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Stop giving unsolicited college advice, promote self-discovery instead


After a long and exhausting dinner with my parents’ friends, I was prepared to usher them out of the house. We were just about to reach the door when the dreaded conversation came.

“So, have you taken the SAT yet?”

I stopped dead in my tracks. A wave of anxiety rose in my chest. The score I give them won’t matter, and my words will have no impact on their livelihood. It will only be my pride and self-worth that takes the hit.

As I transitioned from sophomore to junior year, people’s perception of me suddenly changed. Prior to the SAT, I felt as though the extent of my intelligence was unknown. However, now, it’s as if one test will be an official measure of my worth and mental capacity. I have many more gripes with the college application system, but this isn’t the center of my argument: unsolicited advice about college.

I can tell it comes from good intentions, but it’s so bland and unhelpful. All it does is reinforce the perception that I’m not doing enough or that I should be doing something differently.

People feel entitled to explain everything they know because their children went through the same arduous process. In part, I feel as though this entitlement may stem from a need to justify all the work they went through researching the college admission process, that this advice can benefit others instead of going to waste the moment their child has passed through the revered college gates. 

Whatever the cause, I feel an underlying pressure to marvel in gratitude over their  brilliant remarks, as if they have done me a favor.

In reality, the majority of these conversations are short and surface level. 

They seem like simple small talk, with insignificant statements that would have normally ended with “How is school going,” but instead continue monotonously into, “Have you started studying for the SAT?”

Even though these small conversational snippets seem innocent and well-intentioned, they act like daggers. Straight to the gut, slicing right at the core of my hidden panic.

These questions yield no benefit to the person posing the questions, nor to me, the person on the receiving end. Due to their brief nature, these exchanges normally center around the same, overused advice that would seem obvious to any outsiders listening in.

The problem with these discussions is that they never delve into the deeper purpose of the college admission process. Ultimately, the greater importance of all of this is my journey in college as a stepping stone to the future, not the arbitrary hoops one needs to leap through to get in.

What truly matters as you become an adult is who you are as a person and what your aspirations are. Maturing is about self-discovering and building your own identity. Instead, this rite of passage has become muddled with the lure of being accepted into college, but getting in is just the beginning.

Instead these simple conversations should branch out and emphasize self-reflection, such as discussing your aspirations to who you want to be. Life’s journey is about creating your future. You should be the judge of what you do and who you become. This process shouldn’t force you to pretend to be someone you aren’t just to please the exhausted admission’s officer who will likely take a mere 10 minutes to determine your fate.

In the name of maintaining all of our sanity, please let us all just stop these bland conversations about the SAT or college applications and instead delve into the meatier discussions of substance.

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Olivia Atkinson
Olivia Atkinson, News & Opinion Editor
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