College Applications: Sailing Towards Uncertainty

A shout out to all high school seniors: the college application season is upon us. It loomed over our heads all through summer, stood breathing on our necks as September 1st came about, and now it has all but swallowed us whole, drowning us as wave after wave crashes over our dilapidated bodies.  At least that’s how college applications have felt for me- as though I am sinking amidst a sea of deadlines, letters of recommendation and personal statements.


I suppose the college applications themselves are not completely blame, but rather the height of the pedestal we put them on, as they fly higher and higher into the atmosphere, further and further from our reach. We are certain that the gap between our dreams now and what they will actually become is dependent on that perfectly crafted college essay- that pristinely molded resume. And of course, there is the pressure of choosing the perfect university, the one that will bring you equal amounts of  prestige, academic challenge, and social freedom, the campus that will be so perfect you won’t mind wallowing in decades of student loans for it.

More and more, I find myself asking the question why?

Why do we define our own success by the number of acceptance letters we receive? Is it because society has told us that success only comes with a name brand college degree?  Or is it because we have spent so long preparing for this moment, acing those SATs, volunteering at that hospital, taking part in those countless extracurricular activities- that we feel all the meaning in our lives has simmered down to this decision, this moment?

And why am I filled with a tangible dread every time I sit down to write a college essay? And what if I don’t possess that one trait that makes me unique, special, genuine, interesting- that makes me stand out amongst so many applicants? How can I possibly condense who I am, all of the indescribable moments and nuances that make me myself, into a 650 word essay?

Dr. Seuss once said “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Well I seem to have a lot of complicated questions, with no definite answers- let alone simple ones. Maybe I am looking too closely, looking at the world through a closed lens rather than an open one.  Maybe I’m not looking close enough. But I think we are all propelled by this uncertainty, in its best and worst forms. We all have doubt- maybe it’s good and maybe it’s bad but it pushes us to ask the tough questions.  Perhaps if we come together and pool our resources we will find something, we will ask more questions, we will find more answers.  Through it all, maybe we will stop being crushed by these waves of uncertainty as they crash over us and capsize our sinking ship.  Maybe one day we will find ourselves on calm waters, sailing towards our beautiful, unknown destination.



2 thoughts on “College Applications: Sailing Towards Uncertainty

  1. Considering the tough situation that college applications put every senior student into, I agree with you. In a way, although it’s cliche, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” And I think that’s how students should view college applications. Even when the situation seems desperate, as that college’s lofty standards evade your every grasp, you must remember that after all of the trouble and turmoil is through, you’ll get accepted somewhere. And I think that wherever any student is accepted, he or she would succeed there. Admissions officers may be searching for the most qualified candidates or the smartest candidates, but they’re also searching for students who fill fit in on their campus. So if you don’t get into Stanford, maybe it’s not all on your shoulders. Maybe you just weren’t born to be a Stanford kid. But wherever you do end up, you were meant to attend that school.

    This essay was very well-written and informative, Amber! I love the points you made about the struggles of high school seniors, and your use of questions pointed out the uncertainty in your voice. Keep writing!

  2. I’m totally in agreement with you! There’s so much ahead of us, and although in the present, it seems as though all the odds are against us regarding applications to selective schools, BUT there’s something fabulous ahead for all of us. Wherever we end up going to college.
    It’s all good.

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