"You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you."
General Dwight Eisenhower, then Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, sent out this message to the troops he knew would soon embark on Operation Overlord, or D-Day. It was June 6, 1944, and he knew that many would fall, some would rise to become heroes, and if the operation was successful, the world would take a great step towards a brighter future.
As a high school senior this time of year, it is easy to envision myself as a scared private awaiting the beachheads on the shore, knowing the high chance of failure that awaits. College decision announcements are around the corner. That's right, D-Day is upon us.
I know I'm incredibly nervous, just as all of my friends are. I've essentially been training for this moment for years, building up test scores, academics, extracurriculars, or anything else that would look good to an admissions officer. I know I always personally enjoyed my high school experience and I never did any of it for my applications, but because the results will soon be here, it's hard not to think that this moment will define me. For hardworking students around the country, the question is not if you will attend college, but where. Some begin thinking about the process even before high school, and schoolwork becomes the most defining part of our lives. Thus, the result of an application is so overhyped by ourselves and society, we can often look at it as a final judgement on our value as a person.
I stand against this view. I can think all day about putting my boots in the sand and zipping through raining bullets, but in reality, life will go on for me regardless of what happens on D-Day. First, if I get rejected from my top choice school, I can't look at it as a failure of myself and the end of the world. Most schools use a holistic application, so the admissions officers who decide would clearly figure that I wouldn't have been a good match at their school. If I didn't convey myself on the application properly, maybe I was looking at a fictitious aspect of the school, or it really wouldn't have been a good fit. That's not something wrong with me.
Additionally, I always like to reassure myself that there are options out there as long as there is the effort to work for it. If I don't make it into my top choice, there's no shame in attending a safety or a community college. The real secret is that the actual subject matter taught doesn't vary much from school to school. You wouldn't learn about a different demand curve at Harvard than you would at State A & M university. All that will matter to me is how hard I work and how much I enjoy myself wherever I do go. Even for those who don't think that college is right for them, there is always the dignified option of working full-time and the promise of the future. Some might need a little bit of time to grow up or figure out who they are more before they seek new paths. That's totally fine.
If you might be stressing about what you've accomplished so far in high school, the real benefit to being 18 is that time is on your side. I tell friends who look stressed out about the story of Barack Obama. He didn't work his hardest in high school, and admitted to probably focusing too much on girls and basketball. He matriculated at a small liberal arts college in California, Occidental College. Certainly nothing to scoff at, but it isn't an Ivy League school. He realized he could work harder, got his grades up, transferred to Columbia, went on to Harvard Law School, and the rest is history. No matter what prospect you're looking at come graduation, there really is so much out there to do and the rest of your life to do it.
On the D-Day at June 6, 1944, Army Rangers scaled 100-foot cliffs at Point du Hoc and took on German machine-gun fire. On my D-Day, all I have to do is check the mail. I think I'll be okay.