Admit Weekend is the only weekend in the entire year during which I deeply, deeply sympathize with high school students. Indeed, I always marvel at the staggering number of admits who decide to commit after such a harrowing few days. I’d like to attribute it to the weather, which is so consistently beautiful that it makes a terrible experience like getting lost in Huang just a little bit less painful. But I suspect there’s more to it.
I’m actually not criticizing the general idea or organization of Admit Weekend – heck, I think spending a few days on campus is what any prospective student needs to do. But after my own experience at Admit Weekend, coupled with the conversations I had with some high school students I met a few days ago, I feel pretty confident that releasing 1,000 high school seniors in a school that better resembles a suburb than a campus, armed only with only a map, a packet of fairly irrelevant academic seminars and a name card as large as a piece of toast, is just an awful idea.
I was lucky – my brother was a senior at Stanford at the time of my Admit Weekend, so I typically had an exit strategy when things went south (except for when he ditched me at Broc party so he could hang out in Suites and made me go to his Physics section so I could sign his name on the roll call sheet). But during the daylight hours, I was on my own – on level footing with my other hopelessly lost peers. Then again, it may not have been all that level – while the rest of the admits enjoyed the sunshine, I was busy locking myself inside a stairwell in Encina, trying to find a water fountain. What made matters worse was that I wholeheartedly believed I had wandered into the Braun Music Hall because there was a huge painting of an orchestra where I was trapped. So when I called my brother to let me out, he spent a good hour trying to find me in Braun while I played Bejeweled in an emergency stairwell nearly a quarter of a mile away.
This is the rhythm of Stanford Admit Weekend. You get lost, make friends, lose those friends and then get lost again. To make matters worse, you have people telling you how amazing and exciting Stanford is – how fun the football games are, how naked Full Moon really is, how cool it is to play ultimate Frisbee in the Oval. Thing is, as an exhausted high school senior who could probably get lost between the bathroom and the lounge in an average freshman dorm, all he or she really wants to know is where the nearest Starbucks is.
I used to think that my experience in Admit Weekend was unique. But after meeting a high school girl who was in tears because she had walked the length of Junipero Serra trying to find Junipero (which actually is kind of logical, poor thing), I realize how challenging it is to feel at home at a massive place like Stanford, especially on foot.
Thing is, students really do come back for good. And I think that perhaps what makes Stanford so impossibly intimidating also makes Stanford incredibly inspiring. I think that the kids who stay know that someday, this large and terrifying place will be their home. They won’t be a ProFro, they won’t have a RoHo, and they’ll probably live in FloMo. In fact, most words will end in an “o”. They’ll never again try to get to Cantor by foot, and they’ll probably try to fake an injury at some point in the hopes of getting a golf cart for the quarter. They won’t be loud and embarrassing in MemChu anymore, and they’ll never refer to buildings in the quad by number. They won’t go to Green for the books, and the next time they go to Hoover Tower will be when they get dared to shotgun a beer at the top. Spending a Saturday night in Tresidder Oak Lounge will shortly become an inside joke.
In summary, these high school seniors go through Admit Weekend wishing they hadn’t canceled their senior prom plans to get stuck in the stairwell of what they thought was a music hall. But they always come back. I did! And thank goodness for that.
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