Enduring the Admissions Arms Race at a Competitive High School

Question: I attend an uber-competitive high school in California and everything is SO harsh and stressful — it's such a competitive environment that friendships are actually broken up because of college admissions pursuits. Personally, I pursue what I'm passionate about — but I'm definitely not the best in those fields. I know many of my classmates hate what they do, yet they are extraordinarily accomplished because their parents push them to work so hard. How can college admissions officers tell what you're actually passionate about versus what your parents have pushed you to do? I feel that it's unfair that the people who hate what they do are often admitted to much more prestigious colleges…

Many college admission officers like to insist that they can distinguish between passion and pressure. That is, they claim that they can tell—via essays or sometimes interviews—if an applicant is excited about his or her pursuits or simply acquiescing to parental edicts.

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