Your failure to provide complete, accurate, and truthful information on this application will be grounds to deny or withdraw your admission, or dismiss you after enrollment.

Full Name: Marshall, Dana L.

My name leaves no room for false impressions. If I had a cute or interesting name, people could wrongly assume I am also cute or interesting. Perhaps the ultrasound gave my mom a glimpse into my future, and she went, "Yeah, okay, this one will be Dana."

I, like my name, am entirely unremarkable. There's really no way to spice me up. And that is all college applications are about: trying to look better than the other completely useless high school senior. They care about you, but only you compared to everyone else.

They could've told us that back in kindergarten. I would've given up right then. Maybe if I do get into a school, I'll become a kindergarten teacher. I could give the kids and their parents an idea of where they're going early on, so it's not so heartbreaking later.

"Your son Billy is adorable and social, but I do have a strong feeling that he is not College Material. He does love that xylophone though. Perhaps he has a future as a drug addled musician? Sincerely, Ms. Marshall."

Or possibly not. I can see that getting a little depressing.

"What are you working on there?" My dad asks. He is making an effort, which is what it's called when a parent tries parenting.

"Applications," I reply.

"Need any help?"

Yes, I've forgotten our address and home telephone number. "No."

"Well I'm here if you do," he says, and proceeds to sit right across from me at the kitchen table, doing something or the other adult-like that involves lots of paper and muttering. I stare at his balding head, willing him to go away because I'm too lazy to move. We both look up when my brother Nick enters, laughing, with a tall black kid. Nick opens the refrigerator and pretends to just notice us.

"Oh, hello!" he chirps (he really does), closing the door after retrieving two sodas. "Daddy-daughter time, how adorable."

I roll my eyes but my dad just says, "Hello. Who are you?" To the kid that isn't his, I assume.

"This is Jay," Nick says, answering for him. He has a huge grin on his face.

"Hey," says Jay. He looks uncomfortable, which is probably because my dad is giving him the over the glasses scrutinizing stare.

"Hello," my dad says again, and his eyes return to his papers. Nick is disappointed.

"We're going to my room," he says as they leave. "Do not bother us."

When he's sure they're out of hearing range my dad clears his throat. "Do you know…uh. Is that kid…?"

"On the basketball team? Yes."

"Are you just saying that because he's black?"

"Dad. No."

He shakes his head, "And anyway, you know what I was asking about."

"Dad, relax. They're just lab partners."

On the application they ask about family. But only the "important" stuff, like the names of your parents, what they do for a living, are they divorced, and all that. I'm almost compelled to add a sheet explaining that they aren't getting the full story on me from that information. It's not really my mom and dad's fault I'm seemingly (or most likely actually, but remember this is about fooling them) unremarkable. It's my brother and sister who are to blame. I'd much rather fill out this section on them.

What about your family and employment history?

Brother's name: Nicholas Marshall

Current employment: My twin brother/ the gay one

Sister's name: Kelly Marshall

Current employment: Older sister/ the one that did drugs and ran away

There are several problems that a family can run into (especially if it's a family from a Lifetime movie). Since our parents didn't get the ball rolling with a divorce or something, Kelly went first and picked Substance Abuse. And not the cute sort of get-stoned-in-your-friend-Becky's-basement type, but the steal-from-the-house-for-drug-money type which is completely uncute.

Kelly, however, was cute. Even as Junkie Kelly. It was like she could switch it on and off sometimes. She even managed to cute her way out of rehab so she wouldn't miss prom.

"It would mean a lot to me and my recovery," she said to mom and dad. Which, I guess meant she would run away three weeks later, because that's what she did. This isn't something that is discussed, maybe because we haven't heard from her in awhile. I like to think this is because her dreams of modeling were finally realized and she's somewhere doing high fashion stuff we wouldn't hear about or know of.

But I can't really believe this, because I am not (completely) stupid.

Nick started out being the dream child. Smart, funny, and all. But then he turned fourteen and announced he was gay (at Kelly's encouragement). Still, this isn't a bad thing, except to our parents and the "moral majority" or whatever. After that, it didn't matter that he had a straight A average or won this and that, which really ended up working in my favor because to them it was like, "So what if she made a C in geometry, at least she's not a lesbian." To me, that sort of shows they probably hate him a little more than Kelly, because she was just a poor vulnerable girl who got caught up in some nasty business, but he's, you know. A sodomite. And also, the last attractive child left, thus destroying their dreams of grandchildren.

Ones they can be proud of, anyway.

Your current employment:

Good question. I'm not the gay one or the junkie, but I'm still the same "this is our other daughter/this is Nick's twin sister" that I was before they were the crack head and the queer. I could say I'm currently employed as the one they can still talk about to acquaintances ("So Dana's still sober and heterosexual!") or the one trapped without a concrete identity and unable to make the climb to self-actualization.

I could probably turn this into a killer "Describe a setback you managed to overcome" essay. But I don't really care that much, so I'll probably just talk about my perfectionism hindering my progress or some other clichéd lie like that.

"I still can't believe you're not applying anywhere out of state," Nick says to me, shaking his head. "I'm going to NYU or Columbia and never ever coming back here or speaking to your parents again."

He's sort of doing an acceptable smart kid version of Kelly's run away to New York thing. At least that's where he thinks she is, and he'd know better than anyone else. He sort of worshipped Kelly. She let him play with her clothes and introduced him to eyeliner. I'm convinced he will become a drag queen because of her. I feel sort of bad I can't be a better girl for him in her absence. But he hangs around a lot of cheerleaders and girls from the step team, so I'm probably not needed anyway.

