David Altshuler, M.S.
(305) 978-8917 | [email protected]

Death And

One of my running buddies describes how a family member prepares a return: six sharpened pencils, a speed dial connection to the IRS help line, spreadsheet software open on two computers, and a bottle of antacid. Robin puts in several hours a day over the course of weeks. Every dollar is accounted for. Every employee spoken to is screamed at in the same outraged and offended way. Robin feels strongly about the limitations of the government software and is not the least bit shy about communicating said opinions.

Ultimately, Robin’s completed taxes are a thing of beauty, a work of art, a jubilant exhortation to the victorious human spirit down to the third decimal place. Robin’s return is aesthetically immaculate and correct in every particular. Robin’s returns are amazing; Robin has never been audited.

Whereas my feeling about doing taxes is that the taxes need to be done. Getting the taxes done right would be a bonus, to be sure. I am all about schools, roads, hospitals, infrastructure—whatever that is—and whatever else my tax money is supposed to effect. But I would rather pay a little extra and go on with my life. Can’t find the receipt for that $37 lunch I took that potential client to? Oh, well. Because the half of $37 that is deductible times my tax bracket is about six bucks and I’m already nauseated thinking about the whole process and if I can’t find something productive to do in the next several minutes to earn six dollars then at least I can go have a little lie down and focus on puppies, unicorns, and rainbows because I can’t spend any more of my life thinking about six dollars without having an existential crisis. Whoever said, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, had never met my 1040. The opportunity cost—what else could I be doing rather than making this tax return excruciatingly accurate?—is my interest. I don’t have four months to listen to musak while waiting to be connected to the person I want to yell at to make the software compatible so that the font sizes fit. I’d rather earn six dollars by digging a ditch. With my elbows.

Similarly, there are a couple ways to go about applying to college. A popular method involves consideration of whether Helvetica or Times New Roman is the preferred type face for applications to highly selective colleges east of the Mississippi with strong pre-med programs, winning lacrosse teams, and low admit ratios in even numbered years when the moon is in Asparagus. This is a strong applicant to whom we certainly would have offered admission except we’re not into Calibri this cycle. Words no admissions person every spoke.

A more relaxed approach, and one I have been recommending to clients for some decades now, involves spending no more than a couple hours on any application. The point being:

  • Putting in more time on filling in the forms doesn’t increase the likelihood of your getting a positive decision.

And more importantly

  • Look what you can do with all the time and anxiety not directed toward obsessing over that which will make absolutely no difference whatsoever in the ultimate disposition of your application. Never mind that “perfect is the enemy of good.” Consider the opportunity cost. What could you have been doing rather than obsessing over what order to list your extra-curricular activities in? Have you reread A Series of Unfortunate Events lately? If Lemony Snicket, Norton Juster, and Judy Blume are too middle school for you then by all means get a jump on what will be assigned in first-year composition or literature classes. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is available. There’s a reason 1984 has sold a hundred million copies. Do you want to be the only person in your first year composition class who hasn’t already read 100 Years of Solitude, Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Grapes of Wrath, and Frankenstein? I didn’t think so.
  • In short, stop trying to outthink the common application and read a damn book. I hear books remain popular in college. You might want to read some before you get there.

Alternatively of course you could give the good folks at CommonApp a call and yell at them about the limited number of typefaces available.



One thought on “Death And

  1. Martin

    I love that you included 100 Years of Solitude as well as Grapes of Wrath and 1984. Cien Años is one of my favorite books of all time. And probably never assigned in high school for good reason. It takes at least some experience following politics and knowing a bit of history to “get it” – like War and Peace… Being able to throw in a quote or incident from it in a freshman composition class would get the attention of the Instructor. Much more so than having your application essay in Helvetica would an Admissions committee.

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