Thinking of the Future: College Applications and Questioning Myself

For the past few months without fail, once the clock hits 11:30 pm and I’m in the state before sleep where all existential crisis come to a head (you know the state where you question every choice you’ve ever made that’s led you to this moment), I think about college. More specifically, I think about how insane it is to me that everything I’ve worked for in the past 12 years of my public school career is finally here…aka college applications.

Yes, I am that girl who has fantasized about getting into her dream school since kindergarten.

The dream school always changes, but the fantasy is still there nonetheless. In 3rd grade, it was UNC Chapel Hill because that’s where my parents went and I wanted to walk the brick corridors knowing that they had too. In 5th grade, it was UVA after my grandparents told me I was related to the founder, Thomas Jefferson. I was in love with the dome-shaped library and the 1700s feel of the campus.

Throughout middle school, my dream school was NYU, as I had found my love for fashion and thought New York City was the only way I could pursue that passion. In 9th grade, it was Columbia University because apparently NYU was not prestigious (or expensive) enough so I had to shoot for an Ivy. Now, my dream school is Boston University and as much as I don’t want to admit that aloud for fear of jinxing my chances of acceptance, it’s true.

I think about these schools in my state before sleep. I think about how in a matter of months, I’ll know if I got into my dream school and if I’m going. I think about how those months used to be years and how one day these months will be days. However, lately, my thoughts digress further than usual. And it’s all thanks to the hellish “Common App” every high school senior applying to colleges knows too well. 

For those that don’t know, the Common App is the application that the majority of colleges in the US accept as a form of applying. You list everything from your family background to finances to education experiences to grades to awards on this application. And, of course, the most dreaded part of the application (aside from the essay): the activities section. You can list up to 10 activities that you participated in throughout high school and as any good, embarrassingly overachieving, college-has-been-my-goal-since-birth* person knows, you MUST fill out all 10. They better be impressive activities too, or else you’re a failure to all embarrassingly overachieving, college-has-been-my-goal-since-birth people everywhere. 

 (*Note: Not saying this niche group is superior or inferior, simply noting its existence and the fact that I am a part of it)

Let me tell you first, folks, this activities section will make you question everything you’ve been a part of in high school. Here’s what was going through my head: Was this worth my time? Why did I spend all my time doing this and not this? Does this activity actually set me apart from others? Is this activity even significant enough to include?

These questions hurt my brain, but to be blunt and cheesy at the same time, they didn’t hurt my brain as much as they hurt my heart. All of a sudden I was looking at myself from someone else’s point-of-view, criticizing how I choose to spend my time and how I could’ve spent it wiser. I wondered why I didn’t hold on to Faces of Feminism for longer, why I didn’t actively participate in more than one club at my school, but most of all I questioned why the main thing I have to show for myself from high school is Absolutely Olivia. 

Having to describe Absolutely Olivia (the blog and Instagram) in just 150 characters made the past 4 years of hard work and avid content creation seem so trivial and unimportant. There’s no room to explain how I built a platform for myself to inspire and empower those who choose to join me on my journey. There’s no room to explain how I started this as a place to share my fashion and it’s now a place where I get DMs from people of all ages about how I shifted their whole perspective on life and politics and people. There’s no room to explain how I’ve been impacted by women I’ve connected with through AO, women who have watched me grow up and helped shape me into the person I am today. It makes you wonder if the work you’ve put in and the rewards you’ve gotten out matter at all.

News flash: THEY DO MATTER.

Because then I thought to myself: You know what, Olivia? in a year’s time, the Common App will be more trivial and unimportant to you than it’s making your true passions feel. It’s a one time thing that’s meant to give admissions officers a glimpse at what you do, and not necessarily who you are. That’s what the essay portion is for anyways 🙂

To all my friends out there who aren’t yet seniors: I was binge reading the writing of Julianna Chen the other night, and an article of hers hit home. It is called: “Deconstructing my dream of the ‘elite university’”. In it, she writes, “I loved to write. But at the end of the day, it had all been performative. I loved this thing so much, but I did it only opportunistically. Everything was calculated and purely chosen for impressiveness.”

I’ve definitely done and considered doing activities solely for how they would look on my resume. Luckily, the activities I have poured the majority of my time and effort into are ones that bring me full joy. The activities I have done solely for resume purposes still taught me a lot of lessons and new skills, but looking back I probably wouldn’t do them again. I feel like it’s hard to go through high school and NOT do something that’s solely for your resume, but if I could go back, I would make sure the activity still adds value to my personal life.

So, DO ACTIVITIES YOU LOVE! At the end of the day, doing something that doesn’t bring you joy isn’t worth it for the measly 150 character, tweet-sized description you’re allowed to write on your application. It wasn’t until I started the application process that I began to realize what everyone says is true: your passions will show through. Maybe this won’t necessarily happen in the wretched activities section that I was talking about, but it 100% will in your essay portion and in interviews. Do what it takes to get into your dream school, but make sure you’re not leaving what’s important to you behind.

To all my senior friends: The future is scary, uncertain, and exciting all at once. We each have that one place we’re trying to get to after high school, whether it’s college, trade school, or a career.

Don’t let the application process or the future get you down! At the end of the day, your college apps, resumés, etc. are a surface level glance at who you are and NOT the full picture. I keep having to remind myself of that and you should too. We’ve made it this far and not to be cliché, but we can’t go back. Take pride in what you have accomplished and don’t let college apps diminish everything you’ve accomplished.

💜 Love, Olivia

P.S. Expect many more posts like this in the next few months!! Senior year is gonna be one hell of a ride 🙂

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