Why life is one long college application

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No one likes college applications, unless you magically achieved a 5.0 GPA and a perfect SAT score in high school. And even then, filling out all those questions about yourself is a hassle. So what if we told you life was one extremely long, never-ending application? We all have to step over milestone hurdles in life, but they don’t just stop when you’re grown up. They start pretty darn early, too.

Step one: school. This is the obvious one and quite possibly the longest-lasting. Nowadays, you barely get a reprieve as a baby when it comes to school applications, with waiting lists to obnoxiously exclusive preschools almost as long as the ones for college. The only difference is that your parents have to make you look impressive instead of you doing it. And so begins the very long and nausea-inducing road to higher education, right from your toddler years. Elementary, middle and especially high school are all preparation for this lovely and stressful thing we call college. Your entire academic career up until then has been preparing you to impress those admissions officers — oh, and to make you a better person, but come on. We all know the main goal. And if you thought getting into Cal was the end of the road, then you incoming freshmen must be more naive than we thought. After that, there could even be more school! And that means … more applications. Med school, pharmacy school, grad school, everything! There are possibly years to go of not only grades but also trying to impress people. And it doesn’t stop there.

Step two: work. In the “real” world, people like to use a slightly different word for application. They call it a resume, and writing one up sucks just as much — or more — as your college apps. At least once you send in your apps, they’re done until you receive your acceptance or rejection letters. With a resume, you have to keep updating it every time you achieve a so-called “accomplishment” or new ability. And if you thought you could escape personal essays upon entering the job market, think again! Cover letters, a resume’s best friend, are usually a must-have when applying for jobs. It’s the grown-up version of why you want to live out your dreams through this company instead of that school. It still requires the art of subtle bragging that everyone loves so much and is so difficult to get down just right. How are you supposed to sound poised and classy when you really want to say, “PICK ME! PLEASE! I’M DESPERATE BUT SORT OF QUALIFIED! PICK MEEE!” We guess you should ask the people who landed jobs, because they must have done something right. But with this application process, it’s not a one-time deal. You have to do it over and over again! Sure, it becomes easier over time as you build up that impressive sheet of paper that defines your value as a person … we mean “employee.” But it’s still freaking exhausting. And you even have to start this process early in school if you’re looking to get a job or internship then. And why do we look for those positions as students? To impress employers when we graduate. It’s such a nasty cycle.

Step three (optional): marriage. This is way down the line for most of us. But even this fairytale plot often requires a set of credentials — even if you fail to write them down and mail them to your potential spouse. Have you ever heard of bio data? It’s actually a term for work places to evaluate personnel, but it’s been adopted by the meat market we call dating/husband hunting/wife wanting, etc. It’s basically your resume as a potential life partner. “So, what kind of car do you drive? Where did you go to school? Oh, you’re going to be a doctor! How much money will you make?” These are all common questions you’ll find in the not-so-subtle art of figuring out someone’s bio data for the purpose of someday marrying him or her. These can all be applied to anyone, too! Multipurpose — you’ve got to love that. So you see, even in what should be a matter of the heart, we end up laying out our best qualities in the hopes that someone will accept or request. At least with a job, you can update your resume and move on  if you don’t get it (hopefully). What are you supposed to do when the rejection actually is because of your personality? Bummer, and much harder to get over.

Moral of the story? Stay impressive. Oh, and have fun along the way. If you love what you’re doing, then it’ll be no problem getting more experience to add to that list of accomplishments. If you love who you are, then someone will come along who loves that too.

Image source: capturingJenna under Creative Commons. 

Contact Erum Khan at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @erumjkhan.