Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

Appblr. App-blur. It’s a term coined by our very own Lily Herman describing the crop of new tumblrs by high school students detailing their application experience.

It was born about a year ago from the few low-key college-tumblrs that existed back then, like University Bound, and those of current TP staffers Jillian Feinstein, Joanna Flores, and Sarah Wiszniak. Since then, it’s mushroomed into a full-blown empire with seriously competitive “stats pages” and lighthearted “appblr superlatives.”

So… Appblr

Allow me to demonstrate:

Drawing by Yours Truly

Drawing by Yours Truly

I hope that cleared things up for you. If not, just check the tag  for about 30 seconds and you’ll be good.

So what’s the deal with the Appblr world?

If you’re a Prospect reader, chances are you’ve heard of something called College Confidential (If you haven’t, please never visit the site and be content with its plentiful and amusing UrbanDictionary definitions instead).

Word around the block is that the abblr community is developing the same sort of competitiveness, absurdity, exclusionary attitude, and pretension that made College Confidential something everyone loves to hate. What began as innocent narration of teenage admission is spiraling straight and fast into a web of unsolicited and unqualified advice, “chance me’s,” and anonymous hate messages.

Here at The Prospect, we genuinely believe in the holistic and intensely personal experience of college admissions. There’s nothing like it. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers scrambling to meet massive goals, discover huge things about themselves, and chronicle their unique and impenetrably complex experiences over the past four years, and laying it all at the feet of a stranger. It’s sensitive. And we’re sensitive to that. That’s why slews of advice, “chance me’s,” statistical comparison, and insensitive complaints are absolutely prohibited by our staff.

Sure, we have people at top universities and liberal arts colleges…but we still don’t quite know how we got there. We never will. TP founder Lily Herman explains this phenomenon with this quote by Andy Van De Voorde: “As a general rule, I try to avoid pat advice of any kind, in part because I ended up where I am largely because of dumb luck and the kindness of strangers, not because I followed some seventeen-point plan I read about on the Internet.”

That’s where appblrs get dangerous. The most competitive applicants are the ones creating admissions blogs. Others are either 1) less obsessed, or 2) too intimidated to jump on board. If the only pages out there are run by the most competitive kids in the applicant pool, it’s easy to feel like they’re the only kids in the applicant pool.

Prospect Admit/Deny Blogger Ameera Khan shared her experience with this phenomenon, saying, “I feel like the appblr community only represents a portion of all prospies. I know someone who has perfect stats and everything on Tumblr and is applying to my dream school. My stats are far from perfect and I’m definitely not some brilliant child prodigy or anything. We’re competing against each other…Sometimes it seems that if you’re not the pick of the litter, you’re out of this appblr community, as though you don’t belong with the elite. The feelings are a bit undermining and more times than not, often frustrate you.”

So it’s exclusionary. This is a system of blogs by students with 2380s, sophomores who are already “addicted to admissions,” and musicians who have played in Carnegie Hall. The appblrs themselves can admit it.

“It IS totally College Confidential,” says a blogger who runs an appblr and wishes to remain anonymous. “It absolutely is…because when you see kids complaining about marks higher than yours, you WILL feel bad and when you gather a community of overachievers that shares that sort of stuff; it’s an unavoidable result.

Is obsessive comparison the appblr’s achilles heel? Or, a better question: is it avoidable?

Why Appblr?

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Most appblrs are absolute sweethearts.

You heard it here first. I might have been making fun in my paint drawing before, but they’re not being sarcastic when they describe themselves as “normal people”. Woven through the volume of campus photos and anxious postings about “number of hours until my ED decision” are posts about Gossip Girl, Dylan O’Brien, and the Beyonce album. College Confidential is all the more intimidating because it’s anonymous. I’ll dare to assert that tumblr’s legion-of-perfect-statistics is demystifying. There’s no question of humanity. They’ll snapchat double-chins and swoon over hot tour guides while procrastinating on the evening’s homework.

While planning this article, I concluded that no argument of mine could supercede the appblrs’ defense of themselves. Here are a few of the most interesting and compelling answers I received in response to “Why Appblr?” from many appblr bloggers themselves.

  • “I personally think that it’s great because we get to truly meet people who may live hundreds of miles away but still share the same interests and doubts and worries and passions.” –app-eal
  • “I was motivated by seeing my appblr friends getting their decisions, and feeling that same excitement with them. Like damn, now I want some decisions myself!” –admissionsjourney
  • “I love it because it’s a community of people who, like me, are thinking about college. It’s refreshing to see applications from the perspective of seniors who are aiming high (most higher than myself) and are talking about the same schools as I am.” –
  • “Appblr is the place to come talk to people that get your situation…I can’t even express how grateful I am to appblr for making rejection suck 48253x less.” –seekingadmission
  • “At least we don’t say ‘my d’” –college-crazy
  • “It’s remarkable that this community even exists, let alone exists to this capacity, considering how uninviting tumblr as a medium is for social connections.  Everyone has been incredibly supportive, especially after my first rejection, and joining this community has raised my confidence with regards to the schools I’m applying to.” –collegestan

To Appblr or not to Appblr?

That’s the question for the new waves of applicants. It’s tempting, tricky, dichotomous, and potentially destructive. And there’s not an easy answer. Some TP writers who were once part of the “scene” exiled themselves altogether (Josette Marsh, Ada Tam), while others remain active and prominent members of the society (Paayas Pandit, Alexis Zimmer, Danielle Zhou, and…myself)

All journalistic neutrality aside, I have an appblr. I tracked the #appblr tag for quite a while and got to know and enjoy some of the movement’s founding members early on. When the infamous Facebook group was created, I jumped at the opportunity to connect with the personalities that I had grown to love so well. On December 14th, months after the group was created and half of my applications were submitted, I posted this on the page:


I received encouraging messages, a myriad of followers, and abundant support.

When it comes down to it, I consider myself pro-appblr, but not without reservations. I find the community half distracting and completely unrelatable and half warm and revolutionary. The culture of “I’m gonna die if I don’t get into x university” and “I can’t believe I was rejected by x, why would they want someone like me anyway I don’t know what to do with myself anymore?” is kind of scary.

I take rejection extremely well, I’m not basing my worth on a total crapshoot application to some prestigious university, and my confidence in my future and my abilities is not dependent on what institution I end up attending. And in all honesty, I think that’s the kind of fanatical, toxic attitude that makes many people averse to abblr culture. But I also love Libby’s hilarious tumblr tags, Katrina’s daily drooling over Ezra Koenig, the beautiful campus photos, and everyone’s remarkable ability to stand up to anons like this one (profanity warning) and defend someone they’ve never even met.

I am constantly amazed by the internet’s ability to bring people together, unite ideas, and form communities that matter. When interviewed, more than one person said that appblr was one of the best decisions they’ve ever made, and that tumblr messages turned into snapchats and Google hangouts and real friendships. As the “appblr nation” continues to explode, there will be more cruel anons and elitist teenagers and competitive sentiments because corruption is inevitable with a broadening audience. It’s our own responsibility to ask ourselves if we’re maintaining healthy attitudes, if the experience is beneficial to us, and if we’re becoming obsessed with comparing ourselves to others. The answers to those questions are individual, as is the decision to partake in the appblr experience.

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