The Dec. 5 front-page article on college application essays boggles the mind, not so much because of the eccentric topics cited but because college admissions officers profess to see essays as indicative of a student's ability. Consider the following sentences (emphasis mine): "In the process, some students--and their parents--have been left reeling." "When the Carrs looked at the essay topics, collective family heartburn set in." "The question that turned [the Carrs'] lives upside down for the last two months consisted of a single sentence. . . ." "Neither mother nor daughter could understand what the college was getting at." "As her tormented family began to view the dreaded essay as the only thing. . . ." "Her mother looks back on the experience as a two-month-long hassle that the family could have nicely done without."

Isn't it ironic that the SATs (which many selective colleges say count for little in the selection process) are administered in proctored situations, while the all-important essay can be the work of the entire family, college advisers, teachers and anyone else the student wishes to bring into the act.

Admissions officers cannot be unaware of this, and yet they perpetuate what, judging by the topics assigned, can only be described as a bizarre charade. College applicants deserve a fairer evaluation.