Best Wishes

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Grace Xin

A 2022 Graduate of SCIE, Currently studying at University of California, San Diego

This passage is divided into three parts, all of which are some feelings and thoughts of my friends and I during the application season, as well as some comments from me sitting in the university library today a few months later.

01 A Blank Check

Expectation and waiting are a set of keywords for the application season. People often say “prepare for the worst”, but sometimes they don’t even know whether such a statement is for comforting others or persuading themselves. Contradictory thoughts often arise: No matter how badly we plan, we can’t help to imagine the best outcome, and choosing a school is a perfect chance of dreaming. 

Because my focus is on applying US schools, from the beginning of the application season, school lists, especially ED schools, had become a major event. But I’m not very used to this option with the word “most”. I started to imagine what my ideal “college life” would be like, but after I carefully researched every course in every major I was interested in at every school on the list, I found this ideal life It seems that it can be achieved in many schools: learn a favorite major, take a favorite class, and do some things you like, but none of these can help me make an ED school choice.

With this vague expectation, I started my application season. However, no matter how vague the expectations are, no one likes receiving rejection letters—especially receiving rejection letters in a row while listening to outsiders discuss their application results and those around them. So in December, after receiving two rejections, I decided that ED2 was a school that I liked more and was more suitable in all aspects. 

But as the release day drew nearer, I became more aware of one thing: I wanted the results more than I wanted to be admitted to that particular school. In March, when the colleges concentrated their results, we couldn’t tell whether we were afraid of rejection letters, wanted a final word, or were still looking forward to the last few schools. 

When your trajectory for the next four years or more is directly determined in a matter of days, everything seems unreal: an offer might start you collecting airfare and visa information, a rejection letter might make You just delete a few folders on your computer; everyone’s saying “Wait a minute, there is still hope for the school in the future” becomes more and more like a useless polite speech.

A rather funny thing: The night before several universities were going to release their results, a friend asked me what results I was waiting for, and I said I was waiting for Godot. I think we’re all really waiting for Godot, that’s the best way to describe it. During this period, I gradually came to understand the solution to this anxiety: I wanted to start preparing for the next phase of my life, but I didn’t know what to do, and then I just started to study the things that I have to study no matter what university I go to things like linear algebra. In other words, I don’t put my future plans on a specific university, but take it as an overall model, just like my “expectation” for the university at the beginning.

02 The Butterfly Effect

One of the books I read when I was bored during application season was a textbook on chaos theory. I haven’t learned much mathematics from it, but the uncontrollable factors of the application are indeed somewhat similar to the weather system in some aspects. The difference may be that butterflies in the Amazon rainforest don’t feel that their wings are different, but everyone in the application season does take themselves seriously, and universities take themselves seriously. Are the application materials we hand in a complete projection of ourselves, the best part of ourselves, the part we want others to see, or is it not ourselves at all? Do admissions officers think this is your most important grade or your good-looking part? Since entering high school, this kind of doubt has been lingering in my mind: in high school, are we trying so hard to get into a good university in order to study there, or in order to try so hard and get into a good job?

Fortunately, during the four years at SCIE, I have had many opportunities to learn what I want to learn and start ECAs that I like. Unfortunately, even so, I often doubted myself: I’m afraid that I’m not doing enough, that I’m making the wrong choice. A few years ago, everyone liked to dream. I would feel that even if I didn’t come up with a good application under the general standard, I could get into a good school under the general standard.

But then I realized that if I was doing things less “results” oriented, it was unreasonable and necessary for me to expect a generally “good” result. If all I did in high school were things that I liked and meant to me, I would continue to do the same no matter what university I was in; I will meet people like those that I meet at SCIE everywhere.

These views may seem pessimistic to college application, and some people may think that this is because I “can’t eat grapes and say grapes are sour” (although I think I actually eat a lot of grapes). But after looking at my application and the applications of people around me, I do feel like I don’t see much connections between the results and who they really are. So my advice is that it’s more important to be sure what you want. Common routines are suitable for many people, and they are indeed effective in many cases (although the current application trend is that routines are becoming more and more unreliable); what we need to do is to understand what we need and stick to our own ideas.

03 Silent, in the Trees

On the last day of my application season, the major event in my life was going to Yongqingfang with my friends and took a vaccine shot at a hospital nearby. I was listening to Trees by twenty one pilots. I consider this song as the theme song for my application season, and my overall feeling that day was very similar: I am grateful that after the application season is over, I am still willing to believe what I believe and still not I regret my choices; in the midst of a lot of doubt and confusion during this time, I still know that my beliefs and trusts are there. 

I was also fortunate enough to have met many people during this period: not only classmates from SCIE, but also many friends from all over the country with similar experiences and ideas. In this year (even in the four years of SCIE), I have gained far more than the superficial “university application”. Compared with the label of university, what is more interesting is how I play mushrooms and squid with my friends, how to eat pork belly chicken and strawberries with rock candy on Christmas Eve, how I like linguistics and robots, how I watch My Little Pony, how to find association between mussels, cicadas, and dragonflies.

I had the title “Best Wishes”, which is not only a best wish for myself, a best wish for the people around me, but also a best wish for the students who will apply next, and a best wish for something broader. I believe that the most important thing for everyone is not just this formalized procedure, and I wish everyone a good future of their own.