Senior reflects and sheds light on college application process

Emily Um, Staff Writer

Bombarded with new classes, college rep visits, standardized testing, college essays, and the Common App, seniors have found their final fall stressful, to say the least. The madness started during junior year, perhaps even before that. I began junior year excited by the prospect of college–imagining myself in a new city, surrounded by new people, and learning new subjects. Going to information session and college tours during school breaks and long weekends, I would eagerly post a Snapchat with the geotag filter of whatever town I happened to be in and Instagram a scenic photo to add to my feed. While I upheld in my mind this glorified, idealized version of what life would be like during the four collegiate years of my life, I often forgot the elements involved in actually applying and being accepted into an institution, brushing them off and dismissing them as something that I would breeze through once the time came. These complicated components quickly smacked me in the face this past summer, however. Realizing that I should probably get started on my Common App essay, I sat dumbfounded at my desk, in front of my laptop, with a blank Word document staring back at me for several days (not consecutively) during a hot, sweaty August. I conjured up a few topics for my essay, some of which had serious potential, others of which were alright, and some that were just downright awful. Miraculously, I wrote a complete draft, then decided that I hated it, and wrote an entirely new essay. And in some ways, this mirrors the entire college application process. It is full of edits and do-overs: you study, study, study for the SAT or ACT, take the test, get your scores back, decide that you are unhappy with your scores, study some more, and take the test again; you find out that the school you’re applying to has supplemental essays, write those supplements, rewrite, edit, and polish. It is a seemingly never-ending, vicious cycle.

Having sent in my first college application a few weekends ago, I felt so relieved after working on that single application for what seemed like an eternity and thought for a blissful moment that I had broken free of the cycle. However, that ephemeral (see, I did learn some vocabulary from taking the SAT) sense of relief lasted only about an afternoon, after realizing that I would now have to finish filling out applications for the next several schools that were on my list. I am trapped until January, when I send in all of my applications. From then to April, it is a long, torturous, four months of waiting season. Perhaps the cycle will not actually end until I get accepted somewhere and pick the school where I will be spending my next four years.

Oftentimes, everyone gets, understandably, caught up in the intensity of college admissions. You have to get a 2400 on your SAT (and 800s on all of your subject tests), take as many honors and AP courses that you can (and achieve perfect A+ grades in all of them), write a brilliant essay (worthy of being published, of course) and sign up for every possible “impressive” extracurricular activity (make sure you look out for “leadership opportunities”) in order to ensure your spot at a top- notch university. But lately in the increasingly competitive atmosphere of college admissions, even these will not do. With all the pressure put on us, it is hard to remember that we are merely 16/17/18-year olds, not super-humans.

Though the entire process is rough, demanding, and unpleasant, it is unfortunately a necessary evil. After working for months on end, perfecting every detail and aspect of your application, once you press the submit button, it’s no longer in your hands, but rather in the hands of admissions officers. In the end, I think that you just have to trust that you did your absolute best and that everything will work out, and not obsess about it too much beyond that point. After all, do you really want to look back on your four years of high school and realize that the only things that you remember from it are studying for your SATs or stressing out 24/7 about whether or not you will get into the school of your dreams?