When I arrived at Stanford for the second time on Admit Weekend (the first being a tour the summer after sophomore year of high school), I once again confirmed that I did not want to go here. In this manner, I cannot say that I was convinced by the overenthusiastic welcomers or my host who offered less than five words to me or the various students that shouted “Come to Stanford!” as they passed on bikes. After attending a small boarding school for four years, Stanford felt massive and unappealing. I spent the weekend feeling alone and uncomfortable, uninterested in the superficial conversations and surface level interactions you were encouraged and sometimes forced to engage in. Of course, peers, parents and friends encouraged me to give Stanford another chance. And I did. Whether or not it was worthwhile warrants a whole other article.
This year, when Admit Weekend rolled around, I anxiously waited for the ProFro I was guilted into hosting by HoHos. I was nervous to see what they were like, to see if we had things in common. Above all, I desperately wanted them to love Stanford — not because I wanted them to have the experience I did not, but because I did not want to feel obligated to convince them to attend this school. I texted them a few days before, asking about their interests and what they wanted to see at Stanford. I tried to get them as excited as possible, and my efforts seemed to be successful. Yet, when my ProFro arrived, it felt like I was staring at a memory of myself — mostly involved in STEM in high school but looking for more humanities/social science related courses, choosing between Stanford and a “lesser known” school (a state school for them). And the loneliness. The imperceptible loneliness that only trickles out once you are in a room with no else watching, a loneliness you can only sense if you’ve experienced it.
I tried to ask questions, to find connections between their interests and the Stanford education. I offered a tour of McMurtry and the small cluster of buildings I love on campus. I encouraged them to go to events, which they skipped, and the campus tour, which they left halfway through. And it dawned on me that I wanted to convince them. I wanted to convince them to use this opportunity. Worse than that, I was putting on a mask of school spirit and zeal for the Stanford life. I wanted to convince them that Stanford was the best option they had. But, like I did, they saw through the glaring cracks. When the only weakness of Stanford a speaker could offer was that it was “too perfect,” they asked me to tell it all. To list out all the things I disliked about Stanford. They asked about mental health. About exploring with unit-heavy majors. They asked about what people do for fun, how you get off campus. I struggled with defending the faults of the university.
My ProFro didn’t like Stanford for all the reasons I didn’t when I experienced the force of Admit Weekend. Stanford seemed plastic to them. I explained that it is too easy to get carried away during this time of year when the weather is picking up and new faces are arriving with the same decisions we had to make. They hated that their decision wasn’t a real decision in the eyes of their peers (those same peers referring to the school they preferred as a safety school). They wanted to choose the state school, with people they knew and close proximity to home. They emphasized that the only thing that made them hesitate was that it felt like they were giving up something. And that made them hate it more.
I felt disappointment creep up as I watched them nap or scroll on their phone throughout the day. I urged them not to size up Stanford in just one weekend, but I know all too well how potent a first impression like Admit Weekend is. At the end of the weekend, I had a commitment for a production, so I didn’t see them off. Instead, I sent a text that went without a reply. I told them that you can make the best of any situation, but that they shouldn’t question the decision once they’ve made it. I told them that it is okay for them not to buy into the brand that colleges like Stanford advertise. I told them that not everyone can be happy at Stanford and fall in love with the university — that some of us have to fight to be happy. That this can be something you do for four years, receive a degree from an impressive institution, then move on. But in the end, I emphasized to them that it is okay to not like Stanford. Above all, it is okay to say no to Stanford.
Contact Griffin Somaratne at gsomara ‘at’ stanford.edu.