A Caged Future This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     We all push together and wander into the room, unsure of what the two smiling ladies, who will shepherd us through one of the most critical times in our academic career, are going to say. We take seats on the couches and chairs gathered around the two women like moths around a flashlight.

This is my freshman class's second college counseling meeting, and I can't help feeling like I'm being shoved toward the school's exit despite the fact I've just come in.

Throughout the meeting, we are urged to keep thinking about our transcripts over the summer. One of the women asks what we are planning during this brief time of freedom that is useful and will make our transcripts strong. Instantly dozens of hands reach for the ceiling and writing camps, summer schools, museum apprenticeships and various volunteer activities are cheerfully mentioned. My hand stays in my lap. I would have raised it to say I was taking a course in France, but I was too absorbed in exploring the new boundaries of my cage. The friendly college counselors expected me to prepare for college during the school year and summer too. Basically they never wanted me to take my eyes off that bright, shining medal.

After that meeting I feel not helped but hindered. I feel as if now I must steer my entire life in the direction of college at all times. I feel like I am being forced to grow up all at once and not find my own path. I can completely respect that the counselors are just doing their jobs and helping our parents get their full return on their investment, but I feel like I've been robbed of my childhood and lazy summer days with no worries. Although it's great that the college counselors really care, I think that they cross the line when they tell us ways to make our transcripts look good. That seems not fair to the colleges or ourselves. It's not right for them to teach us how to make a mask, and tell you to do things that you don't necessarily want to just so you'll get into a top college. If the top colleges believe in these masks, then I don't think they are the ones for me.

What bothers me most about college counseling is that at every meeting they tell us there is "no pressure." I can't help but think they're joking. They tell us we should make good grades, do community service, get jobs and join clubs - essentially create a magnificent transcript which will determine which college we go to, which determines our job, and our job determines the comfort level of our lives and the ability to support our future families - but that there's no pressure. I feel like we're so driven toward college that we're being deprived of a normal childhood. I know students who have taken on so many challenging classes and obligations that they are dealing with adult levels of stress at the age of 15.

It's not fair. It's as if everyone is going up an escalator and I just want to stand here for a while and not go anywhere. I want a moment to look around. I want to look back on high school and not feel like I missed things. I want to find the keys to be let out of this cage and I want to get off this conveyor belt taking me to become something that my parents want, the school wants, my counselors want, and society wants, but I don't necessarily want.

Right now I don't really know what I want. I know that when I do reach the end of high school and my transcript is complete, it will be something that I have created, not the college counselors.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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