Academics / Opinion

A sophomore’s new look at college admissions

As a current sophomore, I have been unhealthily stressed out about the college admission process. College admission is all I think about sometimes. I often ask myself what kind of college will accept my GPA, extracurricular activities, and SAT score. I thought that these are the most important jobs of being an Asian student in America, to get into a good college and make my family proud. It is as if I have locked my mind into a box and decided to surround myself only with people who have similar beliefs with me, and I rarely questioned that until recently. 

This spring, I finished reading the 2015 book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be by Frank Bruni, which describes itself as “An Antidote to the College Admission Mania.” This book gave me the ability to see myself outside of the prep school bubble that I’m in, and I finally came to an understanding that a big-name college on my resume does not guarantee a good life. 

My biggest takeaway from the book is that I do not need to go to a school like Harvard for a transformative experience that is going to prepare me for my life and future jobs. There are benefits of going to an influential university, but this is no longer what I value the most. The same school can have different meanings for each person, and what matters is the life-changing experience that the college is able to give you.

Many students want to go to a high-ranking college because they believe that is an important part of formula in order to live a successful life. However, I learned from Bruni that this belief is not true and even naive. Students only think this way because they are optimistic enough about the word “success” to assume that it is like a rising line on a linear graph. However, you cannot avoid failures in life by going to the best college in the world. Colleges might be important, but there are many more factors that can contribute to having a good life than the statistics you have in high school and college.

Now when I do research about a college, I’m not looking at the rankings, the professors, or the campus. Instead, I’m looking for a place that is so different from the person I am now and will offer me a transformative experience: to meet and learn things I have never saw before, to do tasks that I never imagined myself doing, to live in a place where I’m somewhat uncomfortable and will need to push myself every day to adapt to the new environment. The last thing I want my college experience to be is to be an extension of my college-prep all-girls boarding school. 

In addition, Bruni’s book gives a complete overview of all high school students in the U.S, which helped me to become more aware of the privileged position that I’m in when I apply for colleges in the future. The reality is that the top-ranking colleges are accepting more students from affluent families than others. Most importantly, I see students receiving privileged education are disconnected from the world outside. I feel an urgency to bring more awareness to Dana Hall students about their advantages. There needs to be more push for students to go outside of the bubble in order for us to get closer to the reality and the challenges that are waiting for us when we become adults. Learning this important lesson from Bruni is the main reason why I highly recommend his book to Dana Hall students. I think it will freshen privileged students’ perspective on college admissions and life beyond.

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