Don’t let college define who you are and what you do

Every year around mid-March a sort of panic sets in among my friends—panic caused by their unmarked summer calendars. For me, there has been no panic period. Since the age of eight, I’ve looked forward to spending my summers at overnight camp. This year is no exception.

Over the past eight summers, my annual return to camp has been partially driven by my love of camp and partially driven by my chronic FOMO, or fear of missing out. I had a deep-rooted insecurity that, even with my status as a veteran camper, I would be forgotten. Whether I wanted to believe it or not, camp would still go on. Returning to camp every summer was never a decision; there was no deliberation or any other options that were more appealing.

However, with college applications on the horizon, my tie-dying and s’more-making skills appear inadequate alongside the resume-boosting experiences that some of my peers have gained over their breaks and I found myself questioning my return to camp for the first time. Last summer, one friend had an internship at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and another traveled to Ghana to assist a project sponsored by Doctors Without Borders, while I tended campfires and polished my friendship bracelet-making skills.

Under duress from my older brother/college counselor/third parent, I applied for an online internship editing articles, but it would have required bringing my laptop to camp and spending 12+ hours per week away from my campers.

I realized what I love the most about being at camp is that it provides me with an escape from stress after a school year culminating in about 100 pages worth of essays, 58 tests (not including midterms, finals, SATs, SAT Subject Tests, ACTs and PARCC), 4 Tower production cycles, and a lot of tears. The camp environment is simple and I do not want to complicate it with stress from a new internship.

Camp has been a major part of my life for almost a decade and has been a place of refuge from the demands of school. While I may not be able to boast about my time at camp on my college applications, because of my summers I have been able to develop essential skills that allow for personal growth outside of camp.

I shouldn’t govern my life based on what an admissions officer would like to see. If I love going to camp, I’ll go because it makes me happy. High school requires so many compromises, but this will not be one of them.

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