The pressures of being a college-bound senior

Do you know where you want to go?”

Every high school senior knows that this question means one thing and one thing only.

We’ve heard it more times than you can imagine. It’s common dinner party etiquette from those random friends of your parents whose first names you can never quite remember. Your own parents probably blurt it out at least three times a week, and you’re swarmed with it in the school hallways from teachers and students alike.

Friends turn into fierce competitors, parents of friends who once seemed so pleasant transform into the enemy, the lounge where you once took refuge, the ease and comfort of your own dinner table, all morph into a CIA interrogation room. You are bombarded left and right.

Let’s face it, you’re trapped in the suffocating, surreal and one-dimensional glass bubble called college bound senior.

Six words: “Where do you want to go?” have never had such a constricting and hand wringing connotation. We are teenagers. Planning for the future goes against all of our most basic human instincts. Yet while we have all mastered procrastination, putting one last accent on our monotonous Spanish worksheets just as the bell rings for class, and while the farthest we’ve ever planned in advance is for our weekend road trips to Coachella, we are forced — no — molded to constantly plan our futures.

Even while the fully prepped eighth grader that has been attending six-hour SAT prep courses every weekend since the fourth grade may be an outlier, SATs, ACTs, subject tests, essays and college lists are pummeled into our brains from the moment we step foot into high school. Imagining your future spouse, occupation and home, or conjuring up a picture of yourself wearing your oversized college sweatshirt, sitting on your dorm floor with your roommate eating week old potato chips and chocolate milk like it’s the best meal you’ve ever had, can, indeed, be fun to do.

We all like to think about the places we may discover and romanticize moments and images in our heads, but as high school seniors, we are getting mixed messages.

“Seize the moment, Carpe Diem, YOLO,” they say, but how can anyone expect us to put our hearts and souls into the now when all anyone can think to talk to us about is our future? While college should be an exciting and thought-provoking experience, the process of getting there is so tightly managed that it’s hard not to cringe when simply hearing the word “college.”

Innumerable all-nighters pulled to perfect a history term paper, hours wasted making grammatical changes to an English essay that may boost your grade a half letter in the end, and countless worksheets of math proofs distilled down to one number with maybe a couple of decimal points tacked on to the end if you’re lucky — your GPA. Even worse, all of your passions, life experiences, and time spent on meaningful things are summed up in a couple sheets of nice white paper. A transcript, a number that depicts all of your life’s worth with one look, and poof there it is, the colleges know everything there possibly is to know about you.

So next time you want to strike fear in the heart of a high school senior, don’t threaten them with family road trips, leisurely dinners with strange relatives or embarrassing old photo albums.

Simply ask them:

“Do you know where you want to go?”