My dearest Tufts University recently released its Class of 2018 Supplement to the Common Application questions, including this optional one that has been getting a lot of press:
The ancient Romans started it when they coined the phrase “Carpe diem.” Jonathan Larson proclaimed “No day but today!” and most recently, Drake explained You Only Live Once (YOLO). Have you ever seized the day? Lived like there was no tomorrow? Or perhaps you plan to shout YOLO while jumping into something in the future. What does #YOLO mean to you?
When I say a lot of press, I mean it. The questions only came out yesterday, and already Huffington Post, ABCNews, Boston Magazine, and Gawker have things to say. And my Tufts friends on facebook are having a field day – debating relentlessly, in true Tufts style. Just search it on twitter.
What I don’t understand is why it matters. Tufts has always had bizarre essay questions; my year we were given the option of submitting a piece of paper. 8.5 x 11. I’m pretty sure those were the only rules. I seriously considered revealing my true smart-ass personality and sending in a blank sheet, accompanied by a CD with only Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield on it. After all, I don’t know what I’m planning to do with my life (even now, after two years of college, I’m no closer to a decision). NPR did a story about Tufts’ “Quirky Essays” in 2007, and the New York Times discussed our “Words of Wisdom” the same year. We started accepting YouTube videos as essays in 2010.
Instead of freaking out about the fact that we got called a “clown school” by some “nobody on Gawker,” can we remind her that we embrace our Jumbo heritage? After all, I don’t know of any other school that knows the history of their mascot so well. Nor do they have ashes in a peanut butter jar.
Or maybe we, as current Tufts students and Tufts alumni, can embrace #YOLO for ourselves. If we don’t think #YOLO should be about crazy stunts we pull, why don’t we show what it really means to make the most out of our lives. Why don’t we give the students soon to be applying to Tufts brilliant, fabulous, and yes, quirky, ideas about what they can do with their lives. Better yet, let’s take ideas from them.
What about Malala Yousafzai? Today has been declared Malala Day, after all. Let’s celebrate the fact that she survived getting shot through the head and that she is using her new fame to fight for education worldwide. I know I have a lot to learn from the 16 year old girl who spoke in front of the United Nations today.
What about Trayvon Martin? Can we celebrate his life, or are we destined to be forever stuck on how he died? Why can’t we all learn from the Rev. Alan Brumback, who is leading his Floridian mixed-race congregation in prayer this weekend? They are not praying that George Zimmerman is let free, nor are they praying that he is sent to jail. Instead, they are praying for peace following the verdict, whatever that verdict will be. Because at some point, it is necessary to move on from the allegations that Trayvon was shot for being black and the rebukes that he was shot only after turning violent. We must accept and mourn his tragic death, and then we must never let it happen again.
What about Claire C., and Stacey B., both current Tufts students? I’m celebrating them, because they and many of my friends depart the US for Santiago, Chile today to spend the semester studying with Tufts in Chile. They are embracing the fact that they have one life to live and that the world is a very large place. We cannot live a full life if we spend it in one place; not if that place is our own head, and especially not if that one place is the internet.
So I’m going to accept the internet, and embrace the Tufts Admissions Office’s decision to continue to make the Tufts application an enjoyable, if stressful, experience. But then I’m going to get up and be a part of the world around me, in whatever way I feel is most appropriate. Because, after all, I only have one life to live. #YOLO.