Vanya is a member of the IMSA Class of 2021, and she is excited to start IMSA. From the days when she was a little girl, Vanya has dreamed of attending the prestigious Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. When she got her acceptance letter, she jumped with joy and immediately went to her room to change into her IMSA t-shirt.
Her mother cried.
Now, Vanya begins her first day of classes in that same IMSA t-shirt, her IMSA lanyard hung around her neck and proudly displaying her ID, fob, and keys. The teachers—professors—are engaging, funny, and altogether amazing. At lunch, she manhandles a tray through the cafeteria, then sits at a table with a cluster of sophomores. One of them she recognizes from her old school, but she doesn’t like him very much, so she ignores him. After all, IMSA is a fresh, new beginning.
At ten-check, Vanya’s senior wingmate, Sam, asks how her first day was. Vanya says it was amazing because it was.
Sam pauses for a moment, looking strangely puzzled.
Then she throws back her head and laughs.
Dylan is a member of the IMSA Class of 2020, and the hellfire is already burning around him. After joining SCS just so he could have early move-in, Dylan spent a fun few days catching up with friends and relishing the last precious moments of his freedom.
On the first day of school, an agonizing hour with his least favorite math teacher ends with an additional hour of homework due the next day. Dylan’s LE III teacher gives them their annual diagnostic essay assignment, and after a hurried hour producing the worst work he’s ever written, Dylan has two days to revise.
Why did I take Mod Phys? Dylan thinks, despairingly.
“Why did you take Mod Phys?” his friend says to him that evening while Dylan puzzles over a confusing math problem. Dylan’s starting his homework before ten-check this year. That is his very firm resolution that will definitely last for more than a week.
“I think I thought it would be rewarding.”
Dylan’s friend breaks into hysterics and cannot stop laughing for 15 minutes.
Dylan’s not sure he’s going to make it.
Sam is a member of the IMSA Class of 2019, and she is going to get into college. She is going to write the best Common App essay that anyone has ever seen. Her admissions officer at MIT is going to break into tears after reading her story of friendship and hardship and everything that makes her who she is.
Her admissions officer is going to slam her essay down onto the table and choke out between sobs, “Accepted!”
Her best subject never was English.
“Is that a college essay?” Sam’s friend Riley asks over her shoulder.
Sam pouts. “I couldn’t get any motivation to do my actual homework.”
“I couldn’t get any motivation to do anything,” Riley says, “So this is impressive enough.”
Sam looks at her watch. It’s 9 PM. “Aren’t you supposed to be meeting with some club board right about now?”
Riley looks guilty, their face pulling into a frown. “They’ll be fine without me.”
“Are you SSSing already?” Sam asks, rolling her eyes.
Isaiah is a member of the IMSA Class of 2018 and that doesn’t matter anymore. At his semi-prestigious college somewhere on either the West or East Coast, absolutely nobody has heard of IMSA. And absolutely nobody cares.
He gets three reactions from telling people he went to a boarding school:
“So what, your family is super rich or something?”
“Did you have behavioral problems? Do you still have behavioral problems?”
“Okay. That’s pretty cool, I guess.”
All in all, the third reaction is Isaiah’s favorite one, but it’s still… disappointing.
After three years at IMSA, after three years of problem sets and ten-check and one agonizing SIR, it feels wrong that nobody cares.
After everything, Isaiah misses IMSA. He’d never have thought that would be possible, but it is. He misses problem sets and ten-check and he even misses that one agonizing SIR.
“I did research on reducing the side effects and increasing the strength of medication,” Isaiah says to his roommate, when his roommate mentions that he created an app to help people know when they’re too tired to drive.
“Okay,” his roommate says. “Want to go to the animal rights organization’s first meeting?”
Isaiah thinks for a long moment. “Sure.”
After all, he always did like dogs.