Only 4% of Your Life

Below is an edited version of an essay I wrote during my Junior year of High School that pretty much explains why I decided to go to Olin. I hope it’s entertaining, and maybe evokes some reflection or thoughts or something.

The United States of America is huge, and the number of colleges within it is enormous. Because of this, high school students spend days, weeks, even months feeling stressed out and terrified of their futures. The process of preparing for college is extremely scary because as much as we can speculate about connecting the dots of our long-term plans for our futures, we really haven’t got a clue what the world will look like even a single year from now. When it comes down to it, college applicants should try to realize that their life will not be completely determined by the next four years.
That being said, no human can deny the human factor of fear. It is natural to feel fear of the unknown, and the future is exactly that. The idealistic solution to fearing the future is to think only of the present moment, which is virtually impossible in contemporary society, especially within our education system. Educational opportunity relies heavily on planning for the future. It is therefore impossible to avoid fear. Another possible solution to this fear is to rely on the assumption that any school that is a good fit for you will accept you and any school that rejects you did so because they would have been a bad fit. But there’s a problem with that idea too, because for everyone to get all of their needs met by one college, there would have to be an entire unique college for every student. There is no college that has it all, and there is no student who will be able to follow all their dreams in four years.
I am glad I finally made this realization because it convinced me not to rule out art school as a legitimate option for college. It all began in a crowded subway station under the streets of Brooklyn, NY. My mom and I visited four liberal arts colleges on the East coast over the past 3 days, and now we were headed to Pratt Institute, the first art college I would ever see.
“I think we get off here…” I mumbled, squinting at a map.
A man in a blue windbreaker and a baseball cap eyed us, obviously eavesdropping.
“Are you going to Pratt?” he asked.
“Yes, we are!”
“I’m headed there too. I can take you there” said the man.
“Wow thanks! Do you work there or something?”
“Yes, I’m the head of admissions”.
The A-train pulled up to the yellow line and my mom and I looked at each other quickly, our eyes wide with incredulity, before following the man through the automatic sliding doors of the train. For the next 2 hours, in the train and then in his cozy office at Pratt, Mr. Swan talked to us about the ups and downs of college education, fine arts in the contemporary world, and the importance of industrial design and engineering. He never once directly complimented Pratt or placed Pratt or arts education in general above any other kind of education. His last words were “Just remember that the next four years will not determine your life”.
I cannot honestly say I loved Pratt very much after going on a campus tour. I certainly was expecting more aesthetically pleasing buildings from an art college. But for my first perspective of an art school, the concept was heaven. A school of 4,000 motivated kids who, unlike an astonishing number of high school students, actually wanted to go to class and learn. The way I see it, you have to be pretty darn crazy to want to go to a prestigious art school so why would you be there if you aren’t passionate?
My biggest concern with art school is that they do not seem to recognize the importance of the integration of sciences, such as physics and chemistry, with art. For example, an industrial design major could design an elegant car, but without integrating science into their education, they won’t understand the physics that are necessary when considering aerodynamics and mileage, or the chemistry that could influence progress towards renewable fuels. It seems clear to me that many art degrees are simply incomplete without certain scientific knowledge.
Humanity is evolving as a species, and as a thinking society. New problems cannot be solved by art or science alone, and education must evolve accordingly… wait this is totally true but it’s a different point than the one I’m trying to make here… Here we go. Undergrad college is literally only 4% of your life, so if life leads you somewhere else, or you end up wanting to do something totally unrelated, or you just hate everything about it, you’ll be totally fine. It’s just part of your journey, it’s not an end, and stagnation is the worst thing a human can do anyways so just relax and do something that makes you happy.

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