What the &#&^*! Is College Anyway?!

 

You know, the shitstorm that was the college application cycle was a lot of things, but you know what it was really good at? Blinding us from the reality that college is real. It isn’t just this arbitrary concept that we were all aspiring towards like a trophy. No sirree, we don’t even the tiniest ounce of what shit we’re walking straight into.

Between you and me, there’s a lot of things that I love about becoming a “college student” and a lot of things I haaattteee. For one thing, I hate the fact that the name of my school overtakes me whenever people ask where I’m going. As soon as the word “Stanford” (Surprise, for those that read one of my earlier posts!!!) fleetingly slips out of my mouth, I know exactly the stock responses about to be uttered and the precise thoughts subsequently racing through their minds. To people around my age, I get everything from #1) misplaced “awe” as their worship of the school itself is projected onto me as the conversations quickly shift from being centered around my personal education, to the ACT score I needed to get in or the acceptance rate for the regular decision round or #2) people who, despite never speaking to me about college before, have already decided that I’m conceited and belittle the school I’ve chosen as my future alma mater since they assume I chose it for name alone, and not the fact that they have both amazing biology and computer science programs with a flexible curriculum (not as restrictive as Columbia, not as loose as Brown) and much more laid-back and less cutthroat environments than my other options. Basically, the minute people find out where I’m going, it’s like I’ve lost control of how people perceive me, but even worse, every time I talk about Stanford, I still feel sick in my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t get regret my choice whatsoever, and I’d probably feel the same way if I had chosen a lot of my other options, but the problem remains that I still harbor unresolved guilt over the whole matter, but also for the first time, I worry that my choice in college may have been affected by my internal need to always prove to people that I’m capable (I blame 3.5 years of being disregarded and underestimated by #debateboyz for that one), but also that the problem is simply covered up, not erased by the fact that I’m going to a big-name hotshot school, which leads me to my next thought…

College is unbelievable, but the process reads like an Agatha Christie novel.. It doesn’t help that I still have no tangible idea of what my schedule could look like for next year, who my roommate will be, or where I’ll even be living. Maybe it’s my insane jealousy and anxiety that 99.9% of all of my friends are on the semester system (make that 100%), but it really sucks being exactly two months away from move-in day and have no idea how you’ll get your belongings on campus. It’s not that I don’t have the resources to figure this stuff out, but it’s still too surreal, and it probably won’t feel real until I get there, but it’s still too far away to grasp.

Speaking of my soon-to-abandon-me friends. I’m afraid of how much, or more precisely how little, I’ll still keep in contact with them. I didn’t have that many friends in school to begin with. I made my way by being civil and nice, but I was never warm enough to a lot of people and I’m just the girl “people knew in high school”. Those people, the ones who were either friends with me by association or convenience, aren’t the ones I’m worried about. I’ve made my amends with the fact that I wasn’t the most likable person in school, and part of it was my fault. Sometimes, whenever I think I’m getting too close to someone, I feel as if I must be a nuisance and sometimes I back off, which inevitably leads to the friendship deteriorating into oblivion. But that’s beside the point for now, I’m worried about the people I consider “my best friends”, in the loose definition of the word I know today. When I was younger, I had one or two “best friends”, but the difference between them and the friends I have today, is that we only had each other. We did everything together because we were all each of us had, but it’s much different now. Unfortunately, we’re all less close now, precisely because we no longer had JUST each other, leading to my new friends of today. While we’re still close and I wouldn’t want to lose contact with them, I’m afraid the distance will hurt our relationships more than I can even imagine. My friends are so much better at making friends than I am, to the point where I wonder how people even become friends with me in the first place. I’m awkward, shy, cynical, spineless, and so much more, but not qualities you look for in a buddy to join to catch a movie or go on a walk through the park. And as they find people who could replace me in a heartbeat, I’ll be left thousands of miles away, in an unfamiliar place, by myself, trying to figure out how to initiate conversation or appear more approachable. Furthermore, one of my best friends I’ve made in high school, has become much more distant to the point where we haven’t talked in weeks, and I have no idea what initiated the tension. Their disappearance in my life hurts most precisely because I could feel it a little bit earlier in the year, but couldn’t understand it and did nothing to rectify it. And now, I have no idea how to reconcile what we’ve lost, and worry I’ve just lost a dear friend forever. I desperately don’t want the future to keep taking the friends I have now away. Besides, who’s going to tell the abundant embarrassing stories about me at my future wedding?

