The beginning of August sought an issue that I would never have dreamed of going through — or understood the rigor of. Journeying into the US college admissions journey as an international student that only knew of universities like Harvard and Stanford from western TV shows, Legally Blonde, and obscure chick flicks (Sydney White, etc.) is definitely, without a doubt, one of the most stimulating challenges I’ve faced thus far. As shallow as that may sound, being thrusted into a season with the potential for the entire course of your life to change is exhilerating, frightening, and quite frankly, nerve-wracking. Last week kind of marked the beginning of literally nightly existential crises — of which I deeply apologize to all my friends for having to witness, as well as my organization mates, and slowly but surely, everyone around me as well — like the dawn of the end.
I still have dreams; the kind where I picture myself in full-fledged comfort, where ambition is synonymous to reality and all the ideas I have can be made in a reality. These are the usual daydreams and all — but as for any outright grasp on what the future holds — I remain at a loss.
It shouldn’t be worrying at all to not be able to envision yourself come five months time. We don’t know what the future holds blah it’s going to be alright and I’m still probably at school at that time anyway blahblah what should I even be expecting, etcetera. Though, in all honesty, the thing is that I’m placing my entire life on the tip of a decision that could change the course of everything, steer me into a future that I never really “dreamed” about being a part of but a now yearning to step into, like every regret rushing and coursing through me before it had the chance to sink in — before the chance to even make that mistake again.
Bluntly, to any dear stranger or friend that has to sit through this blog; I am a wreck, I am so scared, and I stand firm with the knowing that upon my wish to go through this path in life — I fucked it up, and I don’t know what’s up next. I’m seventeen years old and picking apart the past years of my high school life, wondering where I went wrong and why my mind decided to work this way — I’m pulling all-nighters in my crisis as a senior, flailing aimlessly to see what kind of impact I left that would be meaningful when laid down into bullet points and condensed into a few characters. As a testament to my fear: I have spent the past four days wincing, living on a total of about seven hours of sleep — my eyes blurring in and out, attempting to do as much as I can… and of course, failing since my brain can’t process anything and those damn lights that appear when you clench your eyes hard are blotting my vision and ohh shit I should really nap, wake up grudgingly and then not be able to do meaningful work anyway since I think I’ve killed my body or something ohhh — there is not a lot that a seventeen-year old can do with their limited time.
How absolutely terrifying is it to have your entire future be at the stake of how quickly you capture the attention of people as you lay on a PDF. How downright horrifying is it when you realize that even with all the time in the world — I still probably wouldn’t be the greatest candidate anyway, and when they hear all about me they may have preferred it more when I was a bland and boring mayhem of words on a paper. How terrible must I be to have this only all come into full lapse a month ago: I have stints such as literally capturing the last few seats in the last remaining SAT test center within the urban flux of Metro Manila, then panicking 2x and registering for the November SAT in quick succession after realizing what a close call was, I’m staring at my activities section as well as the honors & awards and wondering what about me is so special that I’d stand out from the other dozen thousand international students applying and oh yeah, there isn’t much to me. How much more do I hate myself because I wasn’t dragged into mathematics competitions, or particularly favored it enough in the past until now where I’m drowning myself in topics and concepts in semi-fruitless attempts to convince myself that I am capable, that I have potential to hold my own and that I have the grades and some semblance of confidence that I can uphold myself too; though of course, the reassurance I need turns into tips and yeah you aren’t that smart anyway and I begin to fucking hate every single part of myself. At this point, I do not want to be seen as inherently smart, or have people see the need to be so in order to succeed — I just want to learn, without being told that I am incapable of learning it no matter how extensively I cover things, or how much I push myself into.
Though of course, I am the same wicket of nothingness.
