by Alaina Fox
“It’s August.” These two words can send shivers down any senior’s spine. The reminder leaves even the strongest of us quaking, perhaps even on the verge of tears. August signals the opening of the Common Application, the beginning of essay grinds, and a new era of anxiety. Though I know this is only a glimpse of what we’ll endure in the coming months as we wait for acceptances and rejections, writing and submitting applications is still no walk in the park.
The worst issue I’ve encountered by far is word count limits. As Public (or maybe personal) Enemy Number One, word count limits invade my every waking moment and seep into my dreams, where they laugh maniacally at my unending torment. Whether the maximum is 50 or 500, I can never cut down enough to avoid my college counselor’s wrath.
My fatal flaw is long-windedness. My sentences tend to be unnecessarily long and repetitive. I repeat the same information over and over in increasingly complicated ways. Changing only word choice and sentence structure, never content, I write out what I’ve already communicated in ways that grow more and more baffling with each word. Brevity is my hamartia, and when my confusing, time-wasting tendencies lead me to the gates of hell, no god will hear my pleas for mercy; not even immortals have the time to put up with my incomprehensible babbling.
While the lengths of essays cause me infinite anguish, the substance is never easy, either. Indecisiveness paralyzes me when I try to respond to prompts, and I spend what feels like decades ruminating on each one, waiting for my Google Doc to somehow choose for me. It becomes especially difficult when schools change their prompts each year, meaning applicants have to wait until August — you know, the time that senior year starts and piles on insurmountable stress — to even begin thinking about what to write. I understand the purpose, of course. These schools are teaching a crucial lesson: the importance of procrastination. Waiting to start your work until you have the maximum number of stressors in your life is a valuable skill, and one that we should try mastering now.
The prompts aren’t the only factor complicating the choice of what to write about—it’s important to showcase achievements, but you can’t risk coming across as arrogant or self-centered. Essays need to stand out, but you don’t want to be so unique that you lose relatability. You somehow have to articulate who you are as a person when, at the ripe old age of 17, you still barely know anything about yourself. Juggling these paradoxes, as fun as it sounds, is a lot of work, which is a great excuse for napping half the day. If the true reason for your snoozing is that unconsciousness is an effective repression tool, well, nobody else needs to know that.
In all seriousness, though, I do have some advice for my fellow seniors who are applying to colleges. First of all, don’t apply anywhere I’m applying. It’s not because I don’t want competition or anything absurd like that. It’s just because of… secret reasons. Confidential. Classified. You wouldn’t understand. Just trust me on this one.
Secondly, remember to enjoy yourself. Sure, you’re dedicating a frankly obscene amount of money to standardized tests and application fees, but just because you’re watching hard-earned money go down the drain doesn’t mean you can’t still have a good time!
Finally, keep in mind that in the grand scheme of things, where you attend college doesn’t matter. Thanks to the rapid progression of climate change and world leaders’ refusals to do anything that even resembles logical action, we’ll all be dead before that degree comes in handy. Good luck!