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High school’s new favorite cult

Tommy Martin

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I’ve found a new god. And I think many other seniors have also.

We’ve spent much of our time and energy this year on pleasing our new deity, stressing about any failures to do so. We dream about it and talk to our friends about it. We laugh about it and cry about it. We can’t think about it without thinking about our future, our hopes and dreams.

The name of our new god? The almighty college admissions officer.

If this fascination seems absurd to you, it is. There are moments even in our own worshipping where we recognize the ridiculous nature of our action. Yet we persist on the ostensibly endless pursuit of serving the admission officer. We eye acceptance into their school, admittance into their heaven. And this journey entails sacrifices—most notably, the sacrifice of our peace of mind and self-esteem.

When faced with an essay question—a prompt that seems to have dropped from the sky by those sacred entities— heartbeat, thoughts, and fingers race.

How do we impress the holy officer? How do we achieve in a few words what we’ve worked for throughout our lives?

And the common response seems to be disparaging ourselves, regretting what before seemed like a decent life, and crafting a new character. Surely, mere mortals like ourselves cannot accomplish what we hope for. To appease these divine decision makers, we need a divine image. So we rely on this character, this fabrication, this entity outside ourselves, to excuse the inadequacies we now see everywhere in our life.

As we work on college applications, we feel as though we face a decision between being ourselves and being impressive, because we refuse to accept that we can accomplish both.

This belief seems reasonable because we invest so much power in their job. We believe their action doesn’t simply guide our next four years, but dictates the rest of our lives. With this impossible control, we forget the humanity of the people reading our essays. And in order to please them, we forget the human in
ourselves, trying to build a robot who can volunteer, earn good grades and play sports and instruments better than anyone else.

This fate as servant to an unsatisfiable entity feels inescapable at times—or at least until Jan. 1. Yet the only people subjugating others are ourselves, at once the victim and the culprit.

The point of supplemental questions and college applications as a whole is to express ourselves. We let admissions officers know more about us, and hopefully in the process we learn more about ourselves. Trying to please these gods by hiding our identities will keep us far from any paradise, regardless of the acceptances or rejections. If we create someone else that pleases the admission officers on high, then this character will live happily at their school, but we may not. The college application process is meant to serve ourselves, not these deities.

Yes, impressive is good. But so are we.

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High school’s new favorite cult