Panic Like You Mean It

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It’s the fall of our senior year, and that can only mean one thing: college applications. Whether we’re considering MIT, UConn, or Kalamazoo, all of us college-bound seniors are feeling the burn of the workout that this process has become.

SATs are either over and done with or looming on that murky horizon, weighing down our minds like bad burritos in our stomachs.

Warning: Only ask about our scores if you’re prepared to face hysterical screaming.

We’ve all slapped those wide-eyed, puppy-dog expressions on our faces to ask favorite teachers for letters of recommendation: Please, please will you tell my seventeen schools how amazing, talented, dedicated, and – eh-hem – hard working I am? Please? I promise I’ll buy you a Happy Meal and a Bucky Badger mascot if I get into U Wisconsin.

And don’t even get me started on the nightmare that is the admissions essay. Five hundred words? Are they for real? How can five hundred words adequately tell Princeton about my ability to eat marshmallow sandwiches while jumping rope backwards and describe my life-changing experience as a summer counselor at Camp Mikkiwooki? I mean Makkywookai. Shoot. What was it again?

500 words…500 words…500 words…

If you’re panicked, ill-prepared, worthless, exhausted, screwed and you know it, clap your hands.

I think I really have found the perfect essay topic though: Mr. Lefevre’s* hair loss as a metaphoric social commentary on the effects of global warming.

It’s going to be awesome. Just you wait.

Before this year, I hadn’t realized how strong a grip this whole process would actually have on my life. During my volleyball game yesterday, the scoreboard read: Hyde 22, Valley 9. All I could think was “Georgetown, Harvard. Georgetown, Harvard.” Freaking acceptance rates. 22%? Maybe. 9%… You’d have to be an Olympic medalist with a 2390 and an exceptional ability to play the bassoon. Or Ricky**. Take your pick.

Is it pathetic that I’ve begun to see acceptance rates everywhere? I even failed Monday’s calculus quiz because I wrote Swarthmore’s acceptance rate instead of the derivative of x³ – 7.

Shoot. Columbia definitely won’t accept me now.

On a similar note, I’m giving up my Columbus Day weekend to visit three colleges in three states in only four days. I don’t even want to go anymore, but if I back out now, I think my mom will eat me.

Mi stress-ah es su stress-ah.

I do feel bad for dragging my parents into this whole application mess, but it’s their own faults for being so darn supportive. They never should have bought me that Baby Einstein video. It only got my hopes up.

This morning as I sat strangling my stuffed giraffe (Gilbert hates it when I go into Anxiety Freak-Out Mode), I realized that this college stuff might have been easier to swallow if I had been given some realistic advice before the whole process began. With that in mind, I will diverge from my ranting and raving to impart two ideas upon the 70% of the school that has not yet experienced a collegeboard.com-induced mental breakdown.

First of all, it’s a good idea to start looking for colleges early. Way early. Like, you should have started when you were three.

(Everyone’s first words are “I wanna go to Ursinus,” aren’t they?)

Start preparing early, too: Take the PSATs twice, they help; Study constantly, it helps; Play sports and be a school leader, those things help.

In reality though, you’d probably have the best chance of being accepted if you dropped out of Valley entirely and turned your dad’s old Delorean into a time machine.

Stanford would have to take you then.

My second piece of advice: PANIC!

I went about this process entirely incorrectly – I tried to remain calm.

I’m sure you can see how well that worked out.

I hypothesize that if you panic now – yes, even you teeny, tiny freshmen who have yet to discover the wonders of U.S. News & World Report – you will be completely panicked-out by your senior year, leaving nothing to feel but calm.

Either that, or you’ll be so used to that I-can’t-breath/I’m-gonna-hurl feeling that when it’s 1:00 a.m. and you still have three applications left, it will only take you five minutes (rather than thirty) to pull yourself together long enough to wake up your brother and pay him to check the appropriate boxes for you.

As for my fellow seniors, all I can say is this: Get your homework done, your essays outlined, and your SATs taken. Stay on Mr. Noiset’s good side. And Mrs. D’s***. And Mr. L’s; (definitely don’t make jokes about his hair in public).

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t be too easy on yourself either. Enjoy your last year at Valley while you can. (Anyone know how many days are left until graduation?) Stay focused. Stay as calm and cheerful as humanly possible.



And keep the senior courtyard clean! Remember, every single Ivy (except maybe Brown) values proper hygiene.

Good luck!



* Mr. L is a favorite (balding) science teacher at Valley Regional.
** Ricky was the valedictorian of the class of 2006 who now attends Harvard University.
*** Mr. N and Mrs. D are two of Valley’s guidance counselors.





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