College Applicants Find Mothers to be More Frustrating Than Fathers

January 26, 2016

What do students hate most about applying to college? We asked, and over 25,000 of you delivered. The title of “Most Frustrating Thing About the College Application Process” goes to “essays,” with the “cost” of college coming in a close second.

The winning entry of our $5,000 fall scholarship, which goes to high school senior Mandy Gao, highlights the difficulty of navigating the application process as the biggest hurdle. The 18-year-old senior at San Francisco’s Abraham Lincoln High School wrote:

“As the first person in my family applying to college, it’s extremely hard for me to research and have all the information necessary for college admissions. I never knew that colleges require you to fill out essays and supplemental questions to apply for their schools ... Applying to schools can add up, and at the very end, you only choose to attend one school and that college tuition is also expensive!”

From the 26,196 responses submitted by entrants from all 50 states, we were able to identify applicants’ top 5 frustrations based on word count:

1) Essays - 13,500

2) Cost - 13,342

3) Test Scores - 7,973

4) Parents - 5,166

5) Grades - 4,129

We further broke down the “parents” statistic and found that students were three times as likely to mention their “mother” or “mom” as the source of frustration than “father” or “dad.” (Tiger moms, looks like you’re living up to your name.) The entries we received were at once haunting yet hopeful. Here are a few of our favorite responses from our 10 finalists:

Kyle from San Francisco, CA considers the stress of writing essays to be the “most irritating” part of applying.

“The difficulty lies with choosing a topic… that presents yourself in a way that differs from others… to convey a different part of yourself through writing that is separate from grades and test scores.”

He hopes to study Communications or Psychology at the University of Colorado - Boulder.

Liz from Sugarland, TX and a Johns Hopkins prospective student is frustrated by the emphasis placed on minutiae in applications.

“With so many requirements in applications, mistakes can easily be made. Students have very little time, but need to pay attention to every small detail to ensure that everything is done perfectly.”

Like many in today’s generation, Nathan, hailing from Blackstone, MA, plans to study Computer and Information Systems and Engineering at Boston College this year. He looks back on his accomplishments as well as his missed opportunities with 20/20 hindsight:

“Some of the most frustrating parts of applying to college is learning exactly what I’ve been doing wrong with the last few years of my high school life. I look at my GPA and my SAT scores thinking if only I had studied a little harder, worked to get a better study habit etc. … it’s a little discouraging to know that I don’t have the best chance for my school based on what I’ve done and not done.”

Sara, from Pawacatuck, CT, finds an admissions process that rewards academic achievement over intellectual curiosity to be frustrating and discouraging.

“I’ve never been grade driven, I’ve always taken classes that I’m interested in, whether they give me an AP or Honors boost in my GPA or not. However, most of the time the kids who lack intrinsic motivation for learning, are often the ones who gain acceptance to the best colleges, due to their 4.0s, perfect SAT scores, and their thousands of extracurriculars.”

Sara dreams of bringing her academic passions to Tufts University to study Biological Sciences.

We hope these insights gathered from our Fall 2015 scholarship are both informative and enlightening and that they will help you reconsider your application approach. See more of our admits here, and don’t miss out on the opportunity to apply for our Spring semester scholarship!

About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.




Browse Successful Application Files

Serena2020
Harvard ‘19


Accepted to Harvard, UChicago, Northwestern, Swarthmore, Emory, Oklahoma U, UKentucky, K College , OU, Alma

Premed on track to graduate a year early. But I love my school! National merit scholar, into surgery, arts & community…
mark_pino
UPenn ‘20


Accepted to UPenn

Hello! I'm a Freshman at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. I plan on concentrating in finance, marketing and social impact. In high school I was active in LGBTQ advocacy and music. I can help with any questions you have about admissions
VivienneEve23
UC Berkeley ‘20


Accepted to UC Berkeley, Brown, Claremont (CMC), Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Northwestern, Pomona, Stanford, San Diego, Vanderbilt, UCSC, UCSB, UCSD, UCLA, Cal Poly, Cal Poly Pomona, Washington

Los Angeles kid attending UC Berkeley, Class of 2020! Planning on studying business or economics. Go Bears!
ayinUChicago
UChicago ‘18


Accepted to Duke, Brown, NYU, UChicago, UNC, East Carolina, NC State

I'm a class of 2018'er at UChicago studying Economics and Psychology! Super interested in start-ups and economics.

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