Category Archives: College / High School

True Freedom

First post in a long, long time – hope it is any good!

One year of college has gone by. The entire year was marked by freedom: freedom to study what you want, freedom to befriend who you want, and freedom to live your life how you want. However, while some people took every advantage of the freedom that college offered, I chose to handle things a little different, particularly in the social nature of college. I believe that as the year went on, I began the long journey of freeing myself from my own insecurities; one means of doing so was by changing my perspective on the weekend. Therefore, after all this, I came to the following conclusion: I am the quintessential social deviant. Viewing deviance as a violation of social norms, sociologists have characterized it as any thought, feeling or action that members of a social group judge to be a violation of their values or rules. Through my time at BC, while I have not evaded the party and social scene by any means, I have managed to separate myself from the homogenous student body and its monotonous idea of an “amazing weekend.” In not going out all the time, the social deviant has managed to obtain freedom from the societal norms and pressures of college and make his or her own decisions.

Most individuals act in a similar manner every weekend. As Friday dawns, students begin to scramble. Nearly everybody sends out the same thousand texts and asks the same question: “what are you doing tonight?” These five words have defined the college experience for the majority of the student body, especially the eager freshman. Once the word of a party gets out, the next few hours, usually till about three or four in the morning, are spent in getting ready, pre-gaming, going to the party, dancing, and getting late night, among other things. Subsequently, as a result of the excessive drinking, most people wake up with a splitting headache in the afternoon. By the time anybody has recovered, it is already time to repeat the cycle and find out more parties for Saturday night. The same texts are sent out, the same questions are asked, and the nighttime festivities begin. As expected, Sunday morning mimics Saturday, and nobody can actually get down to doing something productive till late Sunday. Many at BC no longer look for alternatives to have fun with and have essentially gotten stuck in a rut.

However, the social deviant does not fall within this cycle of parties and hangovers every single weekend. While I am in no way someone who chooses to stay in all the time, I am also not someone who wishes to go out every weekend on both nights anymore. In fact, I actually was the typical student first semester. I simply became bored and tired of the same type of party / social activity every single weekend. This semester I began to question what I was doing and what was this phenomenon of the amazing weekend that I, along with everybody else, was running after? These questions were raised as a result of who I was before I came to college. In high school, only a few nights a month were devoted to the “party” scene. I used to go to the movies, go bowling, dine out (instead of throwing away limited money on beer), and do many other constructive activities. Essentially, sober fun without any pressures of getting into a “killer party” or hooking up with someone. I thus began reconsidering my social life and started wondering what suddenly changed when I came to college that changed my perspective towards the weekend.

In terms of the college scene, the typical student aims to experience “Amazing Weekend Night,” an idealistic notion we all chase after in order to provide some form of meaning to our very existence, especially as the weekend rolls around. Our want to exist around the this symbol is due to a lack inherent within us, one that makes us unable to ground our own identities because we cannot determine what it is that makes us “us.” No matter how much we wish to fill the lack, unfortunately, we never shall attain the objects of our pursuits. We aim to fill this lack in our existence by chasing the “Amazing Weekend Night.” Unfortunately, this sense of incompleteness we feel turns us into insecure beings who are driven by our animalistic tendencies to fall in line with the pack – a “herd mentality,” if you will. We cannot seem to grasp what it is that makes us feel empty. Therefore, those that fail to realize that they cannot fill this lack try to fill it by going out and engaging in simple pleasures (drinking, smoking, hooking up, etc.), even if they may not wish to on that occasion. Out of resistance to the idea that the lack cannot be filled, students push ahead towards trying to find that amazing weekend night. They attempt to use every weekend and opportunity that they have in order to top the previous weekend in an endless cycle of parties and hangovers. As long as the ideal is always there, as long as the “perfect” weekend has not been de-idealized, students are still satisfied in their chase. The “Amazing Weekend Night” is a target for most and they continuously desire it even when it is not possible, since the next weekend could always potentially be better. Insecurity arises within everybody because they begin to question themselves with “what if this weekend truly isn’t better?” or “what if there truly is some sense in staying in sometimes?” There are numerous people who force themselves to go out even though they wish to stay in, just because they feel that they have to. Instead of coming to this understanding that staying in is a choice, they go out and often regret the decision the next morning.

In fact, it is not even the case that the social deviant does not ever go out and stays in all the time. Instead, he or she has the freedom to choose when to go out and when not to go out. This has been achieved by breaking free from the current societal norm of always going out. The only way to do this is by breaking from the commands of the symbol of the “Amazing Weekend Night” and staying in. This of course begs the question of why one would stay in on a weekend and contemplate stuff like this, rather than go out, get drunk, and have a good time. Sometimes, like the social deviant did, each one of us needs to take the impossible choice and perform the radical act (i.e. stay in). For example, Slavoj Zizek uses the idea of Keyser Soeze from the Usual Suspects, when he “returns home and finds his wife and small daughter held at gunpoint by the members of the rival mob, he resorts to the radical gesture of shooting his wife and daughter themselves dead – this act enables him mercilessly to pursue members of the rival gang…in a situation of the forced  choice, the subject makes the ‘crazy,’ impossible choice of, in a way, striking at himself at what is most precious to himself.” Even though the college social scene is not such an extreme case, it is still something that seems radical for college students because we have a very limited scope of the world. Going out is the biggest thing for most 18-22 year olds, so not going out is naively viewed as the “radical act.” Only by doing so does one “change the coordinates of the situation in which the subject finds himself: by cutting himself loose from the precious object…the subject gains the space of free action.” Each and every one of us must break free from this constant cycle of parties and realize that this notion of the perfect weekend night can never be achieved. In coming to this realization, we do not make it our constant goal to always go out every weekend but rather, we take the calculated choice to either go out or not go out, like the social deviant.

