What I’m about to show you is one of the few college essays that I’ve written in the past few months of my senior year. I’m not submitting this to my potential colleges because, like most everyone else who’s applying, I’m scared senseless that I won’t get in. At first I wrote this for myself, to let out my frustration with the system, but now it’s become a statement that I want to show everyone else. The immense pressure to be what they want is crippling.
A friend of mine is grappling with a different application process, she is applying to medical school. For those applications they have to submit an essay that’s 500 words. Even more confining than my own. She was frustrated with the task. Was she really expected to squeeze her entire being into just 500 words? She had to show all of herself in this one essay. Where these words were all she was worth? This can’t be true. I know her and I know that she is so much more; that we all are more than words on a page. Her immediate answer was crushing to me; it hit hard because of its brevity and its succinct grip on our reality. “But if they don’t want to hear it, is it really that important?”
We have created as system where we are convincing students of all ages that their interests and passions and parts of them aren’t important unless they interest colleges. This conversation along with my own stress led me to create this 647 word essay.
“What do you want them to think of you?”
That question has been asked to me far too many times. I’m almost seventeen years old with stress migraines and bags under my eyes. I know just as well as any other high school student the pressure to be perfect and the pressure to convince a school that you’re worth their time. Which you have to prove through numbers and 650 words.
But that is not who I am. I am so much more. I am a sister. I am a stage manager. I am a lover. I am a writer. I am a builder. I am a singer. I am an environmentalist. I am a feminist. I am a friend. I am a leader. I am more than I can write down.
I’ve written and rewritten essays trying to show all of the best parts of me. I’ve asked for dozens of opinions, praying that I haven’t messed up too badly this time. I’ve tried to fit my childhood struggles and my passions into an essay and just it doesn’t feel right. My life, my almost seventeen years cannot be confined. The moments that I’ve experienced that changed who I am are too many to count. I could tell you about when I used a handsaw for the first time and how that sparked my interest for theater. Or the peace I felt 40 meters below the surface of the ocean, seeing a whole new world and how now I refuse to let it be destroyed by humans’ mistakes. Or I could go on about my parents divorce and how it tore me down and taught me how to build myself back up again. Or how seeing my idol live inspired me to chase my own dreams or the paintings that took my breath away or the first kisses that made me realize love is real. There’s too much that I’m told schools don’t want to hear despite it’s importance to me. There are too many moments that make me who I am that I can’t express in the confines of 650 words.
I believe that people can lie or deceive through a typical essay. You can create the image you think someone else wants to see. You can be whoever you want. You can take a story that was just a bit true and then expand it to make it more exciting and interesting. Though in most cases that’s okay, that’s what stories are. But I don’t think that’s right in this situation. The school that you plan on attending for the next few years, the place where you’re choosing to do this important part of your growth in. That’s a place who should know who you are, not what they want you to be.
College is an investment. An investment for the school and the student. Both parties are putting faith into each other to create a well educated and good population of our society. I would be a good investment, maybe not because of the fact I can only sing the alto harmony of the nation anthem but because I plan on building a future for myself and I want to create a world where others can easily do that. I want to tell you about the tears that fell from my eyes during Lin Manuel-Miranda’s speech where he reminded us that “Love is love is love is love is love is love. It cannot be killed or swept aside.” I want to tell you about the fear I feel while writing this essay. That a statement of what I feel is right could hinder my chances of getting into my dream school. I don’t feel as if even through this essay I can truly show who I am. I know from my personal experience that words aren’t a true representation of humans – actions are.
This essay is important to me. This essay is what I wish I was brave enough to show colleges. But most adults that I bring this essay up to warn me about how risky this is and how it really isn’t giving me the best chance to get into my schools. I don’t have a 99 average and a 36 ACT so I can’t afford admission boards being upset with me because of my essay. My essay is may be the key to my admittance; is this really the place to speak out against the system? I have to prove to them that my numbers and my words are worth admittance to their school. That I can fit into their mold, even if I don’t want to. All because I want to go somewhere in life and it’s made out to be that you can’t do it without that degree.
Now can we take a step back and see that this is a problem?