Acceptance before you even hit send on college applications

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These past few months, I’ve heard so much advice about applying to colleges. I’ve been told to start early. I’ve been told to present my best achievements without describing too many activities because it’s better to appear dedicated to a few things than over-extended. I’ve been told it’s best to use a formal voice, or a creative voice, or a heartfelt voice in my essays.

 

It’s great advice, with the best intentions. But as I am being told these things, I’ve also been watching my classmates focus all their energy towards the possibility of acceptance. My friends tell me they can’t think of anything else. I hear them asking, “Am I good enough to get into college?” And pretty soon, that turns into, “Am I good enough?”

In large doses, the language surrounding college applications can be degrading. “Acceptance” is the buzzword in my English class. The pressure is on: put on your best face and admissions will decide if you are accepted or rejected. Pretty soon, that drive to get accepted turns into a fear of rejection, which becomes a desire for approval, appreciation and security.

pull quoteWe’ve been trained well. These past years in high school, there has been so much competition. The grades and class rank system is based on numeric success, while individual strengths go unnoticed, at least on paper. It’s hard to see those around me stressing over their application credentials so much that they feel less valuable or less worthy of an education than others. I hear people talking about “safety schools” and “reach schools,” and how many things they can put on their resumes. I hear panic about test scores and insecurity about class rank.

In truth, how can one individual be any more worthy of success than another? Everyone has different strengths. There is more to a person than can be expressed into a box with a 650 word count limit, and being ok with that is so important.

The other day I was clearing out my mailbox of college information pamphlets, again. I don’t want to know much paper these schools use to send out these letters. I am reminded, though, of the things that give me hope for the high schoolers soon to move on. First, applications don’t have to be about fear for the future. Sometimes they can be about doing your best and late night ice cream. Second, we all deserve to be educated and to be able to pursue our aspirations. Self-acceptance is more important than any acceptances or rejections that can come in the mail.

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