Yes, it’s that time of the year again: college tour season. You know it’s spring in Chapel Hill when it is impossible to walk from one side of the quad to the other without encountering a semi-circle of high school students and their parents, all listening with varying degrees of interest to a current Carolina student shouting enthusiastically about first-year seminars and the like.
It’s all supposed to be very jolly and informative, I suppose, but I can’t help feeling distinctly depressed when coming across these adolescent hordes.
This doesn’t really make sense, however, since my own UNC tour was a happy jaunt through blooming cherry trees and dappling sunlight. I was hooked after that tour, thinking that once accepted I would be like Keats or Wordsworth, languidly writing masterpieces in my free hours, soaking up the sunlight as inspiration for lyrical ballads, etc.
So why, with this glorious experience in mind, do the tour groups have a tendency to hit me with a wave of near-nausea?
I suppose it’s because I empathize with the long, hard struggle that threatens to consume these poor high school students before they even get to college.
Compared to the slog through endless tests, extracurricular activities and “leadership” positions necessary for any 16-year-old hoping to attend a decent university, Chapel Hill in spring is not simply an impossibly green, park-like haven.
It is a veritable Willy Wonka Land of carousels and pony rides; it is sweet relief from SATs, gray hallways and bathroom passes.
So if the source of my disgust upon encountering tour groups is the pang of empathy I feel for those undergoing the college admissions process, then I must ask why the system is so terrible in the first place.
Rather than educating students, high schools now function as factory assembly lines for college hopefuls.
Everyone knows that without a full schedule of AP or IB classes and a solid record of attempting to save the world by age 17 (and preferably succeeding), admission to the United States’ top universities is out of the question.
The problem is that this is not education. It is a rat race that tolerates no creativity or intellectual ingenuity, and it is producing a generation of teacher-pleasers, not thoughtful, interesting people.
In America today, many of the 18-year-olds at the best colleges were the most cut-throat or cynical in high school, not necessarily the most intelligent or academically inquisitive.
Any educator can confirm that some of the most gifted students are those who do well, but not exceptionally; they are the ones reading constantly and voraciously, not plotting the next trendy extracurricular activity.
This is unacceptable. The purpose of education is to develop intellectuals who are capable of enriching the world, not to reward a resume of meaningless club memberships.
So to all the high school juniors trying to get accepted: I feel for you. Hang in there, play the game just a little while longer, and try to keep your real interests and your real selves alive. You’ll actually get to use them in college.
Blanchard is a junior English major from Atlanta, Ga. Contact her at email@example.com