Friday, February 17, 2006

Wow! It has been a while and my typing fingers feel a bit rusty.

I am sure a number of you out there are wondering about the elusive application process and the people who choose the class of 2010. Well, I can tell you, as person on the inside, that the admission process is hell for both the students and readers alike. My days are filled by essays about sad family situations, influential coaches, and desperate attempts to distinguish through the very things that make them the same as everyone else. Following those essays, I read writing samples about Hester Prynne's scarlet Letter, Gatsby's hedonism and Hamlet's madness (we really need to mix up the canon a bit). Then, guidance counselor reports, consisting of either a novella or a paragraph, try to portray each student as unique by their involvement in the National Honor Society or their trip to the Dominican for habitat for Humanity even though most guidance counselors are writing the same for their students. Through all this reading, my job is to decipher the true scholars from the rest and make a case for them at a committee meeting. There is no glitz and glamour around this process--it is a bunch of overworked people desperately reading as fast as they can while attempting to give each kid their due respect. There is no rubric, no secret formula or magic quality that ensures entrance--though we do have rules to maintain consistency from reader to reader for the sake of fairness. This disillusioning process--the one that has created a multi-million dollar industry--is really and truly a crap shute. Maybe the sad story of the mom getting hit by a truck and becoming quadriplegic will strike a chord in the reader, causing them to fight hard for that kid to gain entry. Perhaps the essay about glasses representing the phases of growth will make a counselor laugh, sympathize and put that kid on the top of the heap. Or maybe, the kid is truly a standout because she maintains a straight A average with all AP classes, wins national viola competitions, runs at an All-American pace in cross country, does not require financial aid, writes beautifully and graduates early to work in a start-up orphanage in the war-ravaged Rwanda. These kids do exist and they truly are rock stars--but, obviously, they are not the norm.

Amidst the monotony, however, there are some original and beautiful essays that bring tears to my eyes or make me throw my head back in laughter. Their honesty, their attempt to express their true selves-their passions-- make me love what I do. These essays give me hope that their are kids out there who are still kids ready to take that next step. They are exploring and writing about their amazing family history in Japanese Internment camps. They are pushing past life altering bouts with cancer, back injuries, epilepsy. They are seeking understanding of war, whether it is Vietnam, Iraq or World War II. They are traveling, absorbing and then thinking about other cultures who find true happiness beyond the material. They are loving their mom, sister, brother, dad, friend who left life early but whose influence is permanent. They are hopeful, resilient, loving, pensive, confused, angry, smart, articulate and eager. They are ready to take the next step--to stretch themselves into doctors, lawyers, nurses, actors, writers, humanitarians, diplomats, architects and photographers. And, no matter what my college, or any other college says in response to their applications, they will still be doctors, lawyers, nurses, actors, writers, humanitarians, diplomats, architects and photographers.

It is our job as friends, parents and siblings to let them know that no admissions counselor or committee is truly responsible for their future. It is our job to support whatever route they choose, reminding them that dreams and hard work can take them anywhere whether or not the envelope is fat or thin.