I spent a lot of winter break searching for internships, jobs, fellowships, and other programs to do this summer. This search has continued into the school year as I rush to complete a host of applications on top of my schoolwork. Writing internship application after internship application has forced me to revisit college applications, just to figure out how I used to write about myself. In high school, the limit of ten extracurriculars on the Common App felt like I was being cheated: I was the head of costuming for the theatre, I’d founded a photography club, I was in three honors societies, and that was barely the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to include every service activity I’d done (I amassed more than 260 service hours in order to win an award at graduation) as well as the Leadership Fellows program I’d participated in, my multiple creative and historical writing awards, music lessons, and all the random clubs I took part in. I definitely felt like my accomplishments were impressive, numerous, and important. They solidified me as a real person in my eyes, most notably because they were easily demonstrable in a clear list for others and because of the recognition I received for them. I was also excelling academically, and had such a hard time choosing teachers to write my recommendations that I eventually sent three along with a non-academic mentor as a supplement. I felt impressive.
Flash forward two years, and writing applications caused me to go into a full-on panic earlier this week. I just didn’t have enough to offer–no previous research experiences, a barely demonstrable interest in “natural sciences” (it was for a museum position), and a list of background experience that drew heavily from my high school activities. It was hard to choose professors to write my recommendations, but for very different reasons. Instead of having far too many professors to choose from who I knew I had a good relationship with, I only had about three professors whose courses were relevant to the position and who I had interacted with enough to feel comfortable asking. In college, I haven’t amassed the resumé I had in high school, but that old set of accomplishments feels dated and inappropriate. I haven’t done any costuming, I barely attend club meetings or SGA, and I’m really only regularly involved with this blog and the literary arts magazine (which seems less impressive as it hasn’t been published yet).
On Tuesday, as I frantically scrambled to finish my application, I took a break to go into town and buy some things I needed. I stood in the grocery store wondering if I had a favorite food or if I even wanted to buy anything at all. I almost started to cry when they didn’t have the crackers I wanted, and then became angry with myself for getting upset over such a silly thing–if I couldn’t handle that, who was I to presume I deserved an internship? But then I checked my email. I’d been nominated for an SGA position. I felt confused, then almost angry, and then relieved to the point of semi-hysterical laughter (I was definitely disturbing the good patrons of Acme at this point). I remembered last year, when I was nominated for a different position and lost the election. Then I thought about the club fair, when I’d signed up for around 20 clubs only to never hear back from most of them, or find out their meetings conflicted with class, or attend one meeting and lose interest. I remembered trying out for a capella groups, contacting various theatre people, and applying for jobs and internships on and off campus.
Once I realized I wasn’t totally drifting from myself, I thought about who I was freshman and sophomore year of high school. At the beginning, I came straight home almost every single day–no activities, few friends, nothing to indicate the successful person who would graduate in a few years. I found one or two things I liked and began to blossom once I’d taken root. I didn’t show up on the first day thinking I’d be leaving a permanently installed mural or countless other achievements in that building. As I walked back to campus, I formulated a revised essay in my head. I’m still that high-achieving artist, student, and person that I was when Bryn Mawr accepted me. I just need to give myself time to dig my roots in before I see myself bloom again.
Right before I was going to publish this blog post, Devica posted a crazy similar piece. I couldn’t believe the coincidence–until I realized that it probably wasn’t a coincidence. I think a lot of sophomores probably feel the same way. We aren’t brand new anymore, and we’re starting to feel like we’re running out of time to make our marks on Bryn Mawr and to find ourselves. We both feel estranged from ourselves during a year that is so overwhelmingly about cementing your future as a Bryn Mawr student: declaring majors, deciding whether to study abroad, starting to hold dorm/campus leadership positions, etc. But I happen to believe that the sophomore slump is an illusion, and I like to remember what President Cassidy said on moving in day last year: none of us was a mistake. We are all here because we deserve to be Mawrtyrs. And it’s totally okay that we don’t know exactly who we are yet. There’s always room to grow.