It’s who you are, not where you go

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As seniors receive admissions decisions from colleges, juniors complete extensive research papers, and sophomores just begin the college search process, our worlds can seem pretty hectic. Despite gallant efforts by advisers and post high school counseling to make the application process seem less cutthroat competition, it still feels this way for most people.

It feels like there are an innumerable amount of problematic elements related to the college process. From religious College Confidential refreshing indicative of obsession and anxiety to celebrity scandals that emphasize the way wealth rigs the process, these seemingly small ideas weave their way into our language, our culture, the way we treat others, and the way we treat ourselves. As a result, friends are seen as rivals and our learning environment is negatively impacted.

Instead of focusing on working together to help the class learn, it becomes more important that the individuals succeed. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the whole process that what becomes most important are grades and not people.

There are always those factors that we can’t control. We can’t help it if our parents monitor every assignment and put unhealthy amounts of pressure on us to achieve some amorphous goal of “success.” We can’t help it if we, ourselves, have college-induced anxiety. But we can control the little things we tell ourselves when we catch ourselves thinking that way. We can make the effort to think about how we talk about the college process in our own heads and with others.

When lunch table talks turn to college all the time and asking what someone got on a test is normal, that’s not okay. We need to prioritize who people are over where they are going or planning on going to school. Asking about someone’s weekend or how their recent sports game went or what music they’ve been listening to is a lot less stressful than where they’re spending the next four years.

This ban on constant college talk helps everybody: without it, we can relax a bit. Many of our home lives are dominated by persistent parents asking about deadlines and decisions, but we can change this discussion at school. We can alleviate some of that stress by just talking about other things.

Sure, it’s nice to vent from time to time, we all do it. But does this actually help very much? More importantly, how does it affect the people around us? This culture of sharing stress (and it seems, competing to be the most stressed) makes school an even more tense battleground.

It seems like all that matters right now is college, so much that we’re forgetting that people are more than just their future locations. And if college is all you talk about, that makes it your entire identity, which obviously causes even more stress.

People aren’t going to remember you as “the kid that went to so and so,” or “that one that was rejected from so and so.” They’ll remember what you did with your education and how you treated them and other people.

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