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Playing the College Admissions Game

After months of writing and rewriting essays, taking standardized tests, and waiting, the names of the colleges become abstracted, reduced to an elusive string of syllables, haunting and mysterious. I began to ask myself, “Do I want to go to these schools, or do I just want to get into these schools?” The reality is that, while I liked many of the schools I applied to, I never really bothered to picture myself on their campuses. I was protecting myself, insuring that when rejection arrived on my computer screen or in my mailbox, I would not have lost too much. If I had never imagined my future, than I wouldn’t miss it.

Now, adults do not ask me where I am applying or what my plans are or what my essays are about. When we matriculate, we all gain back our identities, we all sigh as we return to being ourselves, stripped of the statistics, which horrify parents and suffocate students. I am happy to resume life as human, not as a “holistic” gathering of arbitrary information.

A year ago, I sat in Ms. Bishop’s office as she asked me what size college I was interested in, if I wanted to participate in Greek life, what region of the United States I preferred, and whether I liked an urban or rural setting. My answer to all of the questions was a shrug of the shoulders, an unenthusiastic, “I am not sure.”

My parents were frustrated with my indifference. At dinner parties with adults, the only question anyone over the age of thirty could formulate was, “So, what colleges are you thinking about? Do you know where you are going?” I always answered with a vague response, sighing, “It’s really too early to tell.” My parents would elbow me in the side, silently begging me to come up with some more acceptable response, and I would spew a list of colleges.

Applying to college is something almost every student has to suffer through. Everyone fills out the tedious forms and applies to a variety of schools: some they love, some they like, and some they would attend if forced.

A junior or senior in high school is more than just a college applicant. Yet, we are forced everyday to think of ourselves as a number, a percentage, a statistic. Hopefully, we will be one the few plotted as “accepted” on the Naviance graph for our college of choice, but odds are that most of us will become a red diamond, a sign of being waitlisted or rejected.

I prefer not to think of myself as a symbol on a graph. Because I was accepted or rejected from a certain school does not change who I am or how others should perceive me. College admissions is a game. A good amount of players have an advantage, whether it be athletics, arts, or minority status, but we are all competing for those treasured spots.

Why are some schools more coveted than others? Is it their name? For whatever reason, students at Deerfield seem to be drawn to the same schools. Perhaps, it is because we have somehow decided that these schools are socially acceptable, that we can utter their names at dinner parties without feeling ashamed or worthless. Teenagers are self-conscious creatures and their choice of college is one of the things they can obsess over.

The college process is a balancing act. Nobody enjoys taking the SAT, writing 500 words about an imaginary dinner party with a person of their choice, or typing information for the millionth time into the CommonApp website. It is a struggle, but it has an end. For me, the relief of being done with the process was almost as great as getting into one the schools I most liked.

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