With the same syntax and meter Phil Conners uses in Groundhog Day, with the same number of beats in the pause when he says, “Well, it’s Groundhog Day… again,” let us hear the call of the college admissions counselor:
“Well, it’s admissions season… again.”
Only this year something amazing is happening with admissions. Something that is actually about class is filling our classes.
Let’s just say this is the first column I have gotten in early because I am so excited about it.
It appears that the dream is actually becoming a reality: there is a new strand in college admissions favoring first-generation college students.
I can hardly even talk about it, for fear it will disappear.
Bob Dylan famously sang, “I pity the poor immigrant, who wishes he would have stayed home.” Here’s the thing: if the poor immigrant’s child now has a very high grade point average, then we can turn our pity into a celebratory toast, which is really a much healthier emotion, since pity gets you nowhere. Soon sympathy will actually turn to empathy, according to this logic, because the poor immigrant will have to deal with all the nonsense that comes with college admissions, all the rejection from your progeny until they come home to live with you since they can’t find a job since they never learned how to do anything. And if they had only learned a skill.
But that’s later. Now, yes!
In a truly fascinating turn of events, one can even posit a gorgeously global causality here.
Wealthy, full-pay international students are taking up a number of seats in next year’s college classrooms. Many members of the Class of 2015 (unless, of course, they take the now-standard five years to graduate) come from far away, are unbelievably qualified, and unbelievably rich. Their money may make it possible for schools to allocate a certain percentage of admissions to first-generation freshmen.
Meanwhile, there is a third strand in admissions that is equally awesome and mind-blowing in its unconventionality: the exceptionally qualified homeschooled. Why are they so qualified? Hello, Internet.
So, we have three strands of college admissions this year that are not only all about diversity, but all about the fact that somewhere, some administrators have exploded traditional concepts of diversity, possibly because finally some out-of-the box thinkers are sitting in positions of power.
This is truly promising.
Not only will the world become the place it was always supposed to be when Noah filled the ark with two of each different kind of animal, but—hang onto your hats—meaning will be restored to the infinite number of suicidal white girls filling our emergency rooms in affluent suburbs all over America.
You may have read any number of books on the price of privilege in our time. And you may have said, “Oh, poor little white girl, slicing up her arms because she doesn’t have the application she wants for her phone.” But this is real, it is an epidemic, and it has been going on a long, long time.
I recently attended a standardized test on a Saturday morning (oh, for the kitchen parties of yesteryear) where someone recommended Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls to me.
While moderately dated because things are even worse now, the book succeeds in pointing out the horror of the experience of the adolescent girl. Pity this girl. Save your pity for her. She is truly tragic.
But look—there’s hope in this year’s college admissions season. If everyone suddenly has everything, then no one bears the burden of having it all.
If no one bears that burden, suddenly life is full of meaning again. If life is full of meaning, then not only will college classrooms be full of all different types of people, and finally the assumptions everyone makes about the haves and the have-nots will completely explode when the wealthy person of color will be sitting next to the Polish first-generation college student, but there’s more.
Tragic figures, girls and boys, will now have meaning in their little lives. Who knows where the meaning went? Who can say? But this kind of world-changing change can only be good. It can only restore meaning to these barren little lives. It will make for new ways of looking at things, making the world bigger, less narrow, and full of more possibilities. More hope means fewer suicides and less reason to cut and maim oneself.
It is as if all these little teenagers suffer from phantom limb syndrome, and the missing limb has not been an arm or a leg, it has been another appendage needed for a healthy and complete life: meaning.
Back to Groundhog Day for the final analysis:
When Phil Conners turns to his classmate Ned Ryerson in the street for the first time, there is reminiscing.
On a later day, there is a punch in the face.
By the end of the film, Phil wakes up and buys life insurance from Ned, making himself safe, showing he values his life, and making Ned a very happy life insurance salesman.
Can it be that we have all woken up, like Phil, from a long winter’s nap?
Can it be that the groundhog has risen and found peace in a field full of college-educated flowers? That these flowers all look different, and come from seeds from all over the world?
That they are beautiful and wild and free?