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You didn't build that: a reminder

Amy ChenWhile I could use this space to lecture What’s-His-Face on the intersection of A Avenue and State Street — whose business and “Hey Obama, I BUILT MY BUSINESS BY MYSELF” signs are only visible and easily-accessible due to the existence of government-maintained roads — I would rather focus on a more important topic than one man’s mixture of ego and missing-the-point.

Let’s instead focus on ego and missing-the-point among students. Including myself. But first off, let’s talk about college.

Oh, you knew I was going to write about college. I’ve written three college columns throughout the year so far. College has been sitting on my brain since elementary school.

In third grade, after watching “Orange Country,” I decided I wanted to aim for Stanford — never mind that the movie showed that people don’t have to go to top schools to be successful.

In fifth grade, I would ask my classmates where they wanted to go to college. I used to think I would fail at life if I didn’t get into a school like Stanford or the Ivies — somehow forgetting that my dad holds a degree from Oregon State University.

No, this is not normal. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. As we neared “Ivy Day,” March 27, partially out of self-assurance and partially to assure others, I posted the following letter as my Facebook status:

“Dear Friends,

I know a lot of you are probably stressed out because it’s “Ivy Day.” Calm down. We’re going to be okay. Some things to remember:

1. If you get in, colleges will tell you you’re “special.” Don’t believe it. Not because you aren’t special, but because there are people you know, love, and respect — people just as special as you — who won’t get in. Never forget that colleges are businesses. Like most businesses, they do quite a bit of marketing.

2. If you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world. You know successful people who went to state school. You can still do brilliant things. I went to a Junot Díaz reading at Powell’s a while back. He went to a state school, and said that state school educations are underrated. He teaches at MIT. Joyce Carol Oates went to Syracuse University. She teaches at Princeton.

3. Regardless of what happens, remember that college is not a finish line. Take advantage of the opportunities given to you, wherever you end up going. And remember that there is more to success than just “making it.”

So celebrate. While you and I might be intrigued by the opportunities available at Ivies, there are opportunities available elsewhere as well. The future will be bright as long as you keep looking for ways to make it brighter.

Love,

Amy”

I wanted to republish this because I know there are future generations of college applicants like me — people whose self-images have been influenced so strongly by college that admittance or denial can redeem or destroy our inner third-graders. People who need to be reminded of the bigger picture.

Fellow freaks: We need to get over ourselves. Don’t be offended. I’m one of you. Yes, we can take the time to bandage our bruised egos. But we tend to look too far forward, too often, and we should take more time to look back.

Regardless of whether or not we “got in,” we need to remember and be grateful for the people that have made it possible for us to even consider the option of going to college. Our families, that sacrifice so much for us, our friends that cheer us on, our teachers and coaches, who help us in so many ways beyond their job descriptions, and the communities that have raised and supported us — because like it or not, we didn’t build that.

And we should be grateful that others have.

Amy Chen is a senior at Lake Oswego High School, and she writes a monthly column for the Review. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




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