Call Me a Quitter

Every college admissions counselor out there will tell you to stick with your extracurriculars senior year and finish out your high school career strong. So as I sat in my jam-packed, high school auditorium, sweating, as an admissions counselor from a local college told me this, I began to doubt my decision to quit dance.

"It's only one more year, you've made it this far. Why quit now? How do you think colleges will react? They'll think you're a quitter, that you're a lazy student. You've done so much to maintain the perfect application, why risk it?"

I had done dance since I was two years old, and it was fine, until I turned sixteen. Then I started to hate it. My feet would bleed from the shoes, and my bunion became unbearable (not a pretty picture, I know). I wasn't half as enthusiastic as learning new combos, and waking up early on Saturdays for morning ballet was definitely not as fun as it used to be.

So, I had a choice: Do I live by the Common App or do I live by me?

Then it was easy to decide.

I quit.

In a world full of tiger moms and dads, Hunger-Games style competition (my GPA is .1 higher than yours), and cookie cutter applications, it's easy to think of a winning formula for getting into these top-notch schools- hours studying for 2400s on the SATs, 5s on AP exams, earning straight As, those perfect extracurriculars; sports, volunteering.

But from my experience of sitting through college boot-camp after boot-camp, and going on college tour after college tour, I, along with probably every admissions officer, can tell you there is no winning formula. And doing something you don't like doesn't mean you'll get into your dream school, it just means you'll be miserable.

Because yes there is a chance you can spend a whole year doing something you hate and still not get into a 'good' college. Imagine that.

But if you're still dubious because I'm only a high school senior who is just starting to apply to college, just take a look at the MIT admissions website.

"Some students feel so much pressure to get into the 'right' college that they want to make sure they do everything 'right' - even do the 'right' extracurricular activities. Fortunately, the only right answer is to do what's right for you - not what you think is right for us."

Hopefully my college admissions officers will understand dance just wasn't the right fit for me. But here's another thing: maybe they were on the dance team (in that case, hopefully they aren't reading this essay) or maybe my admissions officer got humiliated on a stage when they were little, and have hated dance ever since (in that case, read away). We have to live with the fact the people reading our applications are human, and we can't perfectly align our interests to theirs. I don't know who's going to be reading my application, and I can't cater my senior year to what I think they would like to see.

So yes, I am refusing to live in fear of the "how it will look" my senior year. I'm only taking the classes I want to take; I'm only participating in the extracurriculars I know I can be dedicated in; I'm only taking the leadership positions I know I can do a good job at.

Because ultimately, it comes down to this: we all have the choice. Are we living for the checkbox or are we living for ourselves? That's one thing only you can decide.