Over the summer, I worked as camp counselor at a camp for kids in kindergarten through eighth grade. Have you ever noticed that little kids aren’t the best at judging ages? Well, I was sitting at lunch one day with a few of my campers, when one of the girls asked me what college I go to. I laughed and told her that I’m only 16, that college is still a few years away for me. The girl then asked what college I want to go to and I answered truthfully, saying that I wasn’t sure yet. She looked surprised and proceeded to tell me that her dad graduated from Yale and that in August, she is going to SAT summer school. This girl is going into sixth grade. One of the boys sitting at the table put down his sandwich and asked, “What’s an SAT?”
That conversation happened months ago, and yet I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, which is why I decided to write about it. I want to clarify a few things. First, I think that it is important to work hard in order to get into college. Second, I think that it’s completely natural to be overwhelmed about the application and acceptance processes.
I feel that I am constantly being bombarded with information about college. Why the SAT is better than the ACT or vise versa. Who’s been studying with their private tutor the longest. Did you know that the acceptance rate of the Ivy League schools just dropped by 0.01%? Why you have to play an instrument, speak multiple languages and play sports. Don’t forget to write for the school newspaper, to join model UN, the debate team, art club, and robotics! Why 100 hours of community service simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Why junior year is the most. Important. Year. Of. Your. Life. The advantages and disadvantages of applying early decision. What to write about for your Common App essay. How to qualify for financial aid. Why you can’t tell anyone where you’re applying as to minimize your competition.
To anyone who feels overwhelmed by the college process, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: where you go to college does not define the quality person you are, nor does it determine outcome of the rest of your life. In the grand scheme of things, college is just another exciting chapter meant for us to grow, learn about the world, meet new people and discover what we are passionate about. People are so caught up in worrying about the next four years that they are missing out on the life they are living right now. One day, it will be our turn to walk across the senior green at graduation and trust me when I say, we are going to regret the hours we spent worrying about the future. We can’t get this time back.
I’ve noticed that people have the tendency to approach the college process with tunnel vision. They talk about college as if there is only one possible path that leads to success, but there are so many ways to become a successful person. I wish people would stop comparing themselves to their peers, as if there is some award to be won for the person who gets into the “best college.” Sorry to disappoint you, but there is no such thing as the “best college” because what’s good for you isn’t necessarily what’s good for someone else.
As I listen to people list all of the colleges they are applying to, I wonder if they are telling me because they are trying to convince themselves that they are doing the right thing. There is nothing wrong with striving to get into a prestigious school, but go because it makes sense for you, not because you are trying to impress someone. Often students end up at a school and transfer after the first semester because they are unhappy. Whether you end up at a big state university or a small private college or take a gap year or go into the military or get a job or study abroad, you are going to be fine.
Overall, I think it’s important to trust the process. KO is an academically rigorous school that fully prepares its students to take on the challenges that lie ahead. If you take advantage of the many opportunities KO has to offer, spend time with people who make you happy, and focus on working hard, I promise that everything will work out.