Warrior Words: What did you do last Wednesday?

I mean, if you really want to know, I went to school, did my homework — wait a second. The question stares up at me from yet another college essay prompt. I realized it was a trap — the University of Maryland really doesn’t care that I had a ridiculously boring Wednesday last week; they want me to say something interesting.

High school seniors have the unique experience right now of “selling themselves.” For the first time ever, they need to put their qualities and experiences down on paper to make them seem something like The Most Interesting Man in the World — and hoping that colleges will take the bait. During high school teens are still, undeniably, in their awkward stages, and figuring out who they are (don’t lie, everyone can relate to that incredibly weird stage between childhood and adulthood). They now face the difficult task of realizing what makes them unique, what makes them stand out — and then somehow molding that into a beautifully written essay.

All throughout high school, kids try almost to fade into the background. They try to dress like everyone else, use all the right slang, and do all the things everyone else does. People lose their individuality! Everyone is so scared of becoming the stereotypical stuck-up and conceited person that always seems to weasel their way into every situation in life.

The point is, the act of playing down what makes you different is what nearly every student does within the walls of the high school, only to come to the application process for college at a screeching halt. The prompts on the Common Application ask you for an incident in which you changed from a child into an adult, a situation in which you encountered failure and conquered it, a quality about yourself that makes you stand out from the crowd. How does one first, recognize these moments, and secondly, constrain the obviously large importance of them into 650 words? As a teen this is difficult, and seemingly impossible. It is certainly not uncommon for someone to ask you, with a nervous yet sly look in their eyes, “Hey, so what are you writing about for the common app?” That in itself is a prime example of the dilution of individuality of teens — peers trying to take what makes other peers interesting, and somehow make it about themselves.

On countless computer screens as you read this, students are pitching sale proposals, and hopefully numerous colleges will be eager buyers. There is good that comes out of this: as students are on the cusp of adulthood, they start to realize their strengths, what makes them unique, and what makes them who they are. High school students have never thought of themselves in this way before, and, in a weird way, college applications give students a little bit of a nudge in the right direction. On a lighter note, college applications should just go away. I may be a little biased though …


Jackie Cooke is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.