And to top off my mini-howling on all things relating to the never-ending anxiety that is college life, is the number-one thing I’m there for, my studies. What I do from here on out has the potential to define my entire life. Getting a B in a class derails my chance at getting into a top-notch medical school. Not securing a good summer internship ruins my shot at having a successful career in tech or software engineering. I already feel like I’m coming in from behind, and I desperately want to have everything laid out for me in a simple four-year plan, but I know, especially from my experience in high school., that I will never get anything in life that easily. I’ve tried the past few weeks to improve myself, given my rocky senior year and depression diagnosis that I don’t completely understand and I can tell my mom either wants to ignore or doesn’t have the time to take care of, since I’m so used to handling my own problems aside from matters of money or life-or-death situations. Look at any college meme page and it’s littered with light-hearted jokes that poke fun at the depressed culture of students over finals weeks and problem sets and not doing well enough, but what if I fall prey to such a stereotype. Everyday I repeat to myself that I will rise above it, but if I couldn’t do it in high school, how can I do it now, especially with my terrible work ethic. In senior year, I could count on one hand the number of times I studied for a test, and two hands the amount of times I actually did my homework before the morning it was due, if I did it at all. Yeah, I was that kind of kid, except not many people knew how bad it was. I was a girl people mistook to be “put together” and whenever anyone caught a small whiff of my true ways, they were honestly surprised and shrugged it off. I should’ve been self-destructive, but I still ended the year with straight A’s, even as a second-semester senior (#senioritis). Thing is, I was really good at handling my bad habits. Compared to people I knew who I could tell were letting work slide, I knew what I had to do to maintain appearances, because that’s what I’ve been doing for the past two years. I don’t know if it was just a severe case of burnout that never truly settled itself out, or if I really do have a problem, but I can’t jeopardize my future by letting this happen again and again in college. I want to be perfect like some of my friends so that I can achieve what I want without being recklessly irresponsible or screw everything up like I usually do, but I’m so far from it. Finish it off with the fact that nearly every teacher I had throughout my four years of high school saw me as mediocre and nothing special, no matter how much I admired them in return, made me feel mediocre myself, despite being enrolled at a school where I’m surrounded by absolutely extraordinary people. Will I ever even fit in?

I have no idea how long the list of anxieties I have about college are, but you know what’s also entirely unknown?

What the #@$!% college is anyway.

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So God, Who Am I in “The Breakfast Club”?

To what extent are our lives like the ones we see on the silver screen?

Maybe it’s the existentialist post-high school grad in me that’s too caught up in reflecting on her high school years, or maybe it’s the countless high-school/college based dramas I’ve binge-watched on Netflix that have lead me to think that I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing with my social life right now.

I think about college and a quintessential part of it that comes to mind are alcohol and partying — two things that I stayed far FAR away from in high school. When you include things like high school romances and sex and all that jazz, I feel like my role as a casual watcher of a lot of shows like Riverdale or Gossip Girl, has led me to possibly become a not-so-casual observer of my entire life. Should I be wanting to party or try alcohol/drugs, because honestly I don’t and have no desire to do so. Should I want to have a boyfriend and go to whatever promiscuous bases with them, because I honestly never really think about that either (I mean, yeah I’ve had the flippant crush here and there, but never with people I spoke more than 5 words too and it was more of a shallow “I think you’re super attractive in a cool way” kinda deal). To make things worse, every surreal happy or sad moment I actually see on television, I perceive as too idealized to ever happen to me. Every time I see some sappy on-screen kiss or some character going off-the-rails from a traumatic experience, only for a moment do I think “this could happen to me”, but immediately after, I dismiss the thought and resign to my boring, vanilla life. At the end of the day, it’s like I’m at this crossroads of being too immature by not experiencing any of these things that are supposed to be quintessentially high school, but also too mature, because that’s the thing, it’s just not everything to me and I focus on other things. Of course, I’m no star. I’m always distracted by other things and you’ve heard enough about my Netflix-addiction, but in the time throughout high school that I haven’t spent wondering what getting high off a dime bag of weed is like or spending all hours with some guy I’m supposedly in love with yet all we know about each other are our favorite colors and our favorite restaurant open after 10 p.m., I have spent that time doing things I find meaningful with my time, like learning new things I’ll never have the chance to learn when I’m older or spending time with friends who will always mean the world to me (and are also mostly just as “straight-edge and proud” as I am…. most of them that is 🙂 ). So yeah, maybe I never had (or even wanted) a “Jess”, “Dean”, or “Logan” to my Rory, or want to know what it’s like to be cross-faded or black-out drunk at a house party, but when I’m ready to *gasp* date, or step out of my comfort zone (tbh probably will always be a straight-edge Sally, don’t wanna get your hopes up), I want it to feel as if I’m the star of the show, but also completely aware that this is in fact, real life, not an idealized fantasy.

