College crushes you under a mountain of expectations

I remember the evening my sister got into Yale. I should have felt happy that my sister was admitted into one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation and possibly the world. Instead, I simply smiled and cheered with her, merely to hide the fact that I was feeling the darkest emotions: jealousy and terror. I never got over how I felt on that day. I felt guilty for not immediately wanting to celebrate and instead only thinking about how things would get more difficult.

Of course, it is amazing that she got into her dream college. Now, she has been admitted to Berkeley Law as well, which just adds to the pressure. The ensuing gushing is like a mallet to the head. They always talk about Yale first and about how smart she must have been to get in. This leads to people staring at me as if I was the Second Coming of Christ. Truthfully, it is as unlikely for me to get into Yale as it is for small countries to remain independent. I am as far away from Yale as Democrats are from Republicans.

My parents always say that if you try hard, you will get what you want. That is clearly not true, as evidenced by Ukraine—no matter how hard it tries, it cannot independently repel Russian forces. I could never match these people, taking 3 or more APs. AP Calculus BC. Multivariable Calculus. AP Physics C.

People say to not match each other up for competition, but the truth of the human psyche dictates that natural competition will always exist. Biases will always exist. And they will cause others to judge your failure just that much more harshly. The generations of families that have done this will expect descendants to do just as well, if not better. There is a belief that the parents have failed if their children do not exceed them. Imagine skydiving, but instead of landing peacefully, falling into an endless void.

Her success hangs over me like a dark shadow, except it comes with the annoying taunting of a voice that always reminds me I probably will not be good enough. It follows me around like a politician follows their one devoted supporter. Its pressure is as crushing as the weight of the sky on Atlas’ back. People say to just let go of the pressure as if it was simply like long-held flatulence. But to let go of the pressure would crush my self-esteem, just like how the weight of the sky would crush Atlas the moment he let go. It would annihilate my relationship with my college counselor, my friends, and almost every respectable human being I know. If I end up at a less prestigious college than my sister, it will engrave upon my soul that I am the underachieving sibling, like a fake cocktail with an aftertaste as bitter as Ukraine’s regret for giving up its nuclear weapons.

Stress over college is a common pain amongst students.

People say to follow your dreams, but that would be terrible for anyone to think it was true. Real-life is not like the Sims. Do-overs, revivals, and easy job switches only exist in the movies. One wrong decision and the entirety of a lifetime flies off the path people envisioned for themselves faster than the drop in Biden’s approval rating after Afghanistan. Some of these doubts are unquestionably down to self-esteem, but realism forces me to think of what will truly happen in the future. It would be great if I could get into Yale and “bring honor and glory to the family,” like Kamikaze bombers during WWII.

I always hate it when people say, “Why don’t you just forget about it?” as if people could forget painful things easily, as they slog through a mindless schedule of classes and eat mindless, brain-dead foods, killing their pain with dullness and obscurity. Competition is inevitable, especially since she’s my sister. There is no world in which people will look at me without a biased perspective. If I fail to get into a top-tier school, I, like Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, shall be forever remembered as a disastrous failure.


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