College Diaries: Beginning the journey


Hannah O’Leary , senior, shares her input and knowledge about the college admissions process throughout an upcoming series entitled College Diaries.

The beginning of a new school marks a time for growth and learning. As thousands of kids march through the hallways, accompanied by mechanical pencils with their erasers still attached and sparkling white high-top Converse, there is an underlying current of stress among a certain group of students: the seniors. It should be our year, where we reign over the school and assure that this will, indeed, be the best year yet. However, everyone forgot to mention, though, that there is one small thing that most seniors must do before they can coast through their senior year: apply to college.

Oh, yeah, that one small thing. That everyone claims will predict the rest of our lives. So follow me as I navigate the world of college applications, freak out over deadlines and look to my future.

Ding. My email announces that I have an email. When I go to check my phone, I look and see that I have received yet another message from an obscure university, encouraging me to apply. Oh, yeah, for sure, I’m definitely going to apply now. To your university and the other 500 I have received emails from.

Don’t get me wrong — at first I was flattered to be getting so many emails. I thought that I was an extremely desirable candidate that all of these schools were fighting to get the attention of. But then, I got another email, and another and then 500 more, along with all of my peers.

As it turns out, our names have been given to colleges by the various testing agencies whose tests we take. Maybe I’m not such a desirable applicant after all. This revelation just reinforced what people have told me for so many years about college admissions: we are just another number to admissions committees.

I mean, sure, these schools claim that they give each and every applicant individual attention. That very well may be true, but I bet that the so-called “individual attention” lasts all of the 30 seconds that it takes an admissions officer to glance over an application.

To be honest though, what more should I expect? Not anything. Each school receives thousands upon thousands of applications. With so many people, most of the applicants are bound to blend in. So I guess that is where the second piece of advice that I have been receiving comes in: stand out.

That sounds all fine and dandy and all, but, to be honest yet again, I am pretty much exactly like all other applicants. I have faced no adverse hardships, nor any eye-opening, spiritual enlightenments. I am stunningly average (though I am sure my mom would disagree). Maybe that’s my stand-out feature: how unbelievably unremarkable I am.

It may sound like I am complaining about how unremarkable my life appears to be to me, but in reality, I am so grateful for all of the opportunities that have been afforded to me. There are kids all over the world who can only dream about living in a home with loving, supportive parents who can afford to buy me clothes, food, education, sports and travel. Somewhere along the way, I was unbelievably lucky to be born in the life that I have been given. Sometimes, though, I just feel like any other teenager trying to navigate the world.

It seems to me like all teenagers lie somewhere between the realm of child- and adult-hood. I’m too old to do half of the things that I want to do, and too young for the other half. Whenever I see my extended family, the first thing they tell me is the obligatory explanation about how much I’ve “matured since last Thanksgiving.” Then we get to the juicy part, though, and the questions start raining down. “Where do you want go to school?” “What do you want to major in?” “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?”

Every time, I give the same disappointing response: I don’t know. I have no idea. Zip, zero, nada. However, if I do attempt to give an answer, they cut me off to tell me about how I should not be worried about such things yet. I’m still in high school, I still have so much time until I need to decide. It gets a bit confusing sometimes. Do you want me to have my stuff together, or do you want me to go with the flow and carpe the diem out of my senior year?

I don’t know (once again, of course). I am just trying to navigate the line between adult and child just like all of my fellow teens. To me, this journey towards the rest of my life all starts with college, so I guess that is where I’ll go from here. The road to college, though, all starts with the tumultuous world of college admissions (shudder). So, follow me along through my journey. All of the tears, freak-outs, pessimism and hope will be documented here, and I cannot wait to share my journey.

Click on the embedded links to visit key places to visit during the application process.