Did you know it was Jane Austen who wrote, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that there is a perfect college for everyone”?
She did not, but given how widespread unrealistic expectations of college are, some influential writer must have said that.
At its heart, Netflix’s latest blockbuster “To All the Boys: Always and Forever” may be a high school romance filled with alarming prom-posals and Pinterest-perfect settings, but it does a good job of exploring the mental strain of transitional periods, particularly that of a senior. Amidst the general chaos of the film, the protagonist Lara Jean undergoes a compelling arc in which she grapples with the various acceptances and rejections from colleges. At the movie’s onset, Lara Jean’s focus entirely revolves around the quintessential university experience she wants with her beau Peter Kavinsky who, shockingly, got into Stanford on a lacrosse scholarship. Let us do with this information what we will.
Admittedly, I am a third-year and rarely contemplate the season of college applications. However, I do have a younger sister lost in the twilight zone between applying and accepting colleges, much like Lara Jean. Aside from the staggering cinematic parallels between fiction and reality, I sympathize and appreciate the gentle wisdom of Lara Jean’s elder sister Margot in her attempts to guide Lara Jean towards a wider, comprehensive image of colleges. Whereas Lara Jean’s laser-driven focus places Stanford University on a precarious pedestal, I wonder if my sister feels the pressure of fellow peers, older students and parents stuck in reliving their college years to find the “perfect fit.” As she continues to wait upon admissions officers neck-deep in applications saturated with teenage stress, I wonder how those potentially negative perspectives could be harmful. It is there that “To All the Boys” supplies young audiences with compelling insight: to be bold enough to fairly judge all prospects equally. To understand that there might not be one right school. To welcome unknown, external factors in the process. To not be resistant to change but become adaptable.
The common myth that one school is “right” and all other possibilities are “wrong” definitely needs to be addressed. If we fail to broaden our perspective, this thinking perpetuates an unhealthy mindset about the “only school” or the legitimate discomfort of those finding themselves at an ill-fitting university. There is no drawback to widening our horizons, to opening the door to a myriad of opportunities that may or may not be possible.
Looking back, I wish someone would have assured me of the livability of discomfort in the unknown. We are the ones who know ourselves best and it is possible to pick a great location, but at a certain point, you have to take the leap. Settling into the safe embrace of the projected epitome of university allows us to become lethargic — lazy in our approach to dealing with the difficult things in life. I am not saying a perfect college is not possible. It could very well be. There are cases when someone excitedly announces their dream school, their immediate acceptance, and perfect experience. It is frustrating. It is wonderful. It is probably why we keep applying to college. Just kidding.
However, to the same degree we gaze starry-eyed at rolling green campuses and sprawling libraries, we should acknowledge the uncertainty and the fear of the process. It might not be second nature to settle amongst the unease, but if miniscule tastes in reality have taught me anything, it is that difficult, uncomfortable situations cannot be avoided, but we can learn to handle them with strength and grace. Choosing a school from a posture of uncertain hope can be just as fruitful as a well-executed plan. To the people who fought and struggled to see themselves past the first week, the first semester, the first year, or are still searching — I hear you and I see you.
Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.