I've taken an SAT prep course, six practice SATs, an ACT prep class, six practice ACTs, three actual ACTs, and an MME. I've visited nine colleges and have plans to visit three more. I'm taking two AP classes next year and have 22 honors credits. I'm a typical 17-year-old high school girl, and I'm stressing out. My nails have no whites after months of nervous chewing. I swear my hair's falling out. I think I'm going blind from the long hours I've spent on my computer writing essays and checking application statuses.
I don't remember the last time I went a full day without somebody asking "Where are you applying?" or "How did you do on your standardized tests?" or "What are you majoring in?" My favorite is when somebody asks me "So, where are you going for college?" If I knew that, I'd have long, beautiful nails and 20/20 vision. I'd be tan, because I'd actually have time to go to the pool and relax. It'd be summer, not some extended cram session. And I don't have any coffee.
My parents hired a college counselor — to give me "an edge." Don't get me wrong, I'm glad for that advantage. But I wasn't aware that I was dull. I wasn't aware that I needed to be sharpened to a point where the real me barely exists. If you read my résumé, I would sound very impressive. Very sharp. But that's all.
You'd know that I won some award for some contest for some scholarship. You'd know the who, what, where and when. But you wouldn't know the why and the how. You wouldn't know me. That's the worst part; that my whole life can be summed up on a piece of paper, revised, then shipped off for admissions "experts" to judge whether I'm a good "fit" for their school. The fact my whole future could come down to one person's opinion about my life's experiences. I have a dream school — everyone does. It's absolutely perfect in every way except this one: I probably won't get in.
The college counselor my parents hired divided the schools to which I'm applying into three categories: Backup, Target and Reach. Of course, my dream school is a reach. And an awfully far reach at that. But I'm reaching.
I'm reaching so much that I've been stretched to a point of no return. Not getting in is not an option. My only opportunity left is to write the most incredible, amazing, flawless application essay anyone has ever written. No pressure. Not to mention that all the prompts are somewhere along the lines of "Write about someone who has influenced you," or "Write about an experience that changed you," or — the worst — "Write about how you bring diversity to your community."
Fluff. I hate fluff.
And the aforementioned "experts" don't actually care whether I've been influenced by my grandparents or Maya Angelou or Jesus or that guy at Starbucks who gives me my coffee. They just want to know if I can put a structured sentence together with flowing transitions and a little bit of personal taste. But not too much personal taste. That might scare them.
I'm applying to upward of 10 colleges. Six of them are on the common app. So that means I have to fill out at least five applications. And that's not including the supplements most colleges on the common app have in addition to the general questions. I'll probably end up writing roughly 10 essays and responding with approximately 15 short answers. And I want to have it all done before schools starts. That gives me 27 days from the point I am writing these words, and 13 days after Aug. 25, the day the College Guide comes out. As of right now, I have to write, revise and finish an essay every three days and a short answer question every two days. I think this is the first time ever in my life that I am completely looking forward to the first day of school. That and having my nails back.
Well, here goes nothing.
Natalie Wright is a 17-year-old high school student and an editorial intern at Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.