Archives for posts with tag: Harvard

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.


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.

One of the things I find interesting is intelligence. Today, I was sitting in a small room with a group of friends, when – I can’t quite remember the context – one of the guys announced proudly, “I’m the smartest person in this room!” I kindly asked, “And what makes you say that?” To which he responded, “My GPA is definitely higher than yours. It’s a 4.35.” And then he gloated about his decidedly ‘superior’ intellect.

The thing is, GPA doesn’t really mean much. Sure, GPA is mega important when applying to colleges (it makes life easier for admissions directors), but it’s far from being an accurate representation of one’s intelligence. Smart people don’t always get the highest grades, and a lot of the people who do get the highest grades probably aren’t as intelligent as some of their lesser-performing peers.

Here’s my point: the only thing GPA really measures is one’s ability to get a good GPA. So you have a 4.35 GPA. I applaud you for being good at getting teachers to like you and turning in homework and studying for tests and all the things that contribute to your ridiculously high GPA. Does it make you more intelligent than everyone else? Not necessarily. There is no way to describe a person’s intelligence with words, let alone numbers. Your GPA? It’s just a number. You may go to Harvard, and being able to tell people you got your college education at Harvard is pretty impressive – but what matters isn’t where you got your education. It’s what you do with it.

I feel like I should be extremely happy that I have very little homework to do this weekend, but I’m not. This is really the first time in a while that I’m not stressing over homework, but now that I’m not, I’m stressing over the fact that I have nothing to do with myself. I quit playing piano two years ago, I quit playing basketball last year, and I’m involved in absolutely no school clubs or groups or anything. The only thing I’m doing outside of school (and irrationally worrying my butt off about it) is playing cello–and I’m not even that good.

Tenth grade is almost over, and the last major accomplishment of mine occurred in eighth grade: the science fair. This is sad, because while I may have been 2nd place in the county science fair, I didn’t even rank in the state fair. So. Sucks to be me.

Then there’s the pressure! I should not be feeling this much pressure! Sure, I’m taking AP Calculus and AP European History and Honors everything else, but that’s not where the pressure is coming from. The pressure comes as a result of my personal tendency to compare myself with my sister. These days, it’s been so hard for me to please my parents and so easy for my sister to do so. She can screw up and be endlessly annoying, but because she is so perfect when it comes to everything else, my parents are willing to let it slide. I live with the enemy, and it comes in the form of my little sister. My basketball-playing, track-running, guitar-playing, crafts-making, straight-A-earning little angel of a sister. Not fair, mom and dad. Not. Fair.

And lately, I just have not been performing. I really haven’t. I have been putting much less effort into my schoolwork and have consequently been getting into more frequent arguments with my parents. My mom even likes to tell me that I should “face reality” and not worry about “getting into top colleges.” She is convinced that I am going to go to a community college. This used to be a joke my parents would use to scare me into working harder; now it isn’t a joke. Now it’s what they think is real. Not that there’s anything wrong with community colleges, but my parents’ expectations of me were once so high that they would tell me that I could get into Berkeley or Stanford or Harvard, and to have to bar lowered so much–well, it certainly doesn’t feel good. At all.

Bad as it feels, though, that’s what’s happening, and it’s really forcing me to rethink my ambitions. Looking at my achievements over the past two years, I realize that they might be right and I really might have no choice other than to go to a community college; I have not done anything notable. I may have maintained my grades, but I haven’t done anything else.

I let this get to me more than anyone can imagine. I freak out about it a lot. I’ve discovered that my capacity to tolerate pressure is minuscule. I’ve always been pretty bad at managing stress, but add all the pressures of college and my overall future, I have emotional meltdowns. Not the kind where I’ll be throwing shit around the house and screaming at everyone and tearing my hair out, but the kind where I’ll just start crying. God, I’m such a wuss.

Let it be known that my parents do read my blog, so I will likely have to deal with lectures and possibly even psychotherapy after they read this.

And when I go back to school on monday, I have to put on the “nerdy-genius-Asian girl” act so that people don’t start making fun of me for being un-Asian and whatnot.

Such is my life.