Fitting an Impossible Ideal

I have never been in such a pressure cooked environment in my life. Two more SATs, APs, final exams, and final papers all converge over the next 6 months. Seniors are getting rejected from colleges and, amazingly, you only hear about the couple dozen kids who are going Ivy League. Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle did a front page story on the results from the SAT I and tens of thousands of others took last month. My college counselor was quoted extensively in addition to a mini-profile of a guy in my class who got a perfect score of 2400 – 1 of 100 in the country. What are lunch time discussions? People printing out US News rankings; people saying they just want to become a lawyer and make money; people blurting out “Geeze, if so-and-so had perfect SATs and 4.0 GPA and got waitlisted from Harvard, what are they looking for?” My classmate Elena Butler summed up her gripes in this eloquent post:

It’s dehumanizing. At times, I feel like I’m just another case study. My scores, my grades, even my extracurriculars/interests (that supposedly make me unique) just make me more like everyone else. In other words, all my curiosity, passions, and energy now seem two-dimensional.

I can’t be the kid who is an athlete and a musician, has straight A’s, a 2400, and a life (though I can be his best friend). Instead, I’ve realized that I want nothing more in my life than to effect change, either through an idea, invention, or discovery. But right now, I feel boring. I think this is because the college process has fostered in me the desire to fit an impossible ideal.

I only hope this desire does not recur in my life–after all, it’s nonconformity, not conformity, that wins out in the end.

2 comments on “Fitting an Impossible Ideal
  • Remarkably enough, life will go on. When I was a high school senior, I had a perfect GPA, a 1570 on the SAT (back when that was a good thing), enough AP and college courses to let me start college as a sophomore, and I was rejected by every college except for one.

    All it takes is one yes to make up for any number of nos. And what you make of your college years is a lot more important than the exact college you attend.

    * Disclaimer: I only applied to Harvard, Yale, MIT, and Stanford. I already had a guaranteed acceptance to UCLA, where I had been attending college courses. I was also only 15 when I applied to college which may have scared some folks off. But I think my advice still holds true.

  • This quote is pretty interesting. “In other words, all my curiosity, passions, and energy now seem two-dimensional.”

    In Australia, the application process goes like this:

    In your final year of High School, you usually take 5 senior year level subjects. At the end of the year, you take an exam for each subject. These exams have been written by the state education board. Your scores are standardised, and then you are ranked according to how well you went compared to everyone else in the state (for example, a ranking of 95.55 would mean that you are in the top 4.45% of the state). It is pretty much like taking 5 SAT II tests, except you get one chance at it.

    This ranking is sent off to any universities you apply for, and is the ONLY determinant used in deciding who is accepted.

    If you feel frustrated at being reduced to your scores/grades/extracurriculars/interests, imagine being reduced down to a 4 digit number! You should really consider yourselves lucky that colleges in the U.S. are actually interested in what type of person you are, and what you do outside of the classroom.

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