College Applications Cause Stress


All the work we do in high school leads up to one moment: receiving an acceptance letter from our top college. However, the actual application process has proven to be an elaborate, time-consuming and anxiety-ridden process for high school seniors.

From the beginning of junior year, most students have inquired and started thinking about potential colleges. What juniors unfortunately do not know is that college tours and visits are only a small part of the process; the transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, teacher recommendations and essay portions are what really count, yet we do not have someone to personally walk us through each and every step.

I advise juniors to get a head-start in the application process.

As senior Betsy Gorman said, “It can be really stressful because this is the first and only time we’ve ever done it. We’re not entirely sure of what to do, and if we mess up, we face the risk of not getting into the school we want to.”

I myself was not aware of how intense and highly stressful it would be. I studied for the SAT my entire junior year, took it in June and hoped for the best. The catch? College Board has a deal: students signed up for the test receive the opportunity to send their scores to four colleges for free, but the students must decide whether or not to take advantage of this opportunity before the test starts and before they know their score. It is a risk every student can take, and one which I mistakenly did.

I sent my scores to my four top choices, which as a junior, I was still unsure about. My scores were automatically sent to those colleges, even though I was not satisfied with them. I have now taken my SAT for a second time and ACT for the first time, but colleges with priority deadlines of Nov. 1 may not have received them by that date, even though my scores have improved. This knowledge alone has caused me extreme stress, even though it is not my fault that the scores are received late.

We juggle course loads full of IB and AP classes, extracurriculars, jobs, social lives, sports practices and games, and now college applications. “Sleep is for the weak,” we tell ourselves.

But the seniors at RHS are not the only ones to overextend themselves this year. The Common Application, an undergraduate application for over 400 colleges, has troubled prospective students with many technological problems.

By upgrading its software, the Common App hoped to ease the process. However, glitches have left seniors pacing in front of their computers, burdened with unnecessary anxiety.

In the midst of computers crashing and college essays being written last minute, RHS students must also deal with finalizing their grades, as the last day of the quarter was Nov. 1, which was coincidentally the exact same date for many college’s early action deadlines.

For seniors who are proactive about college applications and plan on being considered a priority applicant, the combined stress of applications and raising borderline grades have kept students up all night. Which one I should put first–my grades or my college applications?

Another question I frequently find myself asking is whether I should really spend five hours a night on school work. As I rack up extracurriculars, I cannot help but think that my efforts are not good enough.

Better grades, higher scores, more varsity letters, more extracurriculars. Have students been bulking up an application that does not reflect who they are, but instead just represents what a college wants from them? We hear the phrase “Oh, it will look good on a college application” so much in high school that people end up participating in activities for the sole purpose of making themselves look good to colleges. More and more stress is being put on having an impressive resume, and it is taking students away from what they are truly interested in.