Nick is still talking. "Are you going to stay in the same state, same city, with the same friends and same boyfriend and—"

"What boyfriend," I laugh.

"What's his face. Seth."

"We broke up like six months ago."

"Oh Jesus, really? How did I not know this? Whatever. He was gay anyway."

"No he wasn't."

Nick smiles. "Yes he was."

"Oh ew, god, why with my boyfriend Nick?"

"Forget him! I think Jay really likes me. And not just because I'm getting him an A in Physics."

Below list three significant activities or honors (you may attach a separate sheet if necessary):

For Nick, the separate sheet is necessary. He is disgustingly well rounded. It's sort of weird, because for someone who hates high school he spends a lot of extra time there. Soccer, National Honor Society, Math Club, Spanish Club. There are more, I'm sure, plus the trillions of awards he's won. He can do stuff other than sit at home and watch television because he's social and smart and people like him.

I only have one extracurricular: the school's literary magazine. The club that people join if they're a few activities short for NHS or to add something to their college applications. They usually only stay long enough for the yearbook picture. Our advisor hates this, but it's probably for the best. We can do the magazine the way we want to without stupid input.

But this isn't enough to get me ahead. Do I really want to be one of those people who join seven activities their senior year so they appear accomplished?

Not really.

"I want to start a club," I tell one of the assistant principals. He nods, leaning forward, hand clasped. That is a power position.

"Well, you'll need to write a proposal, and—,"

"Done! I've got everything. Even found an advisor." I watch him read my proposal, waiting for his head to explode.

"Is this a joke?"

"Why would it be?"

He glares. "Young Communists Association?"

I nod.

"And Mr. Thelen agreed to this?"

"Yeah. I was surprised too, because he's, like, a Libertarian, you know?"

Literary Magazine-4 years, Co-Editor

Young Communists Association- 1 year, Founder.


"You are not even communist," Nick says. And neither is he, but he is the only member of the club besides my friend Lisa and I. This one is not going on his applications.

"Yeah, but the Young Democrats club is full of idiots."

I'll leave the third space blank. This is becoming such a joke to me. But they can't say I didn't try.

Guidance Counselor/ Teacher: The Admissions Committee finds candid evaluations helpful in choosing among highly qualified candidates and therefore asks your help in appraising the applicant. We thank you sincerely for your time and professional judgment.

"It would be quicker if you just wrote a big red NO on a paper and signed it," I tell Mr. Thelen as he reads the recommendation form.

"Why do you think I'd do that?" he laughs. He's already bubbling in and scribbling responses. "If you'd like, I can attach a letter with this form too. Since I already wrote one."

"That is a little creepy," I reply, but I'm smiling.

"True, but you are one of the best students I've ever had. And I knew you'd ask me. And okay, I have a lot of free time."

I feel like if this were a television show the happy, self-esteem affirming moment music would be playing and we'd probably hug. But this is the real world and teachers get arrested for that sort of thing.

He prints out the letter he'd already written and puts it in an envelope with the form from the application, signing over the sealed flap for confidentiality. Then he gives me a copy of what he wrote anyway. Rebel.

"You're going to do really well next year," he says.

Teachers can be so heartbreakingly naïve.

Personal Statement (required)

Take a moment to reflect on one of the following: (a) your most significant achievement, (b) your most meaningful experience, (c) your career goals, or (d) your greatest concern(s). Please describe how the topic you chose will influence how you plan to contribute to the community of our university.

(a) I led my team to victory in a gym class relay race in ninth grade. It was kind of awesome.

(b) The day I got my braces off could be called meaningful. I guess

(c) I'd like to own a CD store and get in arguments with music nerds just for fun.

(d) Right now, coming up with a topic for this essay.

"It is not that complicated," Lisa says. "Make something up. A near death experience."

"I really did have one, you know."

She snorts. "You were buried in the ball pit at freaking Chuck E. Cheese. You weren't going to die."

"It felt like it," I reply.

"Did you know there are more germs in the ball pit at a McDonald's then there are on the seat of a toilet?" Nick informs us.

"Maybe I could write about that as my greatest concern. I could say that I plan to start a task force of college students to go around the city sanitizing restaurant jungle gyms."

"Sadly," Nick says, "that would probably be viewed as a good answer. This is making me want a hamburger." And he leaves to get one, I guess.

"I'm leaving too," Lisa says. "I didn't come over to watch you stress over an essay for a college you don't even want to go to."

That isn't completely true. I'm not against college. Just this process. The competition of it. The money that goes into taking the SATs thousands of times (which isn't true for Nick and I because I couldn't be bothered to do it again, and he did amazingly his first time anyway) application fees and sending transcripts and test scores. And the fact that it's turned into something you have to do, or you're a giant failure.

I'm also really worried about the fact that I'm seriously considering writing the unsanitary ball pit essay. I don't think it could really hurt to just be honest.

"I am seventeen. I don't know that I've had a truly meaningful experience, or a significant accomplishment. I don't know what my career goals are, and I'm too self-absorbed to have any real great concerns, or at least to know what to do about them. That is, I'm afraid, the Unmotivated Teenage Human Condition."

That's a good start. I would leave it at that, but it's supposed to be 250-500 words, and I'm not that much of a revolutionary.

It's Official