 

But let us not forget that the high school chapter of my life is finished, and who knows what college will bring to the table. I may want to grab some popcorn.

 

P.S. – Don’t worry, I am totally casually ignoring the fact I haven’t posted since March 🙂

I Just Can’t Win: A Diatribe on Misplaced Guilt Over College Acceptances

Holy shiitake mushrooms.

So the past week (or weeks….or months, sorry for the hiatus in writing) has been dramatic and stressful and all around crazy and exhausting, and I’ve felt as if everything is just barrelling down this hill and I’ll get flattened before I even make it to graduation. But in this long, arduous journey that is the second semester of my senior year of high school, I received a rare piece of good news in what seemed like several weeks of disappointments.

I got into Columbia AND Duke.

I was super excited at first. Like, SUPER excited. Like, I wanted to scream it to the world. But, the night after I found out up until only a day or two ago, I’ve felt sick about it. I felt (and still feel) like I personally didn’t deserve to get into either of those schools. I didn’t feel like I did as much as my peers or that my other peers were more qualified or smarter on paper than I could ever be.

I can’t accurately assess what part of my application was so noteworthy that Columbia or Duke would accept me (and let me know early), and as much as I want to talk about it, every time I do, a bitter taste of arrogance, guilt, and shame lingers in my throat. I don’t want to brag, but I keep racking my brain as to all the things I could have possibly done (and in my opinion, it’s not much), and I re-read my essays (which, in my opinion, are pretty mediocre) and I go over my application over and over again and I can’t figure it out. It’s even more troubling for me because both Duke and Columbia I did at the very last minute possible. I didn’t even proofread my Columbia writing supplement, and it took me approximately 40 minutes to write (I pasted it below, in case you thought I was kidding, I really didn’t proofread the thing). I’m not proud of that fact, in fact, I worry I will get rejected from colleges I actually spent time working on applications for, and I can’t even share this sentiment, because my options are two great schools, that I’m only moderately enthused about. As much as I want to discuss it with my friends and family, I feel as if they’ll be annoyed with me and think I’m looking for an ego boost.

I don’t love the predicament I’m in. I admit to being paranoid, imagining and assuming more people don’t like me than do, even among my own friends. I worry that people think I’m dumb and can’t think for myself, and that feeling often acts as an inappropriate motivation for me. I don’t seek superiority, nor do I feel inferior to any specific person (this is shade btw towards a specific individual who won’t even see this), but rather I seek to be seen as an intellectual equal, or at least just competent, yet, no matter how much reassurance I receive, I still sense that people think I’m inadequate everywhere around me. It’s these reasons why I want to leave high school so badly. I want to start anew with a group of people who may perhaps treat me like their equal, and we can all learn from each other.

But for now, despite feeling blessed for the opportunities set forth for me, I’m stuck in high school in suburbia, where getting into Ivy League schools and their near-peers still aren’t enough to prove that maybe, just maybe, there’s a brain under this short little afro of mine.

From your least favorite potential Lion/Blue Devil who unfortunately looks terrible in blue,

O.A.


And the promised mediocre writing supplement, because at some point, I’m going to have to learn to make fun of myself and not be bothered.

What aspect of the Columbia community, outside of the classroom, would you most want to impact and why? (150 words or less)
It is already well established that Columbia and the city of New York is a cultural melting pot. As a girl living in the suburbs, I desperately want to meet, learn from, and debate with people whose views and experiences are outside of my own, however, I not only feel just out of reach of all the rich and disparate cultural influences a city has to offer, but I’m also subject to homogeneity of political opinions and lack of enthusiasm for any form of activism. Columbia has dozens of varied political and activist organizations ranging across a wide spectra of platforms that allow me to share my own voice and expand my own intellectual horizons as I learn from those who can introduce me to new topics of contention and attempt to understand those who disagree or challenge my beliefs, all opportunities difficult to take on in secluded suburbia.

