Ms. Vail folded her hands together and leaned forward. "Camr—Cam," she said, softening her voice, "it's good to have a reach. I just think you need to keep your options open. Columbia University is extremely competitive. I've gone over your transcript, and I'm worried you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. It's important to have backups."
I wasn't 'only' going to apply to Columbia (my parents had vetoed that idea), but it was the only place I wanted to go. It was part of the plan.
"My grades are good. I got all As last year, my SATs are way above average, and I'm writing a kickass essay." I slapped my hand over my mouth. Could you say kickass to your guidance counselor?
"Your grades are good, but you're not in AP classes," she said, unfazed by my language, "and your SAT scores are impressive, but they'll be comparable to most of the people who apply there. You need something that makes you stand out, and your lack of extracurriculars has me concerned." She glanced back down at my file. "There's nothing here since freshman year. Not one club, team, or activity. Schools look at things like that."
"I have stuff."
She waited for me to continue.
I twisted my charm bracelet around my wrist. "I did volleyball part of my freshman year. And I would have done some clubs, but sophomore year on, I got stuck babysitting my sister after school." My mom used to work from home, but she got a new boss that year who decided everyone needed to come into the office. My sister was too young to be left alone, so I had to watch her until one of my parents got back. "I shouldn't be penalized for that—it's not fair."
Ms. Vail nodded. "You can definitely include babysitting, but what about other activities? Like writing for the school newspaper or the literary magazine, volunteering to plant trees on the weekends, being an office worker during your study halls, signing up for the cleanup committee for the school dances? There are plenty of options that don't involve staying after the last bell."
I hadn't even thought of those things. My heartbeat quickened. I was busy all the time; there had to be stuff that would qualify as an extracurricular. "I'm at almost every nighttime soccer game," I said, letting the words tumble out, "and a ton of the volleyball ones. And now that my sister is older, and I don't need to be home, I'll be going to the afternoon games, too. I even have one today. I'm like their number one cheerleader."
"But you're not a cheerleader, you're a spectator, and that doesn't make for a compelling application."
I didn't need to be on the cheerleading team to show I had school spirit— anyone who saw me at the games knew that—but Ms. Vail clearly disagreed.
"Okay then, how about this. I, um, helped at the soccer team's car wash. I manned a booth at my synagogue's Purim carnival. I..." I couldn't think of anything else. Unless hanging out with your best friends and your boyfriend a ridiculous amount counted for something.
"Oh," I said, clapping my hands together, "the yearbook!"
"You were on yearbook?" she asked, flipping through the pages of her CAMRYN ROTH file.
"Not technically, but last year they told people to send in their photos, and I'm always taking pictures, so I submitted a bunch. They used a few, and they would have taken more, if there had been seniors in them instead of my group of friends. But I can still write down yearbook photographer, right?"