Teenagers are afraid of me. I often see them sit up straighter when I walk into a room. I’ve shaken many (and I mean MANY) clammy hands. My inbox is full of a startling number of emails written with a degree of formality I would reserve only for addressing European royalty.
I believe this is all fueled by two things: newfound efforts at being appropriate in adult spaces (this is a good thing) and fear (this is a bad thing).
In the great words of Frank Herbert: Fear is the mind-killer. It is also wholly inappropriate in this situation. You perceive admissions officers (the “gatekeepers,” if you will) as authority figures who wield immense power, control your destiny, and do so with great judgment. It’s a potent combination that makes you worry that we’ll see your imperfections. But that fear implies that you think we’re free from sin. This is untrue, and I’ll prove it to you.
For example, the following things happened to me while visiting high schools this fall:
As you can see I am, at times, a hot mess. Which is why the anxiety of teenagers when interacting with (or sending applications to) people like me is puzzling. You seem horrified at the idea that you might say or do something imperfect, convinced that a poorly phrased question or minor essay typo will someday put your application in the deny bin. But remember: we don’t exactly have a stable full of high horses to ride here. And as “real humans,” we respect and appreciate the opportunity to interact with and read applications from other “real humans.” Authenticity carries more weight than polish.
We should all try to be good people who are on time and pulled together and always have their flies zipped. But, in spite of ourselves, we don’t win that battle every day. Partially because that standard is too high, and partially because the messy moments are often learning opportunities, or just good fun. So feel confident being yourself, imperfections and all. And if you have a moment in this process where you drop the ball, don’t panic. Just own it, apologize if need be, and move on with your life. Recovering calmly is just as important a life skill as learning to interact with adults in the first place. Might as well practice now because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll need it.
Feature image courtesy of Jon Athans Photography. Website can be found here.