Early Decision

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I've wanted to go to Duke since I was eight years old, and as part of the competitive college track, since day one of high school there were some rules of thumb that were drilled into my head.

- There are three types of schools: reaches, matches, and safeties.

- Take at least three AP classes by graduation.

- Harvard's acceptance rate is 6 percent, Stanford is 7 percent.

- A "C" in a class can close some doors.


I followed these rules like core tenets to a religion, and three months ago, I was accepted early decision to Duke. My two best friends stared over my shoulder when I got the acceptance email. After a moment of hush, we screamed at the good news. Soon however, I was hit by similarities to another set of rules that I memorized several years ago.

- There are 3,500 calories in a pound.

- It's healthiest to eat five small meals a day.

- And don't try to lose more than two pounds a week.

When I was 15 I had an eating disorder. What started as a summer goal of staying "fit" quickly turned into an obsession. I became hyper-aware of how thin celebrities were and looked up calorie counts for every single thing I ate.

When my parents found out about my "problem," I began going to a support group. For two hours every Thursday, we weren't allowed to talk about stats like calorie-counts, miles on the treadmill, or weight goals because doing so made us feel inadequate and worthless. This environment, where competing and comparing were forbidden, gave me perspective and helped me overcome my struggle with body image.

Competition and comparison are the bread and butter for high school students scrapping for admissions into "good schools." I wish I could have told myself to just relax and not be so hard on myself. I owe it to my younger friends to tell them what I've learned.

There are a lot of things in high school that lead to insecurity, but one way to not let self-doubt follow you all the way to college is to keep it out of the application process altogether.

With a Perspective, I'm Maddy Roberts.

Maddy Roberts is 17 years old and lives in Berkeley.