Thursday, August 27, 2009

College admissions fatigue

By Jay Kim (Los Angeles, California)

It’s been a couple of weeks since SJP ’09 met its closure. But those goodbyes and those tears were only the beginning of a what has already proven will be a very long journey..

I remember walking behind SJP founding director Michael Koike '01, who was helping me with a suitcase that was now filled with SAT review material and college guide books, thinking, “it seemed like yesterday I walked down this very road behind Tasnim (SJP '06/Princeton '11) to meet our SJP intern Izzy (Isabel Schwab '11) for the first time, and to enter that Scully dorm room that housed me for 10 days, and now we’re walking down the same path only to go back home.” I remember feeling that unsettling heaviness in my heart when I departed California on July 31st, wondering if I would get along with anyone or if I would actually enjoy the experience..

But my own feelings right now and those I felt on the day that I left are proof of how wrong I was. SJP has been a “life changing experience” and as cliché as that sounds, it's true..

I’m a high school senior now and walking down the corridors and the packed hallways of my overcrowded high school of 4,500, I see the scared and sometimes excited faces of freshmen. I can easily pick out the students who have arrived straight from middle school – it’s just too easy. But seeing their small and innocent faces reminds me of myself when I entered those daunting high school gates, and I laugh. It’s fun to reminisce about how long you’ve come along – about how much you’ve grown.

I see those freshmen and I think, “they’ll be going through what I’m feeling now in exactly 3 years, and they have no idea what it’s like to be feeling like this.”.

This whole college process is wearing me down. I’m sick – maybe a sign of my fatigue or lack of sleep, but a definite hindrance to my motivation. Coming back home from Princeton, I was charged and motivated; I knew what I had to do and what I wanted. But being home and being at Princeton is different, perhaps far too different to even describe. I miss the Princeton that made me felt like I was on top of the world and that with simple effort and motivation anything could be tackled and conquered..

Back home in California it’s quite different. I asked one classmate, who is ranked among the top five at my school, where he wanted to attend for college. He replied nonchalantly, “Princeton’s my first choice.” I simply shifted my eyes towards my new shiny binder and didn’t say anything afterwards. My top choice is Princeton too. Though there’s competition, I never imagined that hearing those words coming from the science bowl captain’s mouth would scare me that much.

Maybe it’s because Princeton helped me to finally realize that I’m actually at that “fork in the road,” and that I need to muster the courage and effort to pick it up and try my best in the college admissions process*. And that this fork in the road will determine a large portion of my life. I’m hoping that I’ll look back on this blog post several months from now and laugh, in the same exact manner I laugh when I think about my freshmen year. I’m hoping that a couple of months from now, despite the struggles in between, the road I’ll be traveling on will be the better of the two from the fork..

And until that day, I will continue to fight on to get into the best college I can. Discouraged or not, the whole war is about fighting until death. Not literally, of course.

*An inside joke - Woodrow Wilson School professor Stan Katz encouraged SJPers to "take the fork in the road" and a student thought the expression meant there was a literal fork in the middle of the road one must pick up.

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