It’s the holiday season. Your tree is up (but looking rather forlorn because the tinsel just isn’t quite right this year). Your dad is muttering something about needing to string up the lights before it snows this year (but you know it probably won’t end up happening). Your mom is stressing, because…

Relatives. Living at your house. Asking you prying questions that make you squirm in your seat.

This year in particular proves open season for nosey, meddling, interfering, meddlesome, snooping inquiries – because this year, it’s application season.




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“Well, really dear, with your credentials, I wouldn’t worry about getting into schools at all. I’m sure you’re more than qualified. What extracurriculars are you doing? I’m sure your cousin couldn’t compete. What was your SAT score again? I’m sure it’s better than your cousin’s. Your mother tells me you’re applying to many of the same schools – I hope you don’t take your cousin’s spot!”

What you say: “Haha, no – they’re so much better than me in every way! I have to help my mom out in the kitchen, but it was nice talking to you!” (Escapes quickly and quietly).


What you mean: “Quick – check your face. Because I just found your nose in my business.”





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“I’m applying to Harvard, for sure, because it’s really the only school worthy of me. I was choosing between Princeton and Yale as safety schools, but I can’t really bring myself to decide because honestly, they’re both so inferior. What schools are you applying to?”

What you say: “Wow, good for you! Ah, just applying here and there – you know.”


What you mean: “I hope admissions committees can see right through your arrogant hide, you pompous prat. Harvard is mine.”








“You have to major in Economics during college. Otherwise, you’re going to end up broke and unsuccessful like my sister – and you don’t want to be like her. You should also rush and join Greek life, because that’s where you make the best connections. You should angle for an internship at one of the Big Four Consulting firms freshman year, otherwise you’ll never get off the ground.”

What you say: “Wow, thanks for the advice – I’ll keep that in mind.”


What you mean: “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that you’re an expert on my life and how I should live it. Please continue while I take notes. Actually – don’t. That was my mother you were insulting just then.”





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“In my day, we didn’t even have to write essays or anything like that. As long as you pulled good grades, you had your pick of schools.”

What you say: “Wow grandad – that sounds really nice.”




What you mean: “At this point, I’m willing to build my own time machine for that to be my reality. Oh wait…colleges weren’t even co-ed before the 70s…never mind.”



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“Honey, have you finished all your applications yet? I’m worried because I haven’t paid any application fees yet. You are on top of things, right?”

What you say: “Yes mom – don’t worry. I’m just finalizing things right now, and I should be good to go in a couple days. I just want to make sure everything is perfect.”


What you mean: “I’m drowning in a sea of essays that are all the same but require different things. I’m seriously contemplating the virtues of homelessness as a potential career path. Please help.”



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“Really, it doesn’t matter what college you go to because it’s practically arbitrary at this point. Climate change is encroaching and we’ll all be fried soon anyways – you should focus on making a real impact by joining an environmental nonprofit.”

What you say: “Bug off, dude.”




What you mean: “Bug off, dude.”

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 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.