The constant dodgeball game of college chatter


I see myself there– seated quietly, working at my desk during second hour physics. My friend and I are finishing a lab report, calculating velocity and marveling in the beauty of derivatives. We are playing mental dodgeball.

We have built an imaginary wall around us on each side to block out the ongoing conversation; from all corners of the room, talk of college is bubbling rapidly.

Words like “scores” and “retaking the ACT” and “GPA boost” and “essays” are being thrown around furiously; the dodgeball game of college talk had invaded our classroom. I duck, trying to avoid being drawn into this inevitable, looming subject.

I have not gone a single day this year without hearing the word “college” at least once. No matter what class I’m walking into, the first thing that greets me is a pelt in the face. I’m bombarded by constant questions of “Where are you applying?” and “What is your top choice school?” and “Have you written your essays?” and- even better- “Can you edit mine?”

We’ve been bred since a young age to overthink, over-question, and over-doubt ourselves. The notions of success and failure are ingrained in us; I understand why every senior is stressed to the max right now.

However, a heavily peer-edited essay isn’t going to help in the long run. We should be taking a deep breath– sit back, and relax.

I’m not encouraging slacking on college applications; rather, we should take time to really focus on them. Make every minute of work count. Put in effort to do it right the first time. Make sure that you don’t lose your own voice.

Once the application is filled out and the essay is written, there is no need to spend every waking moment trying to perfect it. Applications aren’t meant to be perfect– they’re meant to be memorable.

But college is not the be-all, end-all– much less a 300-word college essay.

Now, back to school. What’s the point of discussing college ad nauseum during classes? Are you trying to make others feel bad about their application, or are you trying to make yourself feel better about your own? What are you gaining from asking about someone else’s test scores and college plans?

Stop these bullets of interrogation. Stop throwing that gym-class-ball at them, because eventually they’ll be too tired to dodge it.

If I’m being honest, questions about college make me uncomfortable. When people ask to read my essays or see the list of colleges I’m applying to, I get uneasy. I don’t see why people need to know my first choice college– or my back-up college.

One time, a few classmates of mine even asked me to show them my full list on the Common App website. I jokingly brushed the question aside, hoping to survive another round of this mental dodgeball. They persisted, and I caved. I felt violated, as if they had knocked down the barriers I had carefully set up to protect my privacy. It’s a small gesture, but it created a large, gaping hole in my comfort level.

Another time, a classmate confided in me that people had been discussing my college plans when I wasn’t present. I was confused and irked– why do they care where I’m applying for Early Action? Shouldn’t that be my own private decision? Again, I had lost another battle in this constant dodgeball war.

I walk into school each morning hoping for a ceasefire. Nonstop talk of colleges keeps me on edge; I have to constantly be wary of the conversation around me. Before I know it, someone will be pressing me to reveal my SAT score– something I’d rather keep to myself. It’s not that I don’t trust others with information; my score isn’t some top-secret, classified evidence. Rather, I’m sick of people asking for yet another piece of data that will undoubtedly fuel the discussion toward college.

The point of this is not to call one single individual out. No one person has the ability to create the atmosphere of anxiety at a class-wide level. We’ve all done this to ourselves by building stress upon stress, and now it’s time to take a step back.

As a school, we’ve learned to strive for greatness. But college is not the be-all end-all– much less a 300-word college essay. The world will not stop rotating around the sun if there is a comma splice in the optional supplemental essay. (If you had paid attention in physics instead of checking College Confidential, you would have learned that Earth stays in orbit due to a gravitational force much stronger than your essay’s word choice, anyway.)

Some say that time flies when you’re having fun, but time can also fly if you’re constantly stressed about the future. Senior year should be about savoring the last moments of high school; while consideration of one’s future is extremely important, it can become toxic if it consumes the entirety of one’s thoughts.

We have been blessed to be under the direction of incredible faculty who care and hope for us to learn. I, too, am guilty of putting off learning in class to instead work on my college applications. I feel awful about it afterwards, knowing that an hour of knowledge was put second to slimming an essay down to the word limit.

I hope that once this college-app-spell is over, once it no longer possesses me like hypnosis, once a peace treaty on this dodgeball competition is signed, my life can go back to normal.

I hope that’s the case for you, as well.