College admission officials across the country report students are choosing the Columbine shootings as the topic for their college application essays this year.
“I think it says that Columbine was an event which made a huge impact on these students’ lives,” said Chris Markle, admissions director at Susquehanna University, a 1,700-student private college in Selinsgrove, Pa. “It makes me wonder whether Columbine is this generation’s Kent State. It’s really a defining moment in their teen lives.”
Before the April 20, 1999, massacre, students tended to write about their favorite teacher or an influential relative, admissions officials said. Now they’re writing about school safety, gun control, fear and vulnerability.
“It was an event that affected many students, more than we anticipated,” said Sandy Gamba, acting associate admissions dean at the University of Denver. “Students really reflected a lot on it in the essays. I think it was a reality check for a lot of students. It really grounded them to say, ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’ It was quick maturity for a lot of them.”
Kids Realizing Danger Markle estimates nearly 240 — about half — of Susquehanna’s freshman class wrote about Columbine.
“I’ve never seen the volume on a single subject like this in 10 years,” Markle said.
Texas Christian University Admissions dean Ray Brown said about 750 essays out of 5,100 applications were devoted to Columbine.
“We’ve all witnessed and maybe even experienced firsthand the risky behavior kids engage in. But I think kids are starting to realize the danger that the world holds. They are coming to the conclusion that they are vulnerable creatures,” Brown said.
In response to an essay question at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Va., that asked prospective students to identify who speaks for their generation, one student wrote:
“There is no sense of unity, and we are divided into the infamous cliques that have only recently made the news, in connection with the massacre in Littleton, Colorado. When one constantly physically and emotionally knocks down those who could be potential allies, any idea of unity is destroyed. Without unity, the voices are separated and too weak to be heard.”