With college and university application season just around the corner you will be expected to write short essays on why you should get a coveted spot in their freshmen class over another qualified candidate. You may come across an essay question along the lines of “What makes you unique?” The common response to this question is exactly that, common. It will read something along the lines of my life was hard, I’ve faced adversity, I’ve defeated it, and I’ve grown as a person. This is boring and bland: everyone has a hard life. Now, that is not to say that your experiences are not important because they are. It just doesn’t make you unique. Everyone goes through pain. Everyone goes through heartbreak. Everyone experiences childhood trauma that will affect their psyche and their personalities for the rest of their life—this is life.
The admission process is brutal because it sets up a dichotomy. Each institution wants the best students it can get, and each student wants to get into the best institution they can get into. In fact, it’s worse than that. Each institution wants students in this year’s applicant pool to be better than what they got last year, and each student wants to get into a college or university that is likely out of reach. This creates a “The grass is always greener” mentality. Let’s be honest, this entire higher education system of applying for admissions is a catch-22. It’s a catch-22 because while the institutions say that they want you to be unique and different, they don’t really. Institutions want students with great grades, great SAT/ACT scores, and great extracurricular activities (including sports, community services, and jobs). How is this different? You can be unique as long as you have those attributes checked off. Because when you’re actually different or unique from others, you’re in the outside group. You’re looking in from the cold. You will be treated differently. You will be consistently rejected or ignored for what they consider, your impertinence of differing from the rest of the bricks in the wall.
A question you may have now is, why are colleges and universities asking this question about uniqueness? It is really about two things: can you write a good essay and can you follow directions (can you tether yourself to the prompt in 650 words or less). Colleges and universities know how students will answer this type of question—the essays will be relatively the same. This brings us back to the main point. We are not unique. We are not one of a kind. We are not remarkable. This obviously seems like a pessimistic way of looking at life, but it’s realistic. Reality is a disappointment. It’s not like the movies that Hollywood cranks out, and it’s not like the fairy tales you were read as a child. You are, and we all are, just another brick in the infinite wall of mediocrity. Welcome to adulthood. Welcome to reality.