I don’t feel that I owe anyone an explanation, but I really dislike misconceptions. There’s a chance that over the course of this post, I might have my own misconceptions about other peoples’ misconceptions, but this is the best I can draw from what I’ve observed.
I’m kind of guessing here, but there seems to be a misconception that deep down, I really, really want to go to Stanford, that it’s this innocent, pure childhood dream that is being suppressed by shadowy, corrupting forces, or something like that. Let me assure you that that is not the case. The idea that I am being influenced by Arcadian powers, Asian parents, tutoring schools, peers, or other pressures in that vein to abandon my own true, personal desire of attending Stanford is wrong. In fact, the opposite is closer to the truth.
It is probably these Arcadian pressures that influenced me to want to go to Stanford in the first place. As a child, you are more pure, so it may seem that thoughts from this time should reflect the truth. But this childhood purity also means ignorance, ignorance of the world around and of one’s own feelings. When delving into concepts that are somewhat beyond a child’s scope, such as college choice, the child largely relies on what he/she knows, from their surroundings.
As a child, my view of the college world could only be drawn from the atmosphere around me, and as such, it was limited to the typical Arcadian view. The stereotypical Asian parent’s knowledge of colleges (Ivy Leagues, Stanford, Caltech, MIT, UC’s, Cal States, PCC) became my only knowledge of the subject. With this restricted scope, it seemed to me, as a child, that Stanford or Caltech was the best choice; both were schools with very good academics, and were in California. Caltech had the advantage of being especially close, while Stanford had athletics in addition to academics.
As I’ve gotten older, and actually gained my own knowledge of both colleges and of my own desires, I’ve come to realize that my childhood ideas were quite foolish. There are obviously, many other fine institutions across the country other than the ones that I had heard of in the 2nd grade. Now, proximity to home isn’t that important to me, if anything, I want to be farther away, to experience something different. Caltech is far too close to even consider. Stanford is a bit farther, but as it is still in California, it’s location, which was such a big advantage when I was a child, is now to me a neutral factor at best.
As for the outside influences, I fail to see how if I chose to go along with all the aforementioned pressures, I would not want to apply to Stanford. In Arcadia, Stanford is pretty much the top of the top, the collective dream school of the city. It’s one of the top schools in the nation, not only in academic quality, but in name-brand recognition. It’s location also is a huge plus for the many students and parents who wish for a California school. 122 students have applied to Stanford over the last 3 years. I think that that’s more than any other private school with the exception of USC, which Arcadia High is a huge feeder school to.
Stanford is one of the hardest schools to be accepted to in the nation. Still, it far outclasses the University of Chicago, Northwestern, Cornell, Duke, even Harvard in the number of AHS applicants. Students, and by extension, their parents, see Stanford as the ideal top goal of college applications. An application sent to Stanford is a normal part of the Arcadian application process. Even for those with the longest of long shots of getting in, Stanford is a target, because they feel that they might as well give a wild shot to the undisputed collective dream school. If the pressures and expectations of my surroundings were what I was basing my choice of colleges to apply to on, you guys would not have had to do any convincing at all for me to mail an app to Palo Alto.
Stanford is no doubt a great school, in terms of academic prestige, and from what I gather, the intellectual environment. But it is not my dream school. For me, I don’t really have a dream school, in the way that adults looking to make conversation would like to imagine I do. There is no one academic institution that I would like to go to above all the rest, which I have all my desires pinned on, that I imagine myself at daily. There are a few schools that I think are very good places of learning, where I can see myself enjoying 4 years. I am applying to them and would be very happy to get into any of them. Stanford prides itself on its students being accomplished not just in the classroom, but outside of it, and it’s campus packed with overachievers, national medalists from all fields is not an ideal fit for me that puts it above the other schools. If I had to pick a first choice, a mandated dream school for me, Stanford is not it.
Okay, so Stanford is not an idealistic dream for me, nor is it even one of my first few choices. But still, why isn’t it on my list of schools that I think are academically superior, that I would be happy to get into? Now we get into the issue of getting in. Before I start, let me pre-emptively counter those arguments that I have a strong feeling of coming, about me being negative and needing to believe in myself. This isn’t about doubting myself, my own intellectual ability. How intelligent of capable I think I am is not the issue in question here. This is about what the college admissions officers think of my college app.
As I said earlier, over the last 3 years, 122 AHS students have applied to Stanford. 9 have been accepted. On average, about 3/40 every year. I know that averages don’t always work out, and that sometimes things can happen, but assuming that most of the top students apply to Stanford (along with Harvard, Princeton, etc.), even looking at it as inclusively as possible, you would have to be in about the top 10 of all AHS applicants in your year to even have a shot.
Again, this isn’t about what I think of myself. Am I in the top 10 most intelligent/competent people in our graduating class? Maybe, maybe not. It’s a question that is nearly impossible for anyone to answer. But is my college application one of the top 10 in our graduating class? No.
If you still can’t accept that I have virtually no chance of getting accepted into Stanford for undergraduate studies, then I guess you can just go with the idea that I think I’ll be happier elsewhere.