Mattie’s Musings: College Obsessions and My Own Possessions

Filling out college applications seems to be the highest trending item on Senior Conversation Topics 101 and the greatest consumer of our time.

Some of these applications force us to paint a pretty picture of ourselves, answering their questions: yes I’m a leader and here’s why, yes I’ve helped the community and here’s how, yes I have test scores and here’s what they are, yes I’ve done things for the past three years and here’s what.

I answered those questions, and I turned in my first college application, Oct. 25. Hours of writing the essays, weeks of filling the boxes, months of staring at the application, and it was done.

For more than a few moments, I dueled with the computer screen, an intense staring contest between my eyes and the submit button.

I lost, and decided to look over the application again.

What struck me the most were the numbers. No, not the grade or test score numbers, but the numbers of hours. For each of my extracurricular activities, I listed the hours per week and weeks per year that it consumed. On this digitized piece of paper, all that the Women in Computer Science Club or the Astronomy Club or the water polo team is is a couple of numbers and a 100-character blurb.

Within those numbers and characters, I couldn’t include descriptions of the time I laughed myself to the floor during a WICS meeting with friends, or the time that I excitedly learned how to align a telescope, or the countless times that I got hit in the head with a water polo ball.

There’s only so much you can fit on a college application, so much you can record in numbers and characters. That picture that we paint of ourselves for colleges, it’s not entirely complete.  Sure, it’s still a self-portrait, but it’s still just a painting.

I’ve heard people, fellow members of the Senior Stress Party, claim that we’re selling our souls to colleges, nearly emptying ourselves out and sending it off.

But, it’s just a painting.

After I submitted to the submit button, my experiences still belonged to me. As I work on the next applications, my experiences still belong to me.

Our extracurricular activities are more to us than the numbers and the 100 characters, and our whole high school experience is more to us than the portrait that we paint for colleges.

When we walk out of here on June 14, we’re taking with us a collection of memories. It includes everything, even the little things that didn’t fit in the numbers and characters.

But there I was, still staring at the numbers and characters. Sure, it was a nice little picture of myself. It holds the days and weeks and months that it took to fill it out. But I get to hold the years that it took to get to where I am, and I get to take them with me when I leave.