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A warning: It doesn’t always happen the way you expect it to.
There are many alternate worlds lying around, and applying to college is one of them. Visiting Starbucks is another. Your expectations will be shattered no matter how simple you feel the process should be.
For example, there’s no rhyme or reason to how crowded Starbucks will be at a given moment. I’ve tried to schedule my visits around the “busy” times of the day, but this has proven to be a lost cause. At this point it’s just hoping I’ll get lucky whenever I end up walking in.
To an extent that’s how applying to college feels, too. I mean, I would like to think that college admissions committees are a little less fickle than the pedestrian traffic of a given day, but how can I really be sure?
I also completely do not understand how the Starbucks line works. It seems like the individual people move through the line quickly, but the line itself seems to move slowly (that is, I seem to spend a lot of time in it for how quickly the individual people move). Sarah without an “h” (ugh) literally ordered and paid in fourteen seconds, but somehow with three people in front of me I’ve been here for ten minutes…?
This gap between individual and collective perspectives and considerations is something that’s all too familiar to me as a former college applicant. I know every individual person goes through the same process, but somehow college admissions is a collective experience that is really ill-defined considering how personal it is to just about everyone who goes through it.
Is ordering your latte a statement of your identity??
Not everyone will like the same drinks you like on the Starbucks menu. And yet a good number of people must share your taste, because Starbucks sells the menu item in the first place. Right? And yet your taste in food is still a part of your individual personality.
Maybe I feel like this because I’ve taken more Buzzfeed quizzes about what kind of drink I am than what career I should have or what college major I should choose. Still, though, it deserves thinking about. The things we like and the things we choose, however trivial, do say something about us.
So what makes a Starbucks order less integral to your personality than your college choice? Thousands of students across the country have applied to the same colleges you have; thousands of students across the country have ordered the same drinks you have.
Maybe a college choice is “more important” in terms of mattering in the future because, unlike a drink, your college has to choose you back.
That would be funny, though. Walking up to the register like, “I’ll have a salted caramel mocha.” But then the cashier just hands you a rejection letter that goes something like this: “Thank you for ordering a salted caramel mocha. Unfortunately due to the high volume of orders this season we cannot serve you this drink. We wish you the best of luck in ordering something else.”
Sounds ridiculous, right? But if you’re honest with yourself, isn’t it just as ridiculous when you work hard for your accomplishments and, for no given reason, you fall short in the eyes of your dream school? Rejection is difficult to deal with no matter where it comes from; you’re just taught to expect it from colleges and not from a frappuccino.
Watching other people get their orders is way more stressful than it should be.
I mean, there’s all that noise going on and they don’t always make the drinks in order so Jenni-with-an-i’s iced mocha macchiato might arrive long before your green tea latte even though you have no idea why one takes more time to make than the other.
When you’re applying to college, high school is like a noisy café that you unfortunately have to navigate through to get what you need. You’ll watch your classmates get admissions letters before you get the first of yours, and although you know it doesn’t mean anything, you’ll worry.
Why is it taking so long? Are they laughing at my application at this very moment? Did they just throw it out and decide not to dignify it with a rejection letter? Did they have to consult the Admissions Committee Handbook to see whether the inevitable typos in my supplement essay bar me from acceptance?
In a Starbucks line all you have to worry about is that they accidentally forgot or spilled your order. You’re the customer; you make the demands, and it’s a transaction in which you “deserve” satisfaction. You can be confident that if they weren’t thinking straight when they made your drink, you can ask for a new one.
But you can’t do that with a letter from a prospective college. There’s no satisfaction guarantee when it comes to college applications. Yes, you are a customer, but if admissions season was a Starbucks, you’d have an application number on your cup and not a name.
But it tastes so good.
This applies both to the end of admissions season and the end of a Starbucks visit. You might have ordered something new to try, or you might have gone with an old favorite; likewise, you might have applied to a familiar college or a few farther from home.
But you went through this process for a reason and with a goal. Sure, attending college is an oh-so-slightly loftier goal than drinking coffee. But in each scenario you’ve set out with your preferences in mind and come out with something that gives you a taste of something special.
It might not taste exactly the way you’d expect. I’ve had some really weird-tasting mocha frappuccinos that seem suspiciously fruity, and I’m never quite sure what to make of them. I’m not sure what to make of my college experience, either. But I do know that I love coffee.
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