Academics

High School: You know the type, because you are the type (A personality): impatiently waiting for the summer to end so you can flash your fancy new kicks and school supplies, ready to achieve anything and everything so you can add to that Common Application and get into Harvard. Wait – you can’t admit that out loud or you’ll jinx it!

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College: To think that you looked forward to this? Movies didn’t show the hours of studying, the stress of planning your classes and being solely responsible for your own graduation, and the homesickness (shhhh, don’t tell mom and dad – if they think you’re not having the time of your life, they’ll pull your tuition and demand you come home). The number of assignments that make up your course grade just went down from 50 to 3. That’s stressful, folks.

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High School: You relentlessly check your online grades for updates, because every single assignment will determine whether you’re trading stocks on Wall Street or trading favors on the street corner. You treasure your grades like your future children, because to you, they kind of are. Anything that will mar that perfect 4.0 has the potential to be the deciding factor in your admissions decision to Harvard – wait, shoot, jinxed it again. Knock on wood.

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College: You’re a small fish in a big pond, and it’s the first time in your life you’re not one of the smartest, if not the smartest, person in your class. You develop a blase attitude and consider yourself to be enlightened. There is, after all, far more to life than grades, and you’re here to grow as a person. That attitude lasts about as long as the first irate phone call you get from your dad saying he just got your term report, and could you please explain why he’s paying for a GPA that’s lower than your non-existent credit score?!

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Entertainment

High School: Relegated to “nerd” status early on in your educational career, you leave the partying (and dearth of job prospects) to The Plastics at your school, and develop a strict regimen of study time and extracurriculars. College is a time to reinvent yourself, and there will be plenty of opportunities for a princess-diary-esque makeover/elevation in social status before you meet your future spouse (and future President) at Harvard. You need to stop doing that! You’re running out of wooden surfaces to knock on.

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College: You realize that social strata within 10,000 plus undergrads translates a little differently than a high school with 500 kids per graduating class. Your social future now rests upon a) your nonexistent dance moves and b) your decision regarding whether or not to join the sea of bleached sheep baaa-ing their way to a weirdly misogynistic Greek tradition that colleges still…promote? The heck?

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Extracurriculars

High School: You’re front-loaded, side-loaded, back-loaded with clubs, activities, and extracurriculars through which you can display your leadership, personal character, and passion for your chosen vocation. You’re the President and co-founder of at least three clubs, and if your Saturdays aren’t booked solid with some sort of volunteering, research, or resume-building activity, Harvard might find you inadequate.

HSExtracurricularsCollege: You now have to apply to be in clubs? What is this alternate reality that you’ve stepped into? Internships and externships and mentorships and other-ships that you’ve never even heard of are crucial to a resume that might actually result in your future means of feeding yourself. You realize with a sinking sensation that by failing to begin networking your first semester freshman year, you’re somehow already late to the party. The cool exploratory side of yourself you thought you were developing when you put your major as “Undeclared” is now coming back to bite you in a very big way. You guess you can apply to grad school…that might give you more time to figure things out…

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Exercise

High School: Running between activities and waking up at 666-o’clock in the morning (the devil’s hour) has given you very little energy, time, or inclination to exercise recreationally unless you count the number of calories your brain burns pouring over homework assignments every night. It is, after all, the most important muscle in your body. You dropped swimming and track the moment you realized you’d never make Varsity, because Harvard doesn’t play in the little leagues – they play in the ivy leagues heh. Ah, heck. Jinxed it again.

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College: Because everyone is suddenly so much more attractive than in high school in this parallel universe that you’ve stepped into. Your appearance and presentation matter just as much if not more than your actual academics, and now that there are potential romantic partners who are actually worth pursuing…well…

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Dating

High School: You’ve grown up around any and every potential dating prospect; every new kid in school gets snatched up like the last Twinkie on grocery store shelves when people thought they were disappearing forever. The vaguely nauseatingly incestuous dating pool – in which you’ve watched pretty much every one of your friends date each other in various permutations and combinations – is not something you want to bother with when there are more important things to keep in mind. Eyes on Harvard – I mean, the prize.

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College: Dating apps are more than just amusing ways to pass the time during sleepovers and rare hangout sessions with your friends – they’re ways to meet potential prospects for anything from hook-ups to committed romantic partners. You spend an inordinate amount of time judging people on their one-lined descriptions while carefully crafting your own. You and your friends agonize over which person your match is in their various profile photos – the hot one, or the sidekick? You can almost hear your gender studies professor lamenting over your callous objectifications, but you’re an adult now, and can finally make your own romantic decisions without fear of your parents’ mortifying reactions to your significant other. Freedom has never felt so sweet.

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Erika Sun

Erika Sun is a member of Northwestern University's class of 2018 enrolled in the Honors Program in Medical Education. She is currently double majoring in Psychology and Biology, although she's seriously considering throwing in the towel and living in a van by the river. She grew up in Seattle, Washington, and consequently feels bereft without mountains, the ocean, skiing, hiking, and surfing – none of which are viable options in Chicago. Thus, she instead makes it her mission to eat her way through the Chi-town foodie scene and pack on the Freshman 50...as a junior. Each admissions season brings with it fresh waves of cold sweat, and memories of the many tubs of Ben & Jerry's ice cream consumed while crafting the perfect personal statement.