Stress over applications prompts re-evaluation of college discussions


Illustration by Chaeyeon Park

Mia Merchant, co-opinions editor

“How are your college apps coming?” “Make sure you get your transcript requests in!” “What did you write your common app essay on?” “Are you applying Early Decision?” “What’s your top college?” “Don’t forget to send your test scores!”

As a senior, hearing these phrases only makes my heart beat faster and my brain bombard me with dates, deadlines, and all the things I haven’t done but should have done by now. This, I’m sure, is a common experience for all seniors. The best part is knowing that the standardized testing I’ve done is nothing more than a dot on a scatterplot, and the personal statement essay I started in August will end up in the discard pile for many colleges.

Everyone acknowledges that the application process sucks. Like, a lot. It’s draining, time-consuming, anxiety-inducing and frankly, boring. How is it that, at the beginning of high school, I was so excited to start my college search and carve a path to my future, and now, nearing the end, I’m just so tired of everything? I thought this process was supposed to be enlightening and I would get to discover colleges that captivate me in their challenging academics and enriching extracurriculars. Though with all of the essays I’ve had to write and testing I’ve had to endure, it seems I haven’t been able to do that to the extent I would have liked.

Could this stress be caused by all the parts of the process that I always feel like I’m forgetting about? Or the countless essays that, though every one of us has to pour so much time and effort and energy into, will mean nothing to us in just a few months? See, I’m already making a mental to-do list as I write this. Maybe it’s the pressures that have built up over time, from friends, family, teachers, counselors, and our society’s emphasis on college that starts long before we enter senior year.

Talking about it doesn’t help; being bombarded with reminders of the ever-looming and uncertain future all the time is overwhelming. What makes matters worse is that everyone around you can’t shut up about it. When you run into your teacher whom you haven’t seen since last year, the first thing they do is ask you about college applications; five minutes into a family dinner and you are assaulted by questions about which colleges you like and what your personal essay topic is.

We’re overdoing it, y’all. We put so much emphasis on the process of going through college applications and working so hard through standardized tests, grades, and essays that we lose sight of everything else that’s important. What about all the other things I do, all the memories I get to make with my friends this year, everything else that actually does make me hopeful for the future? Does all that just go out the window when application season starts? I, for one, would like to think I do more than just sit at home writing college essays. If I did, I would have been done by now.

Maybe if we spent less time talking about the application process itself, we would all be a lot less stressed. Maybe if we spent more time talking about the things that actually matter, like what we want to use our education for, the opportunities we have and how we’ll use them, and what kind of impact we want to make on our society, we would be able to understand and appreciate how bright our futures really are. Or maybe if had less pressure put on us to do well in all sorts of areas (like standardized testing) that are never truly going to matter later on, we’d have more time to reflect on what each of us really wants. If this process is the road to college, and college is just an avenue to the future, maybe we should spend more time talking about the real reasons we’re putting ourselves through it.