I get it. You’re just trying to make conversation. You probably don’t have a lot in common with a 17-year-old, so you ask about what you know will elicit a response: college.
I don’t care who you are—from the bottom of my heart, go to hell.
I dread a great many forms of human interaction and topics of conversation, but nothing fills me with such heavy dread more than when someone tries to pry into the already incredibly stressful experience that is college applications. It’s frustrating for a few reasons, but I’ll focus on three—the general stress, the awkwardness and the competitiveness.
Anyone who thinks students don’t spend enough time dealing with all the tiny little details that go into every college application doesn’t understand the process. Sure, there are the supplemental essays, which are a pain (although not every school has them), but there’s so much more that slowly eats away at one’s core: sending test scores on time, checking with teachers to make sure recommendations have been sent, filling in student profile information painfully accurately for each school, getting the registrar to send out transcripts, securing interviews if a school requires them… the list could go on and on.
So when I’m asked how the process is going, it shouldn’t be expected of me to say anything other than “I’m stressed beyond belief.” I think about college all the time. Making sure everything is in on-time not just for one school but for multiple schools at a time is exhausting. I think about it way too much on my own time to have to talk about it when I shouldn’t have to.
And then there are the questions that make me want to yell, the worst of which is the very blunt, “So where are you going to go?” If I knew which college I planned to attend, then I wouldn’t be applying to all these schools. And stop asking about my first choice, because not everyone has their heart set entirely on one school. There are so many different factors that go into a decision (like cost) that a first choice can be totally implausible.
As if the stress of applications isn’t enough to want to avoid discussion about them, there’s also the awkward truth that people often pry into one’s process in an effort to assess their competition for a particular school. It creates an uncomfortable sense of division among peers and only continues to add to the great stress of the process as a whole.
The truth is that people can judge far too easily based solely on a person’s list of colleges, whether it’s criticizing a person’s choices for safety schools or questioning their ambition for upper-level schools. And if someone doesn’t get into a college they publicly had their heart set on, it can be incredibly awkward for all parties involved.
So please, next time you want to ask about how my college search is going, ask about my cross country season instead. We can talk about college on April 1.