List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year.
Oedipus Rex and Antigone by Sophocles; The Republic by Plato; East of Eden by John Steinbeck; Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka; Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller; A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess; The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde;
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi; Cannery Row by John Steinbeck, Electra, Women of Trachis, and Philoctetes by Sophocles; The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde; A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin; Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray; Persuasion by Jane Austen; Neverwhere and Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman; And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts; The Color Purple by Alice Walker; The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards; The Oresteia by Aeschylus

List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly.
Farnam Street Blog, Makezine, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Following Hadrian, TIME Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Twitter, Popular Science, Discover Magazine, The New Yorker, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Quora, The Brookings Institution, Teen Vogue, NPR Online

List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year.
Matilda the Musical; The Nutcracker; The Formation World Tour – Beyonce;
The Dickson Prize Lecture / Science 2016 Game-Changers Conference; Pittsburgh Speaker Series at Heinz Hall – Dave Barry and Panel Discussion: Racism in America; Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures Literary Evening Series – Daniel James Brown;
Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac Heads, Building Optimism: Public Space in South America, and 50 Greatest Photographs of National Geographic, at the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History; The Revenant, Deadpool, Hail Caesar, Eddie the Eagle, Kubo and the Two Strings, Me Before You, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Edge of Seventeen, Doctor Strange, Moana, Star Wars: Rogue One, Finding Dory, and Fences

Please tell us what you value most about Columbia and why. (300 words or less)
This world isn’t static. As time progresses, our world becomes increasingly more dynamic and complex, accompanied by the problems that plague it. Time has proven to us that the leaders of tomorrow can’t simply be engaged in one single discipline to make effective, sustainable, and responsible decisions. In a time where even the most reputable news sources and public figures fall prey to aggrandized claims, “fake news”, and sentiments of intolerance, a well-rounded education and an open-minded and culturally diverse environment can equip students with the necessary tools to fight ignorance and sensationalism as we enter adulthood. Columbia College’s Core Curriculum ensures that all students are well-prepared for the challenges of the future as they’re exposed to disciplines outside of their concentration. Exposure to this type of curriculum and educational philosophy teaches and enables students to approach problems with understanding and tact rather than react irresponsibly out of fear or abandon their efforts entirely, both reactions that can jeopardize critical situations in need of delicate solutions. Additionally, Columbia’s location in New York City is an environment where students are bound to come across varied cultural and political perspectives and backgrounds and ultimately learn to become more tolerant and understanding individuals. Coupling Columbia’s unique curriculum with its urban location, also home to countless research and internship opportunities, the university is a unique haven for students who are looking for more than just a strictly educational experience in their intended major, but also an intellectual transformation.
As the students of today begin to enter the public spotlight, it is our civic duty and responsibility to envision and promote a more tolerant, respectful, and advanced vision for the world. Not only does Columbia prepare us to take on that challenge, but these values already are already embraced at the core of the university.

For applicants to Columbia College, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time.
I’m lucky to consider myself an acolyte of both the ancient and modern world. And while my interests don’t necessarily cross paths, they have been instrumental in my own intellectual and personal development as well as a foundation for my future educational endeavors.
Nearly everything in our modern society has some connection to the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome. Studying “dead languages” became one of the liveliest parts of my high school career as my grasp of the English language improved through learning how it derived from the words and grammar constructions of both ancient
Greek and classical Latin. Beyond the language, understanding how the ancient civilizations provided the foundation of our own modern democracy and republic allows us to critically examine our own government and laws and become more responsible private citizens and voters.
Although I enthuse about the Greeks and Romans, my career interests primarily involve biology and computer science. For me, studying biology fuels my innate sense of curiosity, for learning more about the behaviors of the cell is like switching between objective lenses and viewing a specimen in even greater detail. Yet, my enthusiasm for biology is often juxtaposed against my aptitude for computer science, where, as I learned how to code, I realized my own propensity for approaching problems systematically and efficiently and comprehending most subjects in terms of boolean operators and conditional statements. My interest in both biology and computer science was, however, refined and conjoined as a result of a research experience I had through the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. Creating rule-based computational models of my particular cell signaling pathway while also performing immunofluorescence experiments in the lab enlightened me as to how I could combine my interests and pursue a career in research and medicine in the future.

A Look Into the Final Minutes of Common App Hysteria

Please excuse the interruption of your daily scheduled programming for this public service announcement.

I just did the absolutely unthinkable for a college-bound high school senior, finishing 4 college applications in just ONE day, with one being in under 20 minutes! For the record, these four schools were the following: Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Tufts, and Williams. My plan was to finish approximately 10 schools out of the 17 I’m applying to (Yeah, you read that correctly, 17) over the entirety of my winter break, which started on December 24th and ended January 1st. My plan was going well in the beginning as I finished my applications to Brown, Cornell, UPenn, Duke, etc. but after December 26th, I began to get sluggish. There were a couple of days where I didn’t even open the Common App, which I instantly regretted the morning of January 1st – after a hard night of sparkling apple cider and margarita mix shots #drinkresponsibly.

