For many, high school is a four-year sentence; college-bound kids at my school, including me, refer to each other as cellmates. College, on the other hand, is a blessed probation, the sole purpose for all our activities in high school. Getting into college has become harder and harder, so we have to crank it up a notch to stay on top. We study like crazy, get lower-back pain and develop a limp from carrying our encyclopedia-sized textbooks, take AP classes, join millions of clubs and committees, and for what? To impress a bunch of old people who hold our fate in their hands? Well, yes!
However, it's not good enough to score 1600 on your SATs or have a GPA that surpasses 4.0. No, to have a chance, you have to play sports, too! Now, for those lucky few who are not only academically superb but also fantastic at sports, more power to you. But for the rest of us who hate P.E., this is a problem. And when someone like me tries to meet that obstacle, well, that's when you have a story to tell.
In eighth grade I somehow, by the grace of God, made the basketball team. I was ecstatic, but it turned out I spent most of the year on the bench calculating arc length so that I might have a chance of actually scoring a basket. Now, it all worked out on paper, mind you, but when I put it into practice - I think I've said enough.
Next on the list is college's obsession with extracurricular activities. Now think about this, ladies and gentlemen: If I have a gazillion AP classes and go to sports practice after school every day, do I have time to do extracurricular activities? Apparently the College Board does, and therefore, so must I.
Extracurricular activities encompass many parts of the high-school experience. When I think of extracurricular, I think of clubs and community service. Now, some clubs really do make a difference when members are dedicated, but it seems that quantity is more important on a college application than quality. This drives students like me to belong to clubs that actually don't do much rather than those that do (since that required dedication would take up too much time). I have a theory that the College Board takes points off for hours spent sleeping. We are super kids; we don't need sleep, which explains why teenagers look like zombies.
As for community service, I somehow remember watching an episode of "The Simpsons" where Homer referred to community service as forced volunteerism. My classmates totally sympathize with this opinion. We live in a very small town where community service opportunities are few, so most are competing for a community service position they really don't want, but must do to graduate (in addition to winning brownie points from colleges).
I am one of the lucky few who has found a service I love: teaching kids to read. I feel for my classmates who are stuck doing odd, unpaid jobs that someone really, really should be paid to do.
Ah, yes, did I mention that there is a section of the college application for "special talents?" I can't get enough of this one. So, as of yet, if you have followed my instructions, you have a 4.0, can lift 200 pounds with your pinky, run many pointless clubs, and have adopted various highways, but ya gotta do more. Now, special talents, I have been told, have to do with all the other amazing talents acquired over the years: languages, music, art, etc. So, kid, if all you're fluent in is English and pig Latin, well, you have a long road ahead of you. You also want to try to play multiple instruments. These activities are resume fillers; the rule is that as long as they look good on paper, you're set and mission accomplished ... almost.
I have always found acronyms menacing, but in the eyes of a high-school student, none is more intimidating than SAT. This test can make or break you.
Although I have my own opinion about whether one test can accurately measure your accumulated knowledge, no one can argue that it is not influential. The week of SATs, I notice people using a $50 vocabulary foreign to them the previous week, trading in their Gatorade for cappuccino to stay awake, and becoming very religious.
I have a little time left, but I can totally see myself in a few years. If all goes according to plan, by age 17 I will be a hard-core caffeine addict lucky to have any nails left. I wonder who will play me in my made-for-TV movie?
So now your SAT score is back, and you're filling out college applications, hoping and praying you have enough resume fillers to make you seem like more than just a number. And then you run into the last obstacle that could prevent you getting into the college of your choice: the personal statement, a.k.a., college essay. They call this your interview on paper, and it really is. But to have a good personal statement, you have to have lived, not just existed. You must have a story to tell that people will want to listen to. You must have, as they call it, life experience. So I hope that even though you have been a super student, that you had time to be a kid. There are some things you cannot learn from a book and I feel those are the most important things.
So, I end my analysis of the college-application experience with a toast to all the super kids out there who go that extra mile, who stay up all those nights, who sacrifice to make it to the utopia of college. High school is just a test of endurance for college, but the real test is how you change the world, and the only real kryptonite that you'll face is yourself. The super kids will inherit the earth, but it would be interesting if some of you became members of the College Board. The standards would be raised once again and just imagine what kind of kryptonite-resistant kids we would produce.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.