Choosing between my education and my education

I ditched a class a few weeks ago. I simply did not attend third period, my directed study in Ancient Greek.

I didn’t forget about class, I wasn’t cramming for a test, I wasn’t even at home “sick.”

No, I was in Chalmers 313 along with a couple dozen other seniors, listening to the University of Chicago’s assistant director of admission, Mitch Salm, host an information session.

I like my Greek class, I really do; its mix of language and interdisciplinary teaching of myth is one of the highlights of my week. I was reluctant to miss it.

But I’m not applying to UChicago early, so even though I’ve already visited the campus, I thought I had to show the college more “demonstrated interest,” to use a popular piece of college admissions jargon.

Before third period began, Salm happened to stumble upon me during activities period and ask for directions to the dean coordinators, so after my dean encouraged me to introduce myself, I informed him of my dilemma.

“You’re making me choose between my education and my education,” I told him.

It sounds like a win-win situation. Either way, I’m doing something for my education, right? But in class, I really am (hopefully) learning, acquiring an education. Attending an info session, meanwhile, means I’m trying to boost my chances of getting into a desirable college that may give me a good education in the future. There’s no guarantee.

Salm acknowledged I was right, encouraged me to go to Greek and gave me his business card. I ended up at the info session anyway, which was so crowded I had to sit on the floor. But I signed my name on the clipboard he passed around, and that was all that mattered. I had officially Demonstrated Interest.

So far, that’s the only time I’ve missed class for an info session. I passed up Kenyon because I didn’t want to miss the second day we would spend in AP Lit on “Hamlet,” and I decided understanding the newest integrals we were learning in AP Calc BC was more important than hearing about Vassar.

Columbia, meanwhile, could not compete with the class dedicated to making this new issue of the newspaper. I’m not interested in NYU, but if I were, I would not have thought twice about choosing to stay in AP Art History for a class that Ms. Holmes-Chuba called “actually really important.”

I haven’t visited Kenyon and Vassar, so these schools still don’t think I’ve demonstrated interest, whatever that means. (On the other hand, I admit I have attended an info session and a tour on the Columbia campus.)

Apparently, the only way you can demonstrate interest in a college is by visiting a campus or listening to an info session that just contains the most relevant parts of the website. And if you’re not lucky enough to have the means to fly out to nowhere, Ohio (sorry, Gambier) or upstate New York, then you’re down to one option: skipping class.

It bothers me if I have to miss two minutes of class to go to the bathroom; how could I ever be comfortable with missing all 45?

Sure, attending an info session is more educational than attending to my bodily functions, but at least one of these activities is literally necessary, while the other one, however much it tries to advertise itself otherwise, is not. It’s a racket, and all the deans, students and sometimes even the admissions officers themselves are willing to admit it.

I already knew everything Salm talked about in his UChicago presentation, and I still feel guilty about the discussion of ancient myth I missed out on in Greek. Admittedly, my sister attends UChicago, which explains my knowledge; my experience at an info session for Vassar or Kenyon or any other college I’ve ditched for class would probably have been different and more beneficial. But my regret for missing those sessions is nowhere near as great as the regret I would have felt if I missed class.

I’m not sure how to schedule these info sessions in such a way that they don’t interfere with class—after all, if they were all just held concurrently before and after school, many of the info sessions would probably be held at the same time.

Students would have to pick between colleges to learn about, and they would interfere with any extracurricular commitments after school. The way they’re scheduled right now really is the best method possible.

However, I do know for sure that I care, first and foremost, about the education I’m getting right now. Hopefully, the colleges I apply to will see the value in that.

Click here to read a letter to the editor in response to this column. 

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