Every year, a new batch of high school seniors gears up to reveal their personalities to strangers through a series of complicated forms and restricted essays. These forms and essays — and rarely a brief interview — will serve as the only way this group of strangers will be able to evaluate the student and essentially determine what will happen to them in their first four years of adulthood.
Sound terrible? That’s because it is. Throughout the four years of high school, students are constantly being reminded to shape a “well-rounded” lifestyle: better-than-average grades; high SAT or ACT scores; consistent involvement in sports, clubs, arts, and community service; and development of unique “passions” — whether it be in an academic subject, extracurricular activity, or hobby — that would set them apart from other highly competitive applicants.
“A lot of the stuff I do follows this: 80 percent to 95 percent because I like doing it, and 5 percent to 20 percent because it looks good on college applications,” said senior Millan Chaudhary, who is applying to 12 colleges this fall.
On top of all of those activities, students are expected to manage a healthy diet, sleep schedule, exercise routine, and make time to spend with friends and family.
“It hasn’t been easy to balance a schedule. Often times, I’ll miss out on family and friend opportunities because I will have homework. Also, in playing sports, I used to have to stay up until two in the morning to finish my homework,” said senior Emily Mandy, who is applying to eight colleges this fall.
The college application process forces high schoolers who have worked diligently to maintain a perfectly balanced life to work even harder by writing insightful reflections of their lives thus far and their goals for the future.
“College applications are super stressful. There are so many different deadlines to keep track of and random details that could make or break an application,” said senior Hannah Stein, who is applying to 11 colleges this fall.
Even after going through that immense amount of work, students won’t necessarily be rewarded for their efforts. According to US News, over the past few decades, the number of students applying to multiple colleges has driven acceptance rates lower than ever before. From 1988 to 2014, Columbia University’s acceptance rate plunged from 65 percent to less than 7 percent, University of Michigan dropped from 52 percent to 33 percent, and University of Alabama went from 77 percent to 56 percent. While it is certainly good that more students are being encouraged to apply for college and seeking out higher education beyond high school, this creates a dynamic in which even the most qualified students are oftentimes not accepted into selective schools.
No matter how immense the stress that often comes with filling out college applications is, however, the ultimate reward of getting accepted into schools and setting off on the next adventure is well worth it. You can do it, seniors!