I know I’m not the only high school senior feeling the pressure right now.  Over the past few months, I have seen several of my classmates break down in tears over the stress of having ridiculous numbers of college applications to complete on top of the responsibilities that come with school.  I’ve accidentally walked in on girls crying to their teachers, begging for extensions on assignments.  It’s not pretty.

It’s hard to stay sane during this process, especially when all of my classmates are constantly telling me about how stressed they are and how much work they have.  A part of me wants to comfort my friends and wrap them up in cuddles and shield them from the horrors of the college application process.  The other part of me wants them to calm down and keep their feelings to themselves.  I think we all feel a smidgeon of resentment towards each other when it comes to college apps.

And I realize now how scary it is that we feel this way: these are the friends we’ve known and loved for years, and yet the pressure to attend good colleges and get good jobs is so crushing that it turns us against each other.  Even though we’re not supposed to think of the process as a gigantic competition, we can’t help but feel like our closest friends are also our greatest enemies.  Ideally, it’d be nice to get into the same schools, but what if we don’t?  What if my friends are accepted to a school I want to attend and I get rejected?

Welcome to the mind of the high school senior.

The application deadline for merit scholarship consideration at 3 of the schools on my list was December 1st—the last day of my Thanksgiving break.  My parents took me and my sister up to the mountains to stay in a cozy lodge for the break, and stay in the cozy lodge I did.  I stepped out of the lodge only for food (so much comfort food—I’m talking pounds here—was consumed) and water; the rest of my time was spent working on my college essays.  Thankfully, I managed to get all of those applications in on time without suffering too much emotional trauma.

Still, I’ve definitely had my fair share of emotional meltdowns within the past few weeks.  My college list is way too long right now.  A lot of that has to do with the fact that I put a bunch of schools on my list that I have no intentions of attending even if I do get in.  That’s what our college counselors tell us to put on our lists: a number of safety schools.

That said, our college counselors tell us to include match schools and reach schools on our lists as well, and while I like most of the schools that fall into these categories, I’m not sure how practical it is for me to apply to all of them (colleges charge us a pretty penny for giving us the pleasure of filling out and submitting applications.  Isn’t that lovely?).  I know the whole point of applying to reach schools is to get an idea of what kinds of schools I can get into.  Maybe some top institution will, by some off chance, make a miraculous mistake and accept me; who knows?  The truth of the matter is, there are some schools to which I am applying that are ridiculous reach schools.  They are way over my head.  I’m 5’2″; say a regular reach school is 6’0″.  These schools are 9’0″.  That far over my head.  The sad part is that I want to attend them—I wouldn’t be applying if I didn’t—but as I write the supplemental essays required for these schools, my mind does a time skip and I can see myself coming home one afternoon in April to multiple letters of rejection.

Throwback to some of my earlier days as a blogger, back when I was still on Xanga: I was not the best student.  My parents had high hopes for me.  Society had high expectations of me.  I had high expectations of my self—high and irrational.  When I started my blog in 8th grade, I thought that my grades would define who I was.  I wanted to be the superstar student so many of my Asian-American classmates were, but my lack of organization skills and emotional turmoil prevented that from happening.  I genuinely believed that my failure to conform to the stereotype of Asians as being high-achieving students, math geniuses, and piano prodigies was an indication that I would be a failure later on in life.  Fortunately, I had a enough of a sense of humor (self-deprecating as it may have been) to laugh about it: thus, Below the Asian Standards was born.

Over the years, through writing my blog and just stumbling through high school, I’ve learned that I don’t need to be the embodiment of a stereotype in order to be comfortable with myself.  But trust me, now that I’m filling out college apps, I sure do wish I had that “Asian”-level GPA.

Image

I was tempted to try this.  Image from Sparknotes.

To address the question I posed at the beginning of this post: what if my friends get into schools that reject me?  I would be happy for my friends, of course.  We’re all going to end up going somewhere or doing something.  The vagueness isn’t exactly reassuring, but I think it’s important for us to remember how we’re all going to find our way eventually.  This too shall pass.

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