From diapers to diplomas

Grace Chatas, Staff Writer

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am going to attend an Ivy League university.

I heard these words during my first week of freshman year. They were not uttered by a confident senior or even an eager junior. Based on her appearance, the speaker looked as if she could still order off of the “Under 12 Menu” and would need permission to see a PG-13 movie.

She was a freshman.

The thought of baby-faced 14-year-olds with 10-year-plans working the system to gain admission to the country’s top universities seemed premature. Many of my classmates were already regularly scheduling meetings with private college consultants and counselors. We had only just begun high school, yet it felt like my peers had already paved a clear path into the future through curating preliminary college lists and anticipating test scores. They were claiming titles and stacking up activities for the sake of a resume.

I was lost in this process. I felt if I didn’t keep up I would be left behind by my peers. While my classmates were spending their weekends pouring over ACT prep books and contacting universities on social media, I was lying on the couch — oblivious to the apparent competition, covered in Cheeto dust and filled with disappointment in myself for not planning ahead.

I began the race that everyone else had started, urged onward by anxiety to keep up with the crowd. I stayed up late, scouring college forums, intimidated by the impressive resumes from students. The more I read, the more I became invested in college planning. It seemed like everyone online had an extensive list of extracurriculars. These anonymous online authors had leadership positions for every day of the year.

With thousands of applicants, how would I distinguish myself from the pool? I’m no musical prodigy or Olympic athlete. My artistic skills are limited to stick figure sketches, the only debating I do is with my parents and I won’t be curing cancer any time soon. Sure, there’s always the possibility that my statistics fit within most online graphs or college threads, but when I’m competing against prima ballerinas and professional mathletes, the odds don’t seem promising.

College preparation is nothing out of the ordinary for students, as high school is intended to help us prepare for life after graduation. Students have created the mindset of resume building with the intention of becoming competitive applicants to renowned universities, beginning college planning earlier and earlier. Where is the line between being ready for application season and shaping your social and academic identity around your dream college’s expectations? Toddlers shouldn’t be scribbling college essays in preschool.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have spreadsheets filled with college admissions statistics on my computer. In my mind, I could either join the masses or fall behind from failure to prepare. I was swept up in the chaos of the college game because I was too afraid to be left out.

Is that how everything is going to be from now on?

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From diapers to diplomas