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Credit: Alec Druggan

We are approaching a robust admissions season. With an increasing amount of students applying each year, elite college acceptance is more coveted than ever. But some of us have failed to leave the college admissions race in our senior year of high school. Whether by posting our stats on College Confidential or creating YouTube videos entitled ‘’What got me into Penn," we have indirectly contributed to the toxic culture surrounding admissions. All Penn Youtubers, College Confidential posters, or Reddit admissions ‘’coaches’’ need to consider how they can create content surrounding their educational trajectory more healthily and inclusively. 

When we post our stats and resumes, we fail to remember how we felt during that precious college admissions season. I remember being increasingly anxious about going into the admissions process. I was bombarded with YouTube videos with students at prestigious universities detailing their entire highschool experiences, almost as if they had a formula for their admission. I would go on College Confidential and look through admissions threads, looking for the ‘’perfect applicant’’ attributes in myself. This behavior could have left detrimental effects on my self-esteem. Countless studies are referencing social media and its role in perpetuating a cycle of low self-esteem through social comparison. College Admissions anxiety is enough for these students to bear. Let’s allow our admission and their admission to be something of a pleasant surprise, instead of back-tracking our acceptance to key moments. 

There’s a difference between aiming to inspire someone and gassing yourself. What got you into an elite college surely won’t work for someone else. With the Harvard affirmative action case exposing the multitude of metrics that go into evaluating elite college applicants, there is no way we can predict what led to our admission or anyone else’s. In a world where people are allowed to buy their way into college, meritocracy is nothing but a glimmer of hope for most applicants. This reveals broader ethical questions that we must continuously wrestle with. Does it make sense to detail your entire college application online? When you do this, you raise the assumption that your application is the standard for prospective students to follow. Their life and upbringing may be something entirely different from yours. If you are a legacy or someone who benefitted from our system of income inequality, what help can your story give to a high schooler who is filling out college applications while homeless

Instead of highlighting your accomplishments as a rubric for one to follow, try posting a disclaimer first. Instead of saying that this is the essay or extracurricular that got you in, just share your story without the college application superlatives. Stop ‘’chancing’’ applicants and start encouraging them to choose a school based on their interests and not on prestige. We must encourage others to tell their stories and walk in their truth because that will make a difference. 

There are Penn content creators who experienced great success outside the realm of Ivy League admissions content. The best content creators are flexible and appeal to a wide audience. Take Morgan Brown, who is a recent Penn alumna. Her channel itsHeyMorgan boasts over 600K subscribers. Her infectious personality and passion for fashion rapidly increased her viewership. What interests or hobbies do you have? What opinions do you hold? There are so many avenues besides fishing for compliments from admissions-crazed high schoolers.

Alongside admissions, the wave of ‘’my life is so perfect here at this university,’’ needs to stop.  With the Ivy League’s under 10% admissions rates, most people will not get the opportunity to attend a school like ours. We should accept our position with humility, instead of flaunting it via our social media accounts. We should be proud of our school, but going to Penn doesn’t make anyone more special than the next person. Lower admissions rates don’t equate to higher student satisfaction. 

With the Penn Face epidemic, I’d love to see more content in which we are vulnerable and truthful. We have enough videos explaining how awesome the classes are or social life is. Why not share some imperfection? With the Ivy League receiving sub-par mental health ratings, it’s time that we share the truth about life here at Penn and its peer institutions. No school is perfect, but we shouldn’t perpetuate an ideal that doesn’t exist. 

We all should be representatives of our school through our online presence. We simply need to be mindful of the messages we communicate regarding college admissions and the elitism associated with it. With content created to empower and uplift, rooted in humility and a desire to see others succeed, we can reach millions of students who see themselves in us. Like the adage says, ‘’It’s not what you say, but how you say it,’’ that makes all the difference. 

SURAYYA WALTERS is a Wharton sophomore from New Rochelle, N.Y. concentrating in Marketing and minoring in Urban Education. Her email address is surayyaw@wharton.upenn.edu.

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