A Step by Step Guide on How to Stop Being Toxic About The College Admissions Process

Today is May 10, 2020, and it has been 9 days since college commitment day. The day when 90% of the seniors I know logged on to Facebook, Instagram, Myspace, and Google plus to spread the same message far and wide “I’m goin to college!” This date marks the end of a process that starts for most the second they stepped foot into their 1st-period class freshman year, the soul-sucking ordeal that we like to call the college admissions process. In my experience, when it comes to deciding where you’re going to spend roughly $200,000 and the next four years, most people (understandably) lose their minds along the way. Amidst all this chaos, a sea of toxicity rises and swallows every college-bound senior in its path. So, I give you my step by step guide on how to stop being toxic about the college admissions chaos process.

A quick disclaimer: In writing this, I understand that I come from not only the academic resources to get into college but also the financial resources to go to college. I understand that there are millions of kids who would kill to be in my place and I’m grateful for what I have. Lastly, I acknowledge that college is not for everyone and while I feel it is the right path for me, you don’t need a college degree to be happy in life.

Step 1, Shut up

The most aggravating thing about the process is how much people go on and on about their scores, AP classes, essays, how many schools they’ve applied to, what's a safety, what’s a reach, what the admissions office looks at, *BAM* sorry, that was me slamming my head against the desk. By far the best thing to ease the toxicity around this process is to shut your mouth and understand how your words can affect other people. These things are important to talk about with your parents, close friends, and counselor, but not every person that makes the mistake of sitting next to you in class.

Step 2, Stop comparing people to each other

I cannot explain the number of times that I have felt my self worth shrink after hearing the “stats” of other people. Around this time last year, I was sure that there was no way I would be getting in anywhere of quality based on the scores, GPAs, and extracurriculars of those who I had chosen to compare myself to. Parents are exceedingly guilty of this one, using every opportunity to point out to their children that their siblings and friends are better than them. I compared even simple things, like the number of schools my peers had applied to in order to decide if I was okay. At the end of the day, the only thing that comparing yourself to others does is make you feel worthless. Even if you determine you’re ahead of 99% of people, you will still envy the 1% that has a better-looking resume full of arbitrary indicators of self-worth.

Step 3, Screw the College Board

If I had a list of organizations that I passionately hate, the CB would most definitely make the top 5, up there with Hamas and The Green Bay Packers. Whether it’s selling student data, reusing tests, or lobbying Congress to let them squeeze more money out of AP students with literally no other choice, the “non-profit” that we call the College Board never ceases to piss me off. When it comes to the SAT, the CB will not stop until you feel like your score is the utmost authority on your academic intelligence. Before you lay down your checkbook to drop another $100 on your fifth SAT, consider whether or not you actually need whatever 20 extra points you are gonna get, and if it is really going to help you get into the college of your dreams. Now, I understand that some people take the ACT and I don’t know much about then test or the company so I’m not going to comment on it.

Step 4, End social media madness

From r/applyingtocollege on Reddit to my Facebook wall, I can’t seem to escape the flood of people shouting “ ____ class of 2024, go ____!” I chose not to post anything after committing even though I was extremely tempted to because I get it, it’s incredibly exciting and you want to tell everyone in earshot, but it’s important to consider how others are going to interpret your news. Be aware that your post will be seen by hundreds of students who may use it as fuel to judge you or feel bad about themselves after violating step 2. I don’t think anyone who chooses to post is a bad person at all, but I do think people need to be more cognizant about how these things appear to others. I must mention that there is a small exception to the rule: anyone who is a prominent varsity athlete and is going to play somewhere significant after high school should post, as often times people in the community are waiting to see where they decide to go. This does not apply to everyone who is going to play sports in college, and if you have to ask yourself if you are the exception to the rule, you’re probably not.

I acknowledge that I am guilty of breaking most of these steps and am most definitely part of the problem. Most people can’t help but dive full force into the toxicity because they feel like it’s the way things are supposed to be. Take everything I say with a grain of salt as I am no expert on any of these topics, but I feel that in a system that is designed to make you feel like a data point, the best thing we can all do is be empathetic and understanding when it comes to the ridiculous choice that many are forced to make at the age of 17. I’ll finish with one of my favorite quotes from comedian John Mulaney:

“I agreed to give them $120,000 when I was seventeen years old, with no attorney present. That’s illegal!… They pulled me out of high school; I was in sweat pants, all confused. Two guys in clip-on ties are like, “Come on, son, do the right thing. Sign here and you’ll be an English major.” I was like, “Okay.” That’s right, you heard me: an English major… I paid $120,000 for someone to tell me to go read Jane Austen, and then I didn’t. That’s the worst use of 120 grand I can possibly fathom.”

Since my last blog post, we’ve reached 10 subscribers, hooray! My plan is to give a shout out to one subscriber each post so make sure to subscribe if you want a shout out. This one goes out to my friend and very first subscriber Sophie Abner from London, England. Hi Sophie!

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