Love makes us do crazy things.
All conventional wisdom aside, I’ll admit I was in love once. Her name was Carolina, specifically the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She satisfied all the criteria on my alma-mater-to-be checklist: large and diversified student body, exceptional communications program, warm weather– plus, I look pretty darn good in Carolina blue.
But Carolina was not my first love, and was most certainly not my last. I had fallen in love approximately eight times throughout the college process, with eight different schools.
I questioned how far I would go to get these schools to love me back.
Although we may not readily admit it, each college or university has somewhat of its own stereotypical student, an archetypal undergrad that serves as the informal face of the student body. And while shamelessly (shamefully) probing the shallow depths of College Confidential, I got to know the lame stereotypes of every school I applied to. Whether this was a tortured artist with not-intentionally-ripped-jeans, a rustic home-gardening intellectual or a Division One athlete, I wanted to know. I naively studied these standards in the hopes that if I ‘fit the bill’, they may hand-pick me from the list of applicants as their perfect match. Like eHarmony, but different.
So when colleges asked me “To tell them about myself” or worse, “What made me the perfect candidate for this school?”, I couldn’t help but struggle between portraying my truest self and telling them what I thought they wanted to hear. I felt kind of like a washed up indie musician being asked why I had what it took to be the next American Idol.
In fact, many students have further drawn out this comparison between high school and has looked at it as “a four year audition for college”. But I wasn’t the only Idol contestant of this nature in the running. In fact, I found that some of my closest friends were in similar shoes.
It was much to my surprise when, immediately after submitting her Oberlin application, my friend exclaimed that she “could not wait to quit her useless internship” at an art institute, an institute at which she had been working for years. I asked didn’t she love interning there, and didn’t she do it because she thought modern art was cool (or something)? She replied sheepishly with “well it looks good for college.” You’d be surprised at how common a theme this is, or maybe you wouldn’t.
But at least she actually did intern at the art institute. Often, it isn’t even enough to merely try to fit your personality type to the schools typical student. The desire to get into college has often led students to resort to blatantly lying about themselves, their interests or their extra curricular activities to fill their resumes, empty their hearts, and live up to the increasingly steep expectations of these universities.
The ‘pressures of the process’ are not entirely to blame for this shadiness, but then again neither are the students.
The result of this is that the product of who is in a particular school further perpetuates these stereotypes, and encourages students to continue to try and fulfill what they think a particular school is looking for in a student.
People have even resorted to lying about their race in the hopes of heightening their chance at admission; maybe not flat-out lying, but perhaps dancing around the truth or finding a loophole here or there. It doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, but the process makes people do questionable things, things that may compromise one’s character or integrity just a teensy bit.
Needless to say, sometimes we’re willing to do anything to get recognized by our dream school. Rather than encourage us to express our individuality and embrace what makes us unique, I feel that sometimes kids look at the ‘laundry list’ that certain schools require and attempt to satisfy that. Who could blame us? It’s inevitable that these practices go on; not only is the college process anything but fair, these schools are made out to be the omniscient, all-powerful determinants of our future and fate. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Hopefully your alma mater-to-be is a great fit for you, and I hope that your school loves yo just as much as you love your school. And even if you did sell your soul to reach this point, don’t worry; you have the next four years to repent.
Lead Image Credit: University of North Carolina