The college application process has been a long, grueling, and arduous one, but the singular upside is that it’s given me a litany of new adjectives to add to my vocabulary list: enervating, ignominious, execrable, rebarbative, esoteric, insouciant, supercilious, doctrinaire, persnickety, facetious, pontifical, and, perhaps in the moments when my sarcastic sense of humor helped me find irony in the seemingly constant difficulty, risible.
I consider myself an intelligent person. More than just smart—smart as to be defined by good grades and external academic validation—I genuinely care about and have the capacity for learning, devouring books in my free time, reading political articles in the car to keep up-to-date, having intellectually stimulating conversations with friends and teachers about anything from metaphysics to mathematic modeling. Knowledge excites me; I’m constantly engaged in the world around me, and I subsist on taking in experience from it and contributing positive influence outward.
I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember; at eight years old, I owned a book set of classics, and I spent free time reading Great Expectations, or Black Beauty, or my favorite, Oliver Twist. I didn’t understand why adults gave odd, squinted-up gazes when they saw what I was reading. I could think through complex set theory in eighth grade as part of a college-level math course I signed myself up to take outside of school. I raised my hand in all my classes to ask the most obscure of questions, seeking to elucidate more information and more analysis in every subject.
It wasn’t odd in itself; it was odd because my family was not like me. My mother had read only People Magazine since my conception, and my father judged success based on financial state, not ability or intelligence. Neither came from a background of academia. My father was, and largely still is, the only person from either familial side to attend college, and it was a small, local institution nameless outside the Buffalo area. Certainly this isn’t bad—it was just different, and I was the family black sheep. My mother and father were fine not knowing the answers to questions; they were fine not even asking the questions. They could blindly accept that they didn’t even know what they didn’t know; I never could. They wanted to please God; I wanted to be God.
Intelligence often hurt. I had few friends as a child, not because I was rude but because I engaged with different interests than almost anyone else my age I knew. I carried stress in my shoulders and it snowballed into headaches, dull aches thickening my skull with their reverberations. My parents picked fights with me when I intellectually questioned rules that didn’t make sense, and I didn’t understand why they’d rather leave things be, complacent, than create radical progress. The sensitivity I felt to knowledge and intellectual stimuli I also felt to daily activity and emotional stimuli, and small events wore me down. It didn’t take a lot to make me cry, though I did that all at night, silent and hidden. It was a kind of shrouding.
I held tight to my intelligence with the dream that someday, it would bring me somewhere better. I would, with my own merits and efforts, find a community of like-minded scholars who could share my willingness for discussion and excitement for the world. I would travel abroad; I would visit city after city; I would soak in what the world had to offer and learn—because I knew I couldn’t ever know everything—with what skills to analyze and use what I did know. I would create something meaningful: bonds with people, literary art that breathed hope and an original ideology, movement towards a better political and societal future.
College was that dream. I would find a place that fit the attributes I so wanted someone else to understand, and I’d fully use the resources there to accomplish my full potential. I’d relish in everything the school had to offer and in return, leave it better than I found it. Despite everything—poring over every small detail of essays and wondering if officers would even read them thoroughly, stressing through the long waiting periods required, deferrals, waitlists, rejections, so many no’s I can’t help but wonder who actually are the people they accept—I still want to believe in that dream. I don’t want to give up the hope that community is out there, and out there for me to join, waiting. More than just optimistic, I want that scrap of a desire I have left to be realistic; I still want to find a place that recognizes the type of intelligence I pride myself on consciously trying to create, every day, and join a supportive, creative community of capable individuals.
Courtney Felle is a high school senior. She has been writing for the majority of her life, in most every genre. Outside of writing, she enjoys hiking, reading, and volunteering in the greater Buffalo area, particularly with kids. She was named “most likely to start an argument” in her high school yearbook, and she plans to keep starting arguments that create progress in society. For this reason, she wants to study political science in college, hoping to someday work with government in bettering the communities around her.