Of course, the obvious reaction to this thesis is just saying, “I go out just because it is fun! There is no need to over-think the simple act of partying.” While this may be in some sense over-thinking, it still is an accurate portrayal of the human psyche and how we choose to do things because of our innate insecurities buried within us. People do go out because it is fun, but the social deviant also chooses to do the same thing. However, the difference is that he or she will go out only because it is fun, not because he or she feels that it is required. The constant party-goer always has to go out, but the social deviant has choice.

Each and every person who reads this post should try and reconsider the way the college weekends are handled. Do not force yourselves to constantly drink – think about the many other things you used to enjoy before college. Nobody is saying that you should not go out and have a great time – but only, only if you truly want to.

The Bane of my Junior Year

So I thought I would kick off my blog by discussing the most ruthless and merciless corporation in the world: Collegeboard. This is particularly the best time because I just finished my final SAT II today!!! While this may not seem like much of an accomplishment, trust me, it is.

As my junior year comes to a close, I am reflecting on the amount of time and money I have spent behind Collegeboard – and how USELESS everything is. On the day before my SATs, I was doing one final practice test in “The Official SAT Study Guide” – I suddenly realized that if I spent one more day slaving over it, I would probably collapse. I then threw aside my study guide, more commonly known as the “big blue book.” Juniors flee and children cry at the sight of this monstrosity:

There honestly should be a warning sign at the bottom of the book, something like: “Warning: has been known to cause extreme sadness and tears.” I have written letters to them asking them to put the warning on the cover so that they wouldn’t get sued – then again, maybe I should just let it happen. I really haven’t, but I should – anyways, someone crazy enough is bound to do it someday.

Anyways, in order to get away from review and to get out all my anger, I began surfing for articles on how the SATs are awful, and I came across this one written by The Guardian titled “SATs not the answer.” Honestly, its one of the best descriptions of the SAT I’ve ever seen. I want to detail a few key points from it:

1) “Every question, no matter how simple or well-nigh impossible, counts for the same amount, so no extra credit for being  clever enough to answer the toughest questions if you are not fast enough through the easiest.”

This is kind of ridiculous – since everything is the same, if I am able (or not able) to answer a tough question, its the EXACT same penalty. Plus, the fact that there is no partial credit makes the test all the more unfair – who ever heard of a math test without partial credit?! People make calculation errors all the time – they shouldn’t be penalized so severely for them.

2) “…students actually have to pay for all this. The standard fee is $26, followed by further costs if you register late ($16), need to change your testing site ($17), want to look up your score online ($13), or a host of other likely contingencies (price varies). And this is designed to benefit underprivileged students?”

If I add up all the money I have spent on Collegeboard (including the review books and test taking courses) in the past three years, it comes out to a grand total of (well I don’t really want to add everything up right now, but trust me, it’s a LOT). This clearly hurts children that are not affluent because richer kids always have access to more resources. This post is more of a discussion on why the SATs are useless – to be honest, the AP exams and the SAT IIs are actually good because they give an accurate and a high-level assessment of what we learn in our respective courses. HOWEVER, there is no need for such high costs – for every AP exam I take, I have to pay $86. Why does it cost $86 to make one test booklet on very low-quality paper??? If Collegeboard truly is the non-profit organization that it claims it is, I really wonder where all the money goes.

3)  “SAT results are not an accurate reflection of what students have learned in school, and can have no bearing whatsoever on what students want to study”

This is 100% true – the SATs are based on NOTHING that I have learned in high school, except my ability to write an essay. Then again, these essays are so arbitrarily graded that it doesn’t even make a difference what I write – I believe that even if I spin an essay on “Monkeys Throwing Feces” to fit the prompt, I would get an adequate grade. Anyways, my point is that if anybody picks up a review book, reads it cover to cover and does all ten of the practice tests, then they would do well on it (and would also end up having absolutely no life). My point is that this is IMPOSSIBLE – with junior year already being really difficult, the SATs make it impossible for a person to do well unless they study really hard. I spent 4 hours every Sunday night for many months in order to get the score I have right now – and it made finishing everything else brutal. Plus, this really has nothing to do with what I truly know – only the subject tests are fitting.

4) Terrible Proctors

The above claim is my own observation – I do not know where our schools find the geniuses that run our exams. On two separate occasions, I have been cheated out of time on sections, which makes this test even more difficult. The time constraints are bad enough without the proctors messing everything up.

I applaud the schools that are trying to move away from the testing system – even the UCs have begun to question the usefulness of the SAT.  My complaints are in no regard to my score – they are just based on what I have observed about this ridiculous system.

To sum up, it is unfairly graded, richer kids statistically do better, it makes junior year even more difficult, and just is overall terrible. In my opinion, Collegeboard should get rid of the SATs and only have SAT Subject Tests and AP Exams as part of their system – those are the only types of exams that truly reflect a) what somebody wishes to learn and b) what somebody truly knows.

Honestly, nobody should be surprised if you find me a year from now on 45 Columbus Avenue in New York outside the Collegeboard Headquarters with a mob of angry students.