In the United States (there’s virtually no need to consider the implications in other “developed” countries given the irrelevance of their universities and populations on the world stage), the college application process can be daunting. The stresses of A) maintaining good grades, B) achieving ACT/SAT scores beyond one’s actual ability, C) sitting through eight hours of class daily, D) constructing a myriad of hollow essays and pothead self-reflections, and E) appeasing the Spanish teacher who feels her ever-rich heritage and cultural identity are far superior to that of the United States, to which she fled to escape oppression, religious persecution, rampantly high unemployment coupled with bouts of hyperinflation, a crumbling infrastructure, and a healthcare/education system likely modeled on that of 19th century Estados Unidos (or 21st century Cleveland), can take their toll on any bright-eyed, bushy-tailed student. High school students are encouraged to apply to a handful of universities, including both safety and reach schools, and often the safety schools offer the most simple application process with the quickest turnaround time. You draft countless essays, highlighting your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, passion for learning, need to leave a lasting impact on the world, volunteer experience, and various activities that highlight your openness to new ideas, cultures, and people. You’re special and unique: of the 3.4 million students who graduated high school in 2014, no one shares your thirst for knowledge, passion for self-improvement, need for goal establishment and achievement, love for extracurricular volunteering, and desire to lead on-campus organizations. You’re a unique butterfly like none other.
One of the most salient points in this process is the day when the student opens his or her first acceptance letter. Hurray! Splendid! You’ve been accepted to the University of Kansas. And not only that, the admissions office has seen fit to print your acceptance letter on twenty pound paper…with an embedded watermark! The rush of relief that you’ve been accepted into the realm of higher education is overwhelming, often inciting tears of joy. Taste the happy, Michael! At this point, you could kiss that Jayhawk on the bill and even consider taking its opposable talon into your mouth with reckless abandon.
The Tinder account creation and cooter application process is no different. The stresses are real. The time commitment is tangible and not without ample anxious self-doubt. You carefully comb through hundreds, perhaps thousands of photos on Facebook, seeking the six that capture that special sauce that you likely never had in the first place. You spend countless moments contemplating your About Me section (and perhaps you contemplate your gender unless you’re a shit-eating cisgender NARP, in which case you need to immediately and profoundly check your privilege). In the About Me section, you have fewer than 500 characters to frame and present yourself to the rest of the world. How do you capture who you are as a person, the adversity you’ve overcome, and your innermost passions and dreams in such short form? How do you convince the admissions officer, the Keeper of the Trim, that your resume is best suited for their needs? The answer is simple: you lace up your va-jay, select your finest six photos, and put pen to paper. If you don’t put down the ink, you won’t pick up the stink. Similar to college applications, you highlight your work experience, your age (and perhaps your height), your athletic credentials, hobbies and activities, and never forget volunteer experience and activities that highlight your openness to new ideas, cultures, and people. You’re special and unique: of the 21.7 million men ranging in age from 20 to 29, no one shares your thirst for craft beer, passion/zest for life, need for goal establishment and achievement, love of volunteering with inner-city youth, and desire to lead a startup to the next Apple. You’re a unique butterfly like none other.
You finished your account, congratulations! Now you take this online, throw on the discovery, add some witty remarks about punctuation (oxford comma or your vs. you’re), a “anything else just ask” post script. Baby, you’ve got a stew going! Your account is live and the world is your oyster (or clam if you’re seeking something more casual). You sign in and begin to violently swipe right as hard and as fast as possible. The images are a blur. Like college applications, you know this is a numbers game and the only way you’re getting some trim is through a careful and focused approach of accepting anything that walks, waddles, or wobbles through camp. There’s no time to cull the heard; time and thumb strength are of the essence. Like college applications, you get to look around, take a tour, and kick the tires before committing interest. Unlike college applications, specifically college tours, it’s difficult to walk around and get an inside look before committing interest.
Again, and similar to the college application process, one of the most significant points in the Tinder courtship is the point when you receive your first match. Bravo! Fabulous! You’ve been accepted. The rush of relief that you’ve sought and received affirmation for your hard work is exhilarating. At first glance, your first match is beautiful: she has six photos, all of them face shots from an angle no less than 45 degrees above the horizontal plane, and her About Me section claims she detests vegetarians and can easily out-drink you. You’re all a titter with anticipatory excitement.
Just like your initial enthusiasm upon acceptance into the University of Kansas (perhaps your lone safety school among four to five other applications), your first Tinder match is a blessing. A sign of relief to end what was a lengthy application process. You are at ease with this implicit message of acceptance and affirmation. Alas, beneath the bubbly delight, something fearsome and troubling is brewing. You look down at that acceptance letter and the creases of your eyes contract. You start examining her second photo, and her third, and her fourth. A muted, nervous mutter escapes your tightening lips as this once omnipresent relief slowly and unexpectedly morphs into something much more sinister. The transition is slow but undeniable – your aura of relief gradually morphs into self-doubt. Then a deeper stage of moral self-questioning. Then the final stage marked by relentless self-loathing. Somewhere along the way, you did apply to the University of Kansas. Somewhere along the way, your thumb swept right with the force of 10,000 suns at this photo of what it now your only match. Confused and without purpose, any lasting remnants of pride are replaced with incredulous anger at your college counselor, at your thumb, at yourself. The disappointment is deafening.
The numbers don’t add up. What were you thinking? Why the fuck did you apply to a school where the average ACT falls somewhere below the average 400-level class size? Why the fuck did you right-swipe a face competing with New York’s Fung Wah bus line for number of chins? Early bursts of positive self-attribution are replaced with pangs (insert Fung Wah joke here) of aggravated self-awareness. You, like the Jayhawk, start feeling blue as you realize that in four years, you’ll be sitting in Kansas’ career office with one thumb in your mouth and the other buried in your anus. The trip from the school cafeteria, to the career office, and back to the cafeteria, albeit in a more professional white uniform, will be quick but not painless. The threat of your Tinder date telling you she doesn’t go down unless you do will be jarring and unpleasant. You did this to yourself. Quickly, you unsubscribe to all future emails and unmatch this beast of burden. You cut off all communication and hope the problem will go away in time. The only thing left to do is sit by the mailbox, pull your thumb out of your anus, and start aggressively swiping like the weight of the world is resting on you, because it nearly was.
College applications, like finding true love vis a vis reckless right swiping, is a numbers game. Often times your first option isn’t your best, and it’s important to remember that good things come to those who wait. You are the keeper of your own college and Tinder destiny; uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.