For every high school junior and senior who is ready to become a subway singer to avoid going through the college application process:
We all have to start small. Every time you feel the uncontrollable urge to go Google the college of your dreams, resist. You've visited it three times, you know the journalism professor by his rather embarrassing childhood nickname, and you have the "About Us" page of its Web site memorized. Pop in a stick of gum and crank up the iTunes on the back porch, baby.
Do not go to the guidance office today before each of your classes. Believe it or not, the mail only comes once a day and therefore there will not be any new college pamphlets on your guidance counselor's desk between fifth and sixth period. The mail came fourth. Go to class, honey. Go to class. For once in your life, take a class because you want to, not just because it has the magic letters A and P in front of it. You want to take Renaissance Period Sculpture Basics? Go for it, Michelangelo. AP 18th Century Dutch Geometry can wait. You've got a Pieta to make. You're making serious progress.
All right, now is your first real test. Take that monstrous, five-ton Princeton Review SAT practice book and throw it onto an offertory pyre. Enjoy watching the vocabulary and algebra sections catch flame. Chuckle maliciously like you're a movie villain in a cloak and black gloves. (*In lieu of an actual fire, simply throwing the book in the garbage has the same effect. Right there with the orange peelings and shrimp tails. Poetic justice has been achieved.)
In case your guidance counselor somehow manages to track you down (and trust me, they always do) and tells you that there's a college fair at the community center that night, remember: this was the night you planned to stay home, get reacquainted with your parents (you know those two people who live downstairs?), and rediscover the joy of guitar/M*A*S*H reruns/romance novels. Politely decline and say you have a previous engagement -- life.
Obliterate the words "applicant pool," "admissions office," and "well-rounded" from your vocabulary. Reintroduce words such as "fun," "relaxation," and "10:30 bedtime." Here's the situation: it's a Thursday night. There is a benefit concert, a can drive, and a bingo extravaganza going on, all of which scream out for community service. You have already tallied 50 service hours on the year, and you have a movie date with your friends (yes, you can see them as friends now, not as threats to your acceptance chances). What do you do? No, that's the wrong answer, my friend. You planned a movie date. Stick to it. When you get home, find a food drive or charity walk taking place in the next county on a weekend when you're free. Sign up for it and attend, but make sure no one gives you credit hours for doing so. Remember why you first started serving the community in the first place -- you're a kind person who likes helping people. You had it right.
Find out for sure if that short blond girl in your SAT review class is in fact a freshman. If so, either give her this or the phone number of a therapist. It would also be helpful to steal her review book when she's not looking and throw it into the janitor's closet.
Make yourself a raspberry-peach smoothie, kick back, and relax. This is pretty much the end of the line. If you have made it this far, you have successfully completed College Anxiety Detoxification. Your certificate will be arriving in the mail shortly. Pin it up on your wall and remind yourself of how far you have come.
Caitlin Moran is a junior at Attica.