Tuesday, September 17, 2013

College App Existential Crises

Status report:

Something happened in September. I was going along blithely in August on the same wave as during the summer, and then suddenly stress imploded and my life became college apps and fighting fleas (oh, cats...). My writing output has dropped significantly in both quantity and quality, and the number of pages I read in a week has shriveled.

Seeking to avoid a repeat of freshman year, I had a strategy summit with myself over the weekend (and yes, I am really that sententious) to figure out how I can get all my necessary college/school stuff done while not letting my personal writing fall by the wayside. I outlined the rest of the semester in a spread in my go-to spiral bound notebook, with major events and deadlines and everything penned in.

October, especially, is going to be stressful. But I think I can manage to get the important things done.


My problem now is that I haven't had a lot of time and mental space to sit down and think of something to talk about here. Tuesday posts are going to be like this, I'm afraid - more spontaneous, less well-defined.

What do I want to say?

I've been working this week with my college counselor, and to my surprise I really enjoy it. I know other people have had bad experiences with counselors who encourage disingenuousness, but my person is, I feel, interested in representing me as who I am genuinely. We had a two-hour Skype session yesterday discussing material I had written in response to a series of fascinating open-ended questions she'd given me, pulling together various pieces of my experience to craft a (hopefully) compelling Common App essay.

Why did I end the session feeling so hopeful and even happy? Part of it may be that she paid me some nice compliments about my writing. Another big part of it is, I think, the fact that I am extraordinarily self-centered and I'd just spent two hours talking about myself. I'd put basically my life story since freshman year onto paper (or rather, onto Google Doc), and it was an interesting process seeing that story reinterpreted through someone else's eyes.

I have, I realize, an extremely fixed and rigid self-image. Numerous times through the prompts I'd described myself as heavily introverted, usually with the implication that that means I don't want to be around people. And then I went on to wax eloquent about how much I adore the lower brass and math club - and apparently I've never seen the contradiction.

Don't get me wrong, I am still definitely an introvert. But putting my own well-being first does not mean that I don't also value others.

->Returning from the tangent. I felt, working with my college counselor, that I was discovering new things about myself, which is an appropriate strategy because through the essays, of course, other people will be discovering me for the first time.

So I feel that the experience of having a college counselor is useful and rewarding (increasing self-knowledge is almost always a worthy goal). But I am conflicted, still, because this is not a resource to which everyone has access. College counselors are expensive. I don't blame them for that, necessarily, because they're running businesses and responding to supply and demand - but I don't feel completely good about paying good money for someone to help me present myself to universities when other people, just as or more deserving, don't have that option.

After all, it's my parents' money that's getting this counsel. And unlike legal counsel (we're watching Gideon's Trumpet in gov, that's why I make the analogy), college counsel of this caliber is not guaranteed. I admire the applicants who are going solo in this process, and I am both relieved and guilty not to count myself among their number.

Thus I am faced with existential crises:
1) Who am I?
2) Do I deserve this?

I have no answers.


Leaving you tonight with a song I've had on repeat lately:

"Unwell" - Matchbox 20

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