What I Wish Someone Told Me Before Applying to College


by Katie McCreedy

The two, bright red flags whip in the wind above our heads. I watch them sway, swinging silently in the dilapidated hammock I broke out at the first sight of spring.  My twin brother kicks the hammock, attempting to swing me out of it. I smile and throw my pen at him. In a few months, we will be hundreds of miles apart. Him at the University of Maryland, me at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. We stare back at the flags my mother excitedly purchased. “It’s done, we’re going to college,” I remark. “Yep,” he responds, “I guess we figured it out.”

Only, this week a year ago we were drowning in AP exams, ACT and SAT testing, and college tours. At that time, all that I cared about was how impressive I could make my resume look and how much higher I could get my GPA to go. I forgot to revel in the enjoyment of junior prom, in the fun of the middle of high school, in the grandness of childhood freedom. Instead, I stayed up late writing papers and taking practice tests. And though much of this effort got me into some of my dream schools, I maintained a mindset that was immensely detrimental to my happiness. My priority was school before sleep, family, or anything else. I forgot a simple fact: you are worth more than your GPA.

However, don’t get me confused. Working hard in school is important and is necessary to develop a work ethic for life. The experiences as a student that you have now, will carry on into college and will prepare for this next chapter of your life. Nonetheless, you can’t forget to enjoy your life while you’re living it. The assignments that you receive in class can’t just be another thing on the ever-growing to-do list engulfing your computer desktop. They should be opportunities to become a better writer, or reader, or student. Yes, there will always be classes and projects you simply loathe completing. And that’s okay, not every class in high school or every skill you learn will be your cup of tea. But, in the grand scheme of things, you’re a student in high school not just to become a student in college in some sort of endless, cyclical progression. You’re a student in high school to discover what you’re passionate about and what you’re good at. So, take your time and read that book in English that keeps falling off your list of things to do if that’s what you’re passionate about. Or, take the extra math class because you want to instead of the extra science class because you think a college will find it impressive. You’re best chance to become a well-rounded, successful, happy student, is when you take the time to listen to yourself and your own academic interests and put those ahead of simply looking impressive to a college.

There’s a flip side to this anecdote as well, one not addressed so heavily to the upcoming seniors as to those graduating seniors. And that is congratulations. You’ve worked hard and you’ve struggled for four years to get yourself to this culmination point. No matter where you go to college or where you got rejected, you have a host of things to be proud of be of academically, athletically, and/or socially. Your worth is not based on your college acceptances or rejections and neither should your happiness be.

Michael Winerip, a veteran Harvard interviewer, wrote an op-editorial entitled “Young, Gifted, and Not Getting into Harvard” for the New York Times a few years ago that sums up my central argument, from a unique, critical point of view. He writes about how the dozens of students he interviewed, despite their immense talents, never got into Harvard. He hopes that these students can find pride in their accomplishments, but more importantly, he hopes that they find avenues of true happiness in their lives.  Well, to every student who gets rejected from a top-tier school, or doesn’t score well on standardized testing, or enjoys hobbies over intense extracurriculars: you are young, you are gifted, and you are going to do perfectly well in life.

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