracked.
She added: "If a student is in such a hurry, I would suggest FedEx rather than fast mail."
Different time zones
One of the most frequent — and vehement — complaints that I heard was the untimely phone interviews. My brother Dennis told me that he had to wake up for his phone interviews at "ungodly hours of the day." I remember hearing him in the living room at 3:30 a.m., preparing for his senatorial nomination interview with Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland.
"I received my call from the Air Force Academy at 4 in the morning," said another graduate. "Maybe they did the time conversions wrong. Maybe they couldn’t call me at any other time. I don’t know. But I was so tired, I don’t even remember what I said."
She still got accepted.
Of course, there isn’t much that can be done about the time differences other than requesting the interviewer call at a better time. You’ll just have to explain your situation to the interviewers. Communicate. Make sure they know you’re calling from overseas.
If you haven’t faced these problems yet, you will. The college application process can be daunting, but don’t lose heart. Be proactive. Call the admissions office; it is their job to help you. Ask your counselor, your upperclassmen, your teachers for guidance. You’re not alone.
Age and grade: 17, 12th grade
School: Seoul American High School
Colleges she is interested in: Swarthmore, University of Virginia, Cornell and Northwestern, among others
Life ambition: "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics; ... to leave the world a little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success." — Ralph Waldo Emerson
"I don’t know about life ambition, but that’s what I live by."