Pressed against the wall: trying hard not to join the ‘college dance’

It’s spring break, and my mom and I are in the middle of the junior- year ritual of college visits.

Between this trip and the SAT I took on March 9, the whole college process has gotten very real very quickly. The application process is just around the corner. It seems so exhilarating—and terrifyingly important.

But mostly it seems so contrived.

I’ve been told countless times that this process is about “the right college for you,” but I don’t feel like I’ll be “choosing” anything. More and more it seems like the purpose of a college app is to sell some idealized version of myself to the best school possible.

With so many students vying for spots at the top colleges and universities, the application process has become an arms race, an endless rush to pack apps with extracurriculars, leadership positions and AP classes.

It’s exhausting and superficial.

How many students join volunteer organizations, play sports or start school clubs just to pad their college “resumes”? And how many continue with activities after they’ve burned out or lost interest simply for the sake of continuity? Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of high school as a place of exploration and growth?

It’s messed up, really. The prevailing idea is that every student needs an angle, a hook, something he or she is “about.” But this thinking warps the high-school experience; it blurs the line between interest and obligation, between passion and calculation, throwing all motives into suspect.

I don’t mean to sound cynical; I know there are many people who are truly passionate about what they do. But I’m also not blind to those who aren’t. And it makes me wonder: How did we get here? When did college apps become resumes? When did college prep become a major industry with SAT and ACT tutoring and private counselors to script high-school careers?

The college application has become a conglomeration, a carefully constructed portrait that may not even truly reflect the student. And that’s the irony: the person on paper who is accepted may not really be the person whom the school selected. So much for finding that “perfect fit.”

As I stand on the edge of my senior year bracing for the college rush, I can’t help but worry.

I hope my true self and passions can show through my application, that I don’t get sucked into this college dance.

Finding a four-year home is hard enough without the added hurdle of misrepresentation.



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