Don't Ask, I Won't Tell

Rachel Stone Acting Editor in Chief Meet anyone. Walk in to any function where men are wearing sport coats and women are tipping miniature vodka bottles into their mix drinks and frowning their vulture lips. Say hello politely, nod, smile and reply in that sigh-with-eyebrows-raised-politely-yet-sophistically-sardonic response you’ve perfected and wait. It will happen. It might be that woman with the mosquito-bite shaped zit by her jaw-line, or it might be your father’s business associate, Mr. Jdlfkajsdk, adjusting the label of his designer suit so everyone knows its Armani. It could even be a waiter at this point. But you know it’s coming. “Ah, Junior year. It’s a legit toughie!” Laugh politely and acknowledge Mr. Jdlfkajsdk’s cleverness and subtle attempt to be hip with the groovy lingo. Dig your ravaged cuticles into your forearm. “Yes, yes. It’s pretty difficult, but I’m glad to have such a wonderful support system at home.” Don’t run. You begin to feel a whooshing in your stomach, your head tingly and wheeling from some sort of vertigo that comes from the obvious foreshadowing. “So Rachel, do you know where you’re thinking of applying?” Don’t run. “Well, Mr. Jdlfkajsdk, it’s anyone’s game at this point. With the admission rates at record lows and colleges attempting to create varied student bodies from an applicant pool of thousands, I would say that anywhere I could get in with an informed and passionate student body would be a wonderful place to spend the next four years of my life!” Mr. Jdlfkajsdk’s clearly disappointed, but really, you don’t care enough to give a damn. Welcome to the next two years of your impressionable high school experience. You’d best get your responses prepared. Honestly, people should just stop asking. I’m obviously not going to tell you where I want to go to college, where I’m thinking of applying, or really anything that Mr. Jdlfkajsdk could take to tell his friend with less expensive suits at the bar next Friday night. I simply don’t know enough of myself yet. Here’s the thing: we aren’t equipped to answer these questions because the first seventeen years of our lives have taught us nothing other than the fact that we really don’t know ourselves. We’re taught that we don’t understand how the world works by almost every newspaper headline and John Hughes movie we watch; we’re taught that we need to explore the world, we’re taught to strive for anything! and not think that anything is beyond our reach. I’m not saying this is a bad thing; for all of my Sylvia Plath readings and penchant for leather jackets, I’m pretty absurdly optimistic. But we can’t possibly be expected to have realistic plans of what we want to do for the rest of our lives, let alone where we want to go to college. As well, we’ve been brought up like tributes in the Hunger Games, not fighting to the death and bludgeoning our classmates with roundhouse kicks and badassery, but rather with test scores and secrecy. (Also a side note: how are we possibly able to think about college with all of the APs and tests we’re doing in preparation?  Perhaps after we burn all of our APUSH terms sheets we might have some free time. Also, Ms. Hennessy if you are reading this, it’s not that I don’t like the term sheets, because they really did help. I promise.) But we have all heard the horror stories (“kids, don’t let me ever catch you under the influence because then colleges might find out and you might be blacklisted for the rest of your adolescent life not to mention it’s against the law but mostly the college thing!”) and the backstabbing stories (“kids, don’t tell anyone where you’re thinking of applying because then they’ll tell everyone that you’re thinking of applying there and they’ll tell the kids with the better test scores to apply there too and make sure you won’t get in!”) and maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but in various iterations, we have all been exposed to this sort of paranoia-talk that wouldn’t be out of place in McCarthy era politics (Ms. Hennessy, I hope you kept reading up to here). We’ve been raised understanding semiconsciously that all of our friends will somehow become our competition, so we’ve essentially been trained not to tell anyone where we’re thinking of applying for that reason alone. But I don’t really care as much about that one. Perhaps most importantly, the reason I don’t want to tell anyone where I’m thinking of applying is because this is one of the only decisions I will be able to make on my own, one of the only decisions that impacts me in a pretty damn significant way. I don’t want Mr. Jdlfkajsdk to tell me why I should go to his alma mater. This choice is just too important. If the world was a perfect place and the Middle East attained peace and Americans finally elected a Jewish, Black, woman president and lip injections were outlawed solely on the basis of their stupidity, I would tell Mr. Jdlfkajsdk that “Yes, indeed I am applying to Harvaprinctoyalumbia, thank you, and I would advise you not to provide your opinion or tell any of the men in your yacht club,” and probably snap a few times for emphasis. But it isn’t, and I won’t, and I don’t think it will be for a long time. So in the meantime, in case you’re wondering, I’m really not going to tell you where I’m thinking of applying to college. Even if you ask nicely.  ]]>