Making The Grade
On Wednesday, our third and hopefully final semester of endless Zoom classes will slowly become a memory.
Although much has changed since Covid-19 took over our world, even more has stayed the same. Absent from headlines, applications, bills, and deadlines still come due and our meritocratic machine churns forever on. And current Harvard seniors are now faced with the task of transitioning out of their undergraduate years into a job market and graduate school landscape marred by change and uncertainty.
For me, December 2019 was the end of an endless cycle of worrying. Worrying about what I wore to my interview at New York’s Harvard Club. Were my answers too short? Too long? Did I sound pretentious? Never mind my interviewers: Would I even want to be my roommate? Questioning whether that B in freshman geometry had already ended my chances at a Harvard education.
Yet, when I opened my application portal and discovered my acceptance, for the first time in years, I wasn’t worried. Unlike thousands of others, I wasn’t left wondering what went wrong or how I could have been a better applicant, a better student, or just simply better. I felt perfectly lucky.
I’m a perfectionist, and I can’t do this anymore.
My heart is racing as I stay up past what should be my bedtime staring blankly at the screen, scared to make one wrong stroke on my keyboard out of fear of blemishing what must be a “perfect” piece of writing. I’m awake late, but I’m not tired. The determination and willpower that keeps perfectionists like me up doing a fourth round of edits on our English essays or committing the last chapter of a biology textbook to memory, into the morning’s early hours, makes the effects of caffeine and study drugs seem mild in comparison.
There is perhaps no topic in American society as contentious as the issue of race. So, it’s no surprise that the intersection of race and college admissions has ignited firestorm after firestorm since the introduction of race-based affirmative action in the 1960s. In more recent years, Harvard’s own admissions system has come under particular scrutiny for how it weighs a students’ racial identity, particularly in the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard lawsuit.
While the courts have decided in Harvard’s favor so far, the public debate surrounding affirmative action is nowhere near over. What does affirmative action mean for the students who actually occupy the identities under discussion? How do students think about their many identities as former applicants, but also as stakeholders in the Harvard community?
If academics teach us how to think, and artists teach us how to feel, then athletes teach us what our bodies are capable of — a lesson that should be valued in and of itself, because the things that we do with our bodies, and the ways we engage them, are meaningful and of importance.
Many Harvard students are happy to cheer on professional athletes, or go to Harvard-Yale, but just aren’t convinced that Harvard needs to draw the top student-athletes in addition to prizing young people at the heights of other fields.