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I'm going to college...someday

I'm going to college! Er, well, that's the plan, at least. I've got to be accepted and whatnot first, but from here that is entirely out of my hands. Yes, indeed, readers, I have returned -- only slightly marred by the terrific exertion -- from the college application process.

As hyped up as the whole ordeal is, it's surprisingly simple. Name: easy. Date of birth: certainly. History doesn't go much farther back than that, except to inquire about my parents' education, and that's not even excessively traumatic. Social security number: a lot of digits for this one, yes, but entirely tolerable. Citizenship: I may not be a blonde-haired blue-eyed all-American girl, but I'm pretty sure I can pass this one without a green card.

Of course, the application isn't entirely comprised of information already programmed into my consciousness, and the degree of difficulty rises with the page number. Anticipated college major: as a senior in high school, who's really certain about such matters? I check undecided, which is made a plausible option only by the fact that the guys in the band Boston understand about indecision and aren't worried about getting behind? Or do I search through the branches of communication majors for journalism? I did the second, which may seem odd to the schools to which I applied that don't actually offer a journalism major. (So why is it an option? I haven't the faintest; I'm not a college student, but I play a college-bound senior in the newspaper.)

At this point, the meaning of the tedious simplicity of the application's previous pages is made evident. The potential college kid encounters paragraph-long essay prompts, preempted by the command to take your time and proceed thoughtfully and to the best of your ability.

I must note the relation to AP exam prompts; my favorites always start with, "In a carefully constructed and well-written essay..." since otherwise one might misunderstand and believe that the readers are looking for poorly punctuated essays lacking coherence. The rest of the prompt is almost irrelevant (ie: "analyze/examine/evaluate/discuss Thoreau's use of metaphors/the Polynesian War/the structure of a gamete/blueberry waffles and their relationship to boysenberry syrup") once they've established that they're looking for quality in their applicants' writing.

College application essays come, largely, in two forms: the impossibly generic, and the ridiculously specific. Please, never ask me to tell you about a time when I faced an obstacle, achieved something everyone said I couldn't, had a meaningful experience, or learned something. Umm.... It's amazing how difficult it is to write 500 words about nothing. Thank God for AP, U.S. history and the ability it ingrains in its takers to write eloquently about a topic on which they have absolutely nothing to say. So, shall I write about the day I got my cat and how my life has been blissful ever since, or perhaps my deep-seated rage concerning people who don't share their pudding which led me to form a coalition of Generous Tapioca Eaters everywhere?

See? Impossible.

Every selective school and its academically-obsessed brother wants to know how you found out about it (pretty pictures in a guidebook that you almost discarded as junk mail), why you want to spend four years of your life there (a library that makes you seem scholarly), and what might possibly make them accept you out of all the other senioritis-plagued high school kids (you look really pretty when you wake up and never have bad breath - seriously, I think those will get you in anywhere concerned with diversity, because you are one of-a-kind, O rosy-cheeked cherub). Why should I write an essay telling admissions officers trivia bits about a school they are already trained to sing the praises of? And, really, why should they want me? What a dilemma: to flatter mercilessly or lose all aspects of being modest (which rhymes with "hottest" and therefore must be an attribute to be sought after)?

If you/your child/that guy leering at you in Subway isn't/aren't keen on jumping into writing college essays, give yourself/those kids you're responsible for 'til 18 hits/...him... a break. It's not fun, it's not easy, and it's kind of a big deal. Go get some ice cream and chat about something easygoing, like politics, before tackling that essay section again.

And don't forget to vote come November 4th.

This message has been approved by someone who might get into college someday.

(Thressa Johnson is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.)