Featured image from tinybuddha.com
Admissions season definitely seems to have a clearly defined end goal. There’s a “point” to it, and that point is to achieve something, to become something, to arrive at a destination preordained by your future at the altar of social expectation. (Chances are you felt compelled to write a similarly fluffy-but-insubstantial sentence or two in your application essays.)
If we’re being honest, the first “goal” of admissions season is to actually define your end goal – to set your sights on the perfect college or the ideal career and feel weird or ashamed if you fail even to set these goals, let alone meet them.
Really though, a college is not an end goal – just like getting into a college is not an end goal – just like applying to college is not an end goal. All of these are just stops along the way, so in a sense (just like the cliché says) the journey is the destination. But this isn’t for some sort of nebulous, inspirational reason. It’s just because the journey is a long series of destinations that always end up paling in comparison to the next one in line. It always seems like the destination is in sight and yet just out of reach, while in fact the journey has simply ended and reincarnated itself an almost infinite number of times.
The college admissions journey is no different. Along the way there are many little victories that you can enjoy, little achievements and milestones you otherwise might never have noticed in the wake of time’s incessant marching. Here are a few:
- Realizing that you run a risk of missing little achievements and milestones in the wake of time’s incessant marching. This might not seem like a big deal, but it truly is. The reason they tell you to stop and smell the roses is because you’ll get a lot more out of it that way as opposed to just catching a whiff as you speed by. The little moments along the way are important; take some time to slow down.
- Forgetting for a second that you even applied to college. I’m serious. Whether it’s because you’re too stressed for your memory to function properly, or because you actually found an enjoyable diversion, complete abandon is healthy sometimes.
- Making memories independent of context. Making memories is important, but so often the admissions season can overwhelm them all; when you remember the times you spent with your friends your senior year, you’ll probably also recall the colleges they were applying to at the time and the dynamic of the group in the midst of all your stress. Let go. Make memories that will stand the test of time because they’re timeless from the moment they begin. Don’t just see the movie you’ll remember as “the one that came out senior year.” Put purpose into the moment, don’t fit the moment into the purpose admissions season has assigned you.
- Succumbing to your irrational urges and reading self-help articles on BuzzFeed. You deserve it.
- Confiding in a friend. They might be just as stressed as you are, or they might not be stressed at all and have no idea what you’re going through. Either way, open yourself up, be vulnerable, and let them take a little weight off your shoulders.
- Asking yourself tough questions. Thinking about what you really want. This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Admissions essays are a piece of cake. I could list my “achievements and accolades and additional alliterative accomplishments” in my sleep. But the hardest thing was asking myself questions, not just “big school or small school,” or “close to home or far away,” but real questions about what my motivations were for my college and future choices; was I choosing my school for me, or because of what people might think?
- Not asking too many questions. On the flip side, giving yourself a break once in a while is an impressive achievement. It can be exhausting constantly asking yourself, “But do I really want this for me or am I just trying too hard to be something I’m not?” Cut yourself some slack. Trust your instincts from time to time. Feel confident in your judgment and yourself.
- Finding balance. Between asking and not asking, thinking and feeling, dreaming and doing. This is something people spend their whole lives attempting to do – it’s certainly more difficult than getting through college. But chances are you’ll accomplish it once or twice in the crazy whirlwind tour of the college admissions process. And that’s incredibly valuable. You should be proud.
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