Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

Music helps us get through, identify, and celebrate significant moments in our lives.  I realized when watching the music video to Sonic Youth’s Drunken Butterfly (featured in this article) that I can portray through music one of the most ambitious challenges high schoolers take on: the college admissions process.  These are songs to relate to, sentiments, and moments to share.  Enjoy.


The Search

This old-school Bey anthem is what I imagined Deans of Admission of institutions of higher learning strutting their stuff to as students desperately embark on their college admissions journeys.  With each Fiske’s Guide picked up, College Prowler “Yes”, and College Confidential post made, their confidence soars as their admissions rates plummet.

I realized that we, the students, the proletariat of college admissions, need to reconstitute this song as our own battle cry.  Sure, colleges reject quite a few entirely-qualified applicants yearly.  But we cannot forget that the colleges are vying for the applicants’ attention.

Every seemingly taunting email or print ad is actually the institution begging that you choose their place of learning over hundreds of nearly identical centers for education.  They aren’t just looking out to keep their admission rates low, they want high matriculation rates.  That means, after all is said and done, YOU are the one with the power.  YOU are the final say in who is getting rejected – by where you choose to apply, and where you ultimately choose to attend.

Building a Resume

I’ve referenced Violent Femmes in the past, but that’s simply because they are so gosh-darn relatable.  It’s a difficult task to find a teenage emotion that the Violent Femmes have not covered.  There is a variety of perspectives on curating one’s application, and I’m not here to make judgment on that.  I’m saying that every college-bound student has, at one point or another, been purely motivated by college admissions.

Whether it was the blind fear that enabled you to cram an extra 63 vocabulary words in the night before your SAT, the steadfast dedication needed to hone an application essay, or the strength to literally climb a mountain, it’s likely that you’ve been inspired to accomplish some grand feat in the name of your college application.  Even more likely is the question “What do I have to do for you to accept me?” to have crossed your mind.  When it does, take a deep breath and listen to some Violent Femmes.  They understand.  We all do.

‘Tis the Season

Initial Burnout

By the time you’ve begun the actual application part of the admissions process, you may already feel burned out by the workload you’ve submitted yourself to.  I personally hit my breaking point on the fifth round of edits on my third original draft of my Common App essay.  Maintaining traditional productivity levels during this time is dependent upon your ability to prioritize and conserve your energy for moments of true need.

Say Hi To Your Mom is the ideal music for slogging through this rut.  It’s interesting enough to keep you alert and invested, but low-key enough to not distract you from the seemingly insurmountable task at hand.  With hypnotizing bass riffs and drum beats, toned-down vocals, and occasionally punchy, reviving guitar, this band single-handedly got me through my supplement frenzy.

Rock Bottom

If you felt burned out a few weeks ago, just wait until the week when finals and your first college application deadlines coincide.  Or, winter break when you’re forgoing Christmas with your family to cram in the final edits to your supplements.  The moment when nothing can empathize or reflect your current mental state but grunged-out Muppets flailing around to Sonic Youth is the moment you know you’ve hit Application Season Rock Bottom.

The only prescription for this affliction is to power through the pain with help from punk all-stars (a la Dead Kennedys or Sonic Youth), the aggressive guitar and even more aggressive lyrics enabling you to pull from your deepest reserves of angst and frustration and make it through to January 2nd.

The Finish Line

When you’ve earned your final green check from Common App, this is the song to party to.  Not only does the reedy and energetic chorus incite frenzied dancing, but the themes it deals with are very similar to those felt by someone completing an endeavor to which he or she has dedicated the better part of teenage-dom.  “You’re there through my wasted years, through all of my lonely fears…”   The song is named Despair and should be fittingly dull and empty, but instead comes out as indisputably triumphant. “We’re all on the edge, there’s nothing to fear/Nothing to fear inside/Through the darkness and the light/Some sun has got to rise”

We did it.  We need to take a moment to rejoice together and share the brilliant sunrise welcoming us into adulthood.  No matter where you are or how long ago this was written, if you are reading these words and have completed college applications, let yourself (even if just for a moment) feel unadulterated pride for making it so far.  Congratulations.


The Waiting Game

Yet, the process is not over.  It’s out of our hands, but as we scramble to complete our financial aid forms and not lose all motivation as second-semester seniors, adults in cramped rooms across the world are deciding our collegiate futures.

Que Sera Sera is a phrase often used by those playing “The Waiting Game,” coming out of Doris Day’s retro hit.  Whatever will be, will be.  To accompany this age-old adage, I will provide a quote from the ever-wise Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks): “I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”

Decisions, Decisions


Cry.  Dance.  Scream.  Sing along to Freddy Mercury.  Whatever you want, bro – you earned it.


Chosen as it is arguably the most emo song in existence (sorry, Dashboard Confessional), this ballad is tailor-made for those who might be feeling as though they have wasted their lives trying to achieve the impossible or as if their best wasn’t good enough.  Though it’s unlikely that you’ve erred on the barbiturate-addiction level of Johnny Cash, right now is not a time for perspective.  This is a time to wallow.

If you are so distraught that not even the music video above can touch you, you might want to venture over to the Nine Inch Nails original.  And, though this is probably the last thing you want to read right now: Everything is going to be alright.  This is not the end of the world. You are more than your college application.


Wherever you or I eventually attend, it’s up to us to make it our new home and launch pad for our futures.  Let the pure pop energy of Madonna help guide us through this new adventure.  Our adult lives are just starting, and if we attack with the same vivacity and dedication we’ve demonstrated these past years, we’re going to be just fine.

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