I’m a senior in high school, which means that I’ve spent the last few months of my life juggling schoolwork and college applications. The hardest part of the college application process for me has been having to write about myself. Colleges ask questions like “What is one event in your life that has helped you grow” and “What is one thing you have accomplished that you are proud of,” and even something as simple as “What are three words you would use to describe yourself?” These questions ask me to evaluate my life and unearth something about myself that I feel has helped me become the person I am; or do they?
After writing far too many essays about myself (most of which being reworded versions of each other), I came to the realization that I was tailoring my answers to align with what I assumed would be the expectation of the admissions counselors reading it. Sure, the basis of the essay would be a truthful event or quality I was proud of, but I had turned it into something that I thought would impress the college I was applying to. My embellishments were meant to please a group of people who were going to decide whether or not I would be accepted into their establishment.
I realized that, with my essays, I was essentially conveying a certain set of qualities I felt I needed to express and using them to beg these colleges to accept me. This is a form of conformity that I’m not sure I’m okay with. I’ve spent my life trying to get the best grades I can and participate in as many things as I am willing to so that I can get into a top college and get a top education so that I will be able to get a rewarding, well-paying job so that I can live comfortably one day. I have devoted my life to what I have perceived to be “success.” I have devoted my life to attempting to live up to the expectations of not only society, but my parents. They have always expected me to try my hardest, and now they expect for that hard work to get me into top colleges. My dad even expects me to be applying to Ivy Leagues.
These expectations that I have spent my life trying to live up to have kept me from truly loving the life I have been given. Yes, I care about how well I do in school and where I go to college and what job I end up having, but I don’t like that these things have taken precedence to my happiness. I’ve spent so much time preoccupied with these things that I have not had the time to simply spend time doing what I love. I have not had the motivation to say with honesty that I love life. I am bound by expectation.
What I want for my life moving forward is to not allow myself to spend my time a slave to expectations. My education does matter, but I do not have to go to an Ivy League for that education to be valuable. I am learning that the kind of higher education I have been pursuing my whole life will merely be an extension of the suffocating education I have had thus far, and I sure as hell don’t want that. What I want is to be happy, to have the time and the means to do what I love with people I love. I hope that I don’t let expectation stand in the way of that.