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A college is an institution, not a person. It doesn’t have feelings or even (it can seem during admissions season) rationale. When you think about it for long enough, it makes the whole process seem incredibly stressful because it’s like fighting some sort of battle against a machine.

You want to prove yourself, to be understood and accepted (in every sense of the word) by these institutions, but how can you be understood by something that seems at many times cold and inhuman?

It may not seem like it, but colleges do care, to an extent – because it sort of has to, but that doesn’t make it any less special. Colleges “have to” care about what kind of person you are similar to how your parents “have to” take pride in you. No wonder alma mater means “nourishing mother.”

So is “college pride” just a scheme to force students into being good representatives of their schools? An “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” type thing? Maybe. But it also fosters a somewhat symbiotic relationship between the two parties.

The pride a college takes in its students is sometimes overlooked in the wake of the pride students are supposed to take in their institution. There are no T-shirts with your face on it that university faculty can buy at the school bookstore, no fight song dedicated to your name. (In all honesty, that would be super weird.)

Of course, since the students are, in a sense, the institution, the pride they take in it is the simplest manifestation of its pride in them, for a couple of reasons. It raises the morale and improves the general atmosphere for both students and faculty, and since they are the university, which in turn is a point of pride. It also puts their passionate spirits on display, and passionate students reflect well on their alma maters.

You’re expected to take pride in your institution and you do get some degree of fulfillment out of that, so you aren’t really expected to think too much about whether it works in the opposite direction.

But this really only requires looking around a little. Wherever you are – a college, a job, a group of people – you are there partly by chance and partly because of choices you’ve made and achievements and experiences you’ve amassed.

And that’s why your school takes pride in you. Because it chose you out of a pool of equally and even more-qualified applicants. The fact that a school can seem somehow irrational and like a machine at the same time (possibly an oxymoron, but not inaccurate) stems from the fact that “better” schools accept applicants that “worse” schools reject, or that “smart” kids go to “average” schools and vice versa.

Admissions committees are looking for a good fit, for someone that they’ll eventually be proud to be affiliated with. A school makes an investment in you when it accepts you. It’s easy to take rejections seriously or personally, but it’s important to take acceptances the same way.

Because don’t you have to do the same thing that colleges do? You have to choose from among acceptances and reject all but one. In a way, your job is even harder than theirs. A college can accept hundreds or thousands of students each year. But you can only pick one.

That’s why, more than anything else, I chose to apply to a school that I felt I could make proud. In a totally idealistic way, I imagined someone walking into my office years from now and chatting with me, looking over and seeing a Cornell diploma on my wall and remarking, “You went to Cornell?” Chuckling. “That makes sense.”

 


 

The truth is that my school is not going to have an opinion of me. It’s not going to have any feelings toward me. I know this. It’s not a human relationship, but nonhuman relationships are a little underrated. These types of relationships can still be mutualistic and symbiotic.

I know I can’t place expectations of personalization or even personality on my school. But I can place expectations on myself that are inspired by the knowledge of the sacred bond I’ve forged throughout my relationship with it.

It began when I decided to apply and, although I didn’t think about it much then, it is literally never going to end. Like your family or your name, your school is a part of you. You shouldn’t take that lightly and you should also know that it won’t, either.

As I said, though, there isn’t a lot of “literature” on why your school should or will take pride in you. It’s not a widely publicized phenomenon. At first I just figured that if it cared enough to teach me and house me (for a price), it must “think” I’m all right, but that’s about the extent of their end of the relationship. My friends and I all talk about how much we love Cornell, but rarely, if ever, about how much Cornell loves us.

So in a sense, this is a matter of opinion. And it’s not like you can ask a school whether or not it’s true; after all, it isn’t a person. Whether it’s a machine or an irrational entity or a construct I’m mandated by my culture to staple to my identity, though, I know that I matter, and I mattered since the day I chose to submit my application.

 


 

With every new pool of applicants, a school must reconsider and redefine its mission, its atmosphere, and its views. Like the IQ test, standardized to the population, a school’s pride in its students, itself, and its reputation begins with the applicants.

Whether a school accepts or rejects you, you can bet that it cared about what type of person you were. And if it accepted you, the institution, as much as it can be, is already proud of you and expecting you to make it prouder.

Most importantly, however, you have a say in their identity just as much as it has a say in yours – once again, whether it accepts you or not. You impact your college just by existing, just by applying, and any college knows that. You have the power to command the pride of an entire institution.

Your college might be stressing more than you are.

Sarah Chandler

Sarah Chandler is a junior at Cornell University studying Performing and Media Arts and Psychology.As much as she loves writing for CollegeVine, she'd rather be astral projecting or watching The Office. She has too much fun writing bios like these for her own good.