As news publications continue to report on the college admissions hoax perpetuated by a senior at a well known Virginia high school, we figured we’d write about a couple of ways to avoid stress and unnecessary competitiveness in the highly selective college admissions process. After all, this student, Sara, was surely motivated to deceive folks about her college acceptances because she was under a whole lot of pressure. Like at many high schools across America, students at this student’s high school compete against one another for admission to our nation’s most selective universities. And while at this particular high school, it’s more competitive than most, this competitiveness is not unique to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Not by any means. At high schools across America, students wear Yale and Princeton hoodies when they get into these schools. Parents put up Dartmouth and Stanford decals on their car windows. Parents brag about their child’s acceptances while in line at the post office. They find ways to work it into seemingly every single conversation.
So how to curb such mania and unnecessary competitiveness? Well, for starters, rising seniors should keep the schools to which they intend to apply to themselves. There’s no need to tell fellow students that you’ll be applying to Williams via Early Decision or Stanford via Early Action. Because the second you do, you become a competitor of the other students who plan to apply to this very school. You become the enemy. So why not just keep it to yourself? And how about not talking about college admissions every other ten minutes? Does that mean you don’t have to do everything you possibly can to try to get into your dream school? Of course you can. And you should. But you don’t need to talk about college admissions incessantly in order to get into an elite university. Talk about the “Entourage” movie that’s out. It’ll make for a breezier, more fun conversation. We promise. Even if the movie isn’t particularly good (it isn’t).
And if and when you do get into that dream school of yours, maybe don’t wear that hoodie the very day you get in. You’ll make other students feel badly, like the students who didn’t get in. It’s not so cool. Think about the feelings of your classmates and what you’re doing to contribute to the competitive atmosphere at your school. If you don’t like this competitive atmosphere, consider what you can do to bring about change. And it just might start by wearing an Adidas hoodie the day you get in. And not a Princeton hoodie. You’ll still be going to Princeton no matter what hoodie you wear. So just do it. Oh wait, that’s Nike.