Painting the Perfect College App Portrait: One Student’s Lament on Unreasonable Expectations



The college process will always be interesting. The different types of advice I receive are always akin to one another. College admissions counselors want us to bolden the idea of pattern, create a story, be absolutely readable and unique. They want us to know exactly what it is we search for in the future, having little exploration of our choices. They want us to know what we intend to do with our lives, and what we expect to contribute to society. How can one be expected to not only know, but show proof of their plans or predictions, and extensive contributions as a mere teenager? 

Advisors rave on and on about our choices, and how it’s “never too late” and always possible to constantly change our minds. It is frazzling, to look at your achievements and not know what to make of them, to see nothing but an unsolved puzzle, hoping and praying it will somehow piece together. Trying all sorts of new things hoping it will somehow amount to something. I often look back on all the things I’ve spent time on with disappointment. Wishing I had chosen better, exasperated by my lack of continuity, and the harsh reality that I am slowly nearing college applications. Realizing I have seemingly nothing to show for my efforts, because none of it coincides with what I currently think I want to do. 

I was often told that I didn’t have to know what my greater purpose should be, and how I may one day significantly, or insignificantly, affect people. Yet that is exactly what ivy leagues want to see‒ a straight-path, pure of error. They want to see triumph, excellence, and prowess in the face of adversity. Like a good book, they want to see our plot through, and already understand its conclusion. Like a good race horse, they’ll look for your future potential in select areas. They expect to see a student’s culmination, their exponential growth patterns until, slowly, we lose our focus on fundamental things like the desire to learn itself. Wide-eyed and bushy-tailed students have become competitive, grade-obsessed zombies. This is the expectation, and our reality. Maybe I’ve already given up on such a desire, because I’ve come to realize that going to these colleges may not give me such fulfillment.