In what is supposed to be some exploratory process where I am able to offer my entire self to admissions officers, young and old alike, my story and my rich cultural Philippine heritage, my shackles, shortcomings, triumphs — I am instead panicking about my story. I worry that I didn’t take any AP or IB classes, because they weren’t offered. I regret the fact that I was never in any science olympiad (oh boy, would it have been fun to train for one if I knew of their existence early enough; you could blame that I am inquisitive but not that inquisitive enough). I regret the fact that I don’t have any pending patents and that my research papers only came around the eleventh grade. I regret the fact that my titles and positions, as much as I love them, won’t be able to be conveyed through words or aren’t inherently impressive enough upon the four-second glance that will be given to me. I’m worried about the parts that comprise me, and am essentially wishing that I was never born. Same thing.
I didn’t follow the formula for success. Even speaking as an international student, I am not enrolled in the right place — not to say that the place I come from is lacking in quality, but everyone here ends up on the same boat. We go through a regular curriculum, join some contests here and there but aren’t exactly the grounds for olympiads and all — nor are we progressive in any aspect at all, we’re just another secular high school. I top the work here with relative ease, but that does not compare to going IB/full-on AP schedules in other schools — I worry about course rigor, or again, not only lacking in intelligence to deal with things, but the apparent incapability to even try. There are no formulas, really. But if there was any semblance of one, I am all but part of it.
I’m afraid that the things I love aren’t unique enough, despite my heart and soul being, as cliche as it sounds — poured into their entirety. In my blind hatred of even myself, I can’t capture any dimension of me that stands out. I have been blanking out in writing supplements and my entire Common Application essay since I don’t know what part of me to talk about, or if there is anything worth sharing. I know I have stories, but they aren’t formulaic in the sense of being enough to entice people on paper; I know I have something behind me, things that I love, projects that I have worked on out of sheer passion and heart — though these don’t suffice, set me apart, or have any merit of being deemed national or international. It is the most exhausting pain to see my parents wad out this amount of cash only to receive a string of rejections; though, in all honesty, it would be an honor in itself to be able to attempt. apply, and to add onto excellent, low admission rates.
Hopefully one day soon (and not in the sense of months or years from now, I mean, in the kindest sense that I can, in a few days or so) I figure out the part of me that would make sort of a bit of sense; I’ll find a side that I am willing to share. It may not be the most impressive, nor who I am extensive or anything worthy of fight. What an honor would it be to land on their table, knowing my name slipped upon the minds of the greatest institutions for but a moment. I’ll settle for that, as much as I pang for more.
I still can’t picture myself anywhere, nor know if I’ll live to see eighteen — commitment day. I still like to picture myself on your campuses, wondering what life would be if my circumstances were different, or if I were a bit more proud and confident of what I could do without proof of astounding letters or thrilling medals. That is essentially the part I fear most; how determinant it is to a breath despite me not having prepared for it until last this year. It’s all my fault. The story, the failed name, the lack of virtually every indicator of competency, the ability to just let something out and convince myself to try.
I hate every part of my story, and continue to doubt the life I had lived; I hope you understand that I only lament my failures, not what I had done, or what I wish to do. My heart remains and stays with them, capsizing the fear of nothingness. There are means of life, moments where things thrive. Then, there are things like the US college admissions process, where never in my life had I hated myself so much, or learned of my inadequacy, sheer incapability and deserving of deprivation from intellectual challenge or opportunity. Formula or not, never was I ever part. My story does not ring, but at least it is heard.
(Perhaps, one day, I’ll learn to never apologize for just being.)
I will most likely rewrite this when I am less emotional, to clearer capture my feelings and current status about the college admissions practice. Probably not in the middle of project week when I have been on seven hours of sleep. Yeah, not now.
Hovering around a hundred out of nearly five thousand. Never going to make it, but what an honor would it be to try. See you all in the support group soon.
I hope you enjoyed reading my essays. I poured my heart and soul into those.
I hope you had a glint of hope, going over my life. It hurts to know that ultimately, after seventeen years of living — I wasn’t a good enough fit, hit a threshold, or was enough to invest in. But I hope I was a story worth reading. I hope I was.