Appblr: The College Fandom
When I told my friends I was going to be attending community college because I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, they treated me as if I were a robot, as if there was some program in me that needed to be rewired, and they were scientists up to the task. None of them seemed to understand that I was a person, that if it were that easy I would have figured out what I wanted to do with my life a long time ago.
Because of the lack of support from my friends, I began to spend more time on Tumblr, going on when I should’ve been having the time of my life on weekends. One day, after endless hours of scrolling through fashion models and DIY projects, I came across a Tumblr that caught my eye. I still can’t recall whose Tumblr it was, or even why it caught my interest, it’s like a polaroid that was left out in the sun for too long, and if I knew how important it would be later on I would have taken the time to preserve it. That one post, from that one Tumblr user whose name is a blur, led me to a community on Tumblr called Appblr. I didn’t find out the exact name of the community until much later, but what I gathered was it was a fandom for the college admissions process. It was a safe haven of sorts where high school students could geek out about SAT scores and campus tours as much as their little heart desired. I didn’t have my own Appblr, or felt any desire to create one, all I wanted was to live vicariously through students going through the college admissions process. It was a paradox for the ages, the thing that had caused me the most distress, the thing that had caused me to lose my friends, was the thing that I now valued most.
The layout of an Appblr is this: on the user’s home page they have a picture of themselves, an about me tab that made themselves seem quirky and relatable by talking about how they want to (jokingly) major in potato art or like eating hummus and watching Netflix on the weekends in between Common App questions, a stats tab where they posted their GPA, class rank, ACT/SAT scores, extracurricular activities, and awards they received, an ask tab where you could ask the person how to get into __ school like they were the genie of college admissions, and a FAQ tab where they linked previous questions they answered so you wouldn’t ask the same question twice. It was similar to College Confidential, except more personable because people would also reblog pictures that pertained to their interests, talk about boys, and come across as a person, not as a statistic. Nobody finds himself/herself thinking, “I wonder if User1546 on College Confidential got into Harvard?” On Appblr, because it is much more of a knit tight community, I would find myself thinking, “I wonder if Liz got into Yale? She’s reblogged 40 pictures of the campus and knows exactly what acapella group she wants to join. She’ll be devastated if she gets rejected.” However, because of the stats tab, and people’s intent to cultivate a picture perfect image of themselves online, I unintentionally began to think that having a perfect SAT score and applying to an Ivy League school was the norm, because that’s what the majority of the Appblr community was like. The most popular Appblrs were the ones who got into the most prestigious colleges, because everyone wanted to follow them and know there tried- and- true secrets. I followed the Appblr tag on Tumblr religiously, and finding a user who wanted to go to a public school or any “less selective” college was a rarity, they might as well not have existed at all. When I clicked on their profile I discovered they received very few asks, if they received any any at all, and included a college list, but not a stats page. With the highly competitive mentality on the Appblr community, with people posting everything but their life story, it’s hard not to feel like I wasn’t good enough in comparison. Although it’s important to cultivate healthy narcissism and reflect on your accomplishments and the person you’ve become, Appblr propelled unhealthy narcissism, where you idealize yourself through statistics.
With the anonymous option on the “ask” page, anyone could ask anyone about other people’s statistics and the admissions process without having their identity revealed. There were some messages where people would send “Chance Mes”, similar to College Confidential, to people who had gotten into their top-choice college, and others where people would specifically ask what they needed to get in, such as what good essay topics were, what extra curricular activities they needed, etc. No one wants to hear that the girl that got into Stanford worked her butt off and won five writing awards, volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, and obtained a prestigious internship; they want to hear about the girl that got into Stanford who had a low GPA and ACT score, but somehow blew the admissions committee with her essays. People like thinking there’s a back door, an easy way in that doesn’t involve working until you can work no more, but as many of the answers to these anonymous questions can tell you, that’s not the case. Also, by asking a few people for advice on how to get into your dream school, out of the thousands of people that go there, it gives you a small sample size to work with, and allows you to believe that everyone who goes to Stanford, Harvard, or any other prestigious school you want to go to are just like those few girls who met on Appblr. Colleges pride themselves in having a diverse group of students, and look for applicants who are willing to work hard and set themselves apart from the rest, so trying to follow in someone else’s shoe is actually the opposite of what the college admissions committee is looking for. According to Linda Kulman of U.S. News, “Instead of trying to decipher what they want, your task is to tell your story- to convey, in today’s college app watchwords, a sense of your passion and commitment.” Even if you do happen to have the same extra-curricular activities as the Appblr who got into Stanford, you need to be able to show that you’re passionate about something other than college applications, and to be willing to work hard to pursue what you’re passionate about.
“Ivy Day” is like a national holiday on Appblr, the day where Ivy League colleges release their decisions,and users find out if they got into their “dream school”. If a person got accepted into their dream school they would usually post a status and get hundreds of “congratulations” messages in their inbox the next day. However, if a person was rejected, that was the worst thing of all. You not only had to face your parents, your friends, and teachers you wrote you recommendation letters, but your five hundred followers on the internet. Of course none of these people are malicious toward you, quite the opposite, and send you encouraging messages that you are better than this college and that college, but it’s difficult to see the friends you made on Appblr get into the dream school that rejected you, not realizing, until that instant, that the small-knit community you grew to love over the last few months was more like a shark tank. By possessing a blog that’s all about the college admissions process, it’s difficult to imagine life outside of that because you’ve spent the last months, and for some years, dedicating everything you had to the admissions committee at Harvard, or Stanford, or whatever school you got rejected from. However, the most important thing to take into consideration is you got college to look forward to, not the college admissions process. Because no matter where you end up, whether it’s a private liberal arts college on the east coast, or a public party school in the midwest, you are still going to be meeting amazing friends, participating in sporting events, and learning things that pertain to your major, things that you are passionate about.
Looking back at the Appblr community as a sophomore in community college who’s applying to transfer, I don’t regret joining the Appblr community one bit. As much as I want to regret it, as much as I hate the toxic environment and the toxic mentality it instilled in me, I discovered some colleges that I would have never thought to apply to, and met some amazing online friends. I’ve just learned, from watching high school students come in and out of the Appblr community, that getting rejected from college is far from the worst thing in the world.