Have you ever wondered about what it really takes to get into college? When I was applying a year ago, I remember being totally, completely overwhelmed by the amount of materials that the applications required -- letters of recommendation, 10 activities, personal essays, forms, more forms … The sheer volume of it all was terrifying.
“What do they even want?” I asked myself. “What are they expecting of 18-year-old high schoolers? For us to be superhuman or something?”
In response, my friend, Benya, recently made a video about “The Perfect Applicant” that answers these questions … perfectly. Check it out below!
I love, love, love the video because, well, that’s what it felt like most of the time when I was applying. In my head, I had conjured this sea of tens of thousands of faceless yet terrifying Good Applicants from all over the world -- applicants who were bigger, better, smarter, quicker, stronger, funnier and cooler (In my imagination, they were all marching continuously in unison, for some reason) …
And then there was me. The Regular Applicant. The girl who gets her nose stuck in translated novels instead of conducting groundbreaking research; who trips over her own feet instead of winning sports championships; who pronounces most English words longer than four syllables funny as a non-Native English speaker; who was so terrified of these Good Applicants that lived in her head that she began shrinking more and more into herself.
At one point, I was so sure I would never be “good enough” an applicant that I almost gave up on applying to college, and my friend threatened to wrestle me to click “submit” on the CommonApp if he had to!
Psst … Here, let me tell you a not-so-secret secret: You don’t have to be superhuman. I know the “just be yourself” rhetoric is a much repeated one in conversations about admissions, and I also get that it kind of (annoyingly) contradicts the whole “make sure your application stands out!”
But you know what? I don’t think being yourself and standing out are contradictory or mutually exclusive. If anything, I think it takes precisely being yourself in order to let your glittery specialness shine through.
One and a half semester into college, if there’s anything I’ve learned, it is to love myself for the journeys I’ve gone on, for the stories I’ve collected and am figuring out how to tell, for my rough edges and sharp thorns, for annoyingly perky morning Amanda and grumpy sleepy night Amanda, for who I am. Because just as I adore, respect and fall in love with the wonderful, wonderful Jumbos around me as I hear slices of their super cool life stories, maybe, just maybe, they find me kind of cool, too? Maybe? Yes? No? Okay. Anyway.
I’m not asking you to launch into a series of naval-gazing exercises in narcissism. Rather, what I’m trying to say is that you are all beautifully human, and that’s all you need to be. Getting in, I believe, is not about being the super impressive “Perfect/Good Applicant” (because there will always be astronauts out there who are better than you anyway, as Benya’s video’s clearly demonstrated). Rather, it’s about learning to love yourself enough to let the coolest personal, weird, funny, sad, nerdy, fired up sides of yourself come through. Don’t think about the resume or the application just yet, because once you learn to acknowledge, appreciate, love, respect and articulate the various elements of you that you believe to be important to you, well, everything else will follow.