With the last few decisions making their way to seniors, college is inherently on the forefront of the minds of hopeful students. Whether waiting for admissions decisions or attempting to make one, this can be a stressful part of the process. Recently, I realized that it wasn’t truly my college future vexing my overthinking tendencies. Instead, this stress I am experiencing stems from reflections of the past. Somewhere along my seventeen years of life, I seemed to have gathered the false conception that a college acceptance is the accumulation of all of your work in your youth and teenage years. It seemed to be the mark of what the future would hold for the remaining majority of my life.
In attempting to explain the less than perfect test scores I’ve received or the exceedingly common fact of my procrastination, it’s too easy to lose sight of what I am proud of. Wouldn’t it be a better preparation for life changing news to celebrate the exceptional way with which I have grown in the past years? Shouldn’t I use this transitional period to reflect upon the memories in which I feel most excited about my sense of self? Growing further rooted in the life I feel lucky to be a part of allows for the relationship between my self worth and this milestone to lose its potency.
The questioning of my choices to leave a traditional high school experience early or the reality of consistently living with friendships tainted by distance leads to the same conclusion. Yes, you can dwell upon your choices that leave a sour aftertaste or you can realize how grateful you are for where you are now. Without some of the nail biting close calls or devastating failures I’ve lived through, I wouldn’t have the same perspective I do now. Sure, I could have gone to every Friday night football game or simply not put as much attention as I have to my grades. But if I had chosen this path, I would not be the person I am today. Realizing that it is acceptable to be at peace with yourself has allowed me the space to find the joy in the diverse nature of my memories.
I read an article recently in The New York Times that was speaking on the process which stresses so many seniors this time of year. A quote from it that I think speaks for the things we lose sight of in our self-critique was,
“College is a singular opportunity to rummage through and luxuriate in ideas, to realize how very large the world is and to contemplate your desired place in it. And that’s lost in the admissions mania, which sends the message that college is a sanctum to be breached — a border to be crossed — rather than a land to be inhabited and tilled for all that it’s worth.”
This thought ushered in a wave of calm for me about my past decisions. Sure, I’m one of those people who thinks discussing politics and new research studies at 3am is thrilling social experience (yes, I’m aware this is warrant to call me a pretentious nerd). However, I am also someone who is genuinely excited about learning and connecting with others in the process. Thanks to online school, I no longer see group discussion as something to fear, but something to look forward to. I can’t wait to connect with my teachers in a lecture hall rather than over a Skype call. Soon, I get to study in libraries for schools I actually attend. College admissions is important to me because learning is important to me. You can learn anywhere and thus college is only a vehicle to further promote this luxuriation in ideas that so entices me.
I wish everyone luck, but also a bigger picture mentality. The school/company/major you choose is not the quantitative rank of you as an individual. The schools that reject you are not places you are meant to be. If being qualified was all that mattered, then wouldn’t the years of life ahead be merely a mundane series of boxes to check? I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have the excitement of not knowing exactly what’s next.