Thus arriving at the last resort, 12 hour, desperation essay plan. The original plan outlined a day solely working on applications for Columbia and Carnegie Mellon, initially ditching Williams and Tufts. As per usual, I started off great, researching unique things about Columbia and outlining the essays before I tried my hand at crafting them into written masterpieces, but I was soon distracted by other ventures, quickly derailing from the 12 hour plan as I was attempting to figure out the DNS settings of this website and whatnot. Fast forward to 4 pm and I have nothing done for Columbia and nothing done for Carnegie Mellon. I decided to switch my efforts towards Carnegie Mellon since they only asked for two essays as opposed to Columbia’s 6 (or what felt like 15). I surprisingly hammered out Carnegie Mellon by 5:15 and was in such a rush that I was able to finish Columbia by 8 (with many snack breaks in between). By 8:30, I was bouncing around the house, still burning off the adrenaline rush from completing both applications in less than 4 hours.

But the night was far from over.

If there’s anything that bugs me about the Common App, it’s the little yellow circles that accompany incomplete applications. Wanting to minimize the ugly look of my dashboard, I somehow thought it would be a wise idea to just hammer out the Williams application. Mind you it is now 11:03, I’m off my adrenaline rush and was supposed to be getting my stuff together for school the next day. My trick to completing most of my essays was borrowing bits and pieces from old essays and making them fit the prompts, but Williams had to be different. I had to pick someone who I’d want to be the other student in a Williams’ “tutorial-style” class (see their application, I don’t have the energy to explain). I ended up choosing Steve Bannon of Breitbart News and spat out some cheesy essay about how we should approach argumentation differently than the media’s yelling and screaming at our opponents who happen to hold views that are polar opposites of our own to have some chance at correcting the pervasive issue of divisiveness in this country (I’ll let you all know how that goes, but I can surely say I’m expecting a big fat rejection from Williams… UPDATE 7/20/17: I got in through “likely letter” so yeah… I guess that crap worked). I managed to finish that essay in all of 9 minutes and was promptly beset with another adrenaline rush that could only be contained by – you guessed it – ANOTHER college application!

The time is now 11: 39. I open the Tufts writing supplement and skim through the essay prompts. I’ve done zero research on Tufts at this point, but I was on a mission. In my five minutes of research, I was able to write a pretty specific “Why Tufts” essay in 100 words that definitely had hints of generic sentiments I had in my “Why Brown” essay, but we’re not going for gold here. All of 7 minutes, time is now 11: 46. The next essay was about community in which I promptly copied and pasted my Duke essay about community. All of 2 minutes, time is now 11: 48. With the final essay, about why I liked my interests and how they contributed to my intellectual curiosity, I used an ultimate amalgamation of all of my different essays expressing my enthusiasm for the classics and how I fell in love with computational biology and how I make intellectual connections, blah, blah, blah. Luckily I was able to pull through with a completed and proofread essay by 11:56, but there was still one final challenge. Now, I didn’t even want to apply to Tufts in the first place, but after my Princeton deferral, I felt as if I needed to apply everywhere that even had computational biology as a search result on their website, yet here I was anxiously trying to submit in the midst of the final minute sluggishness of the Common App website. I managed to submit the writing supplement at exactly 11:58 pm, and just like that, my application was done. I’m still on an adrenaline high from that experience, which admittedly gave me enough energy to even consider writing this.

If this experience teaches anyone anything… it would be to do your college applications in the summer and finish them as early as possible because this was definitely not healthy.

 

A Mediocre First Line for a Mediocre Girl

Somebody pinch me. It can’t be 2017 already.

I know it’s really cliche to look ahead in disbelief at the normal passage of time, but this year out of all 18 years of my existence gets the prestigious honor of being absolutely terrifying to even think about. The mountain of college applications and scholarship essays currently consuming my life have done a decent job of distracting me from the reality that in just a few months, I’ll know where I’ll be going to college and starting the first step towards my adult life. I’m starting this blog to document the final year of my “childhood” and find an outlet for the anxiety and existential crises that are sure to result as a consequence of the gravity of my situation.

I also started this website because I felt as if my writing abilities were somewhat lacking. My favorite English teacher told our class that the best ways to become a better writer are to read and write – a lot. I’ve already started on the writing end in countless journals, but I’ll admit that I only crack them open sporadically, and half of my journals are filled with my daily blabberings about teenage girl drama I vicariously lived through. I hope to write about my impressions on everything now and be able to map out my own intellectual awakening as I explore new books and ideas. And for sake of accountability, I’m publishing it here.

This may just be another one of my grand ideas or “New Years Resolutions” that never come to fruition, but I honestly hope it can be so much more