The Stress Behind College Applications

Steven Moore, Assistant Editor

As a senior, the pressure, stress and excitement of a final year of high school runs high. Many view it as an “onto the next chapter” type situation, while others will be more emotional and see it as the end of their childhood. Regardless, the next step is ahead; some serious thinking needs to be done. According to the National Center for Educational stats, 66 percent of high school graduates further their education in college. Whether that is a two year school or a four year university, the next level of education is a big thing to grasp for 18 year olds. There are many important decisions that need to be made about where you want to attend, where you can attend and so on. Once you make those baseline choices, it is time to start applying to those schools. However, this sounds much simpler than it is. Filling out college applications can bring an abundance of stress and pressure on top of all the excessive stress an average senior will feel as a student in high school. 

There are many qualities that a college application presents that may be stressful. Rising tuition fees, falling application acceptance rate, and feeling unsure about your decisions are just a couple of examples of potential stressors. In some students’ eyes, the prestige of a certain college can play a part in their decision about where they want to attend school. According to a Live Career survey, 31 percent of students believe in the idea of prestige. This is roughly a third of the senior population attending college, which is quite a large percentage. Although this is a looming factor in a decision for some, all colleges have their own strengths and their own weaknesses, regardless of the school. It is important to do research before making the decision to apply anywhere, especially research directed towards the field of study that you are interested in for the upcoming year. 

It is understandable and natural to feel pressure throughout this process as well. Senior Cassius Sadari says, “I do feel pressure from both my friends and parents because I do not feel as comfortable with the process as a lot of my friends seem.” Although Sadari may feel like this, he is not alone. Every student begins and ends this process all at different times. It is important to stay on track and complete your college applications at a pace that is comfortable for you, while still falling within the school’s deadlines. 

Furthermore, there are many ways to cope with the overwhelming amount of emotions that a student will feel. Going outside and exercising is one that has helped me through the process. This allows me to get a lot of energy out while getting college applications off my mind for a brief period of time. The organization, Hillside Atlanta, suggests that creating realistic expectations and discouraging comparisons to others plays a major part in completing your applications. Many teens tend to compare themselves to others, especially their peers. However, making comparisons when applying for colleges is extremely unbeneficial because of the simple fact that everyone is different. There will be some people who finish high school with a higher GPA than you and some that do not. You simply cannot compare yourself to a peer because everyone is unique in terms of grades. Although they may appear similar at times, there are other assets to a student other than grades that make them unique, which in theory will allow everyone a different chance at getting into certain schools. 

On another side, some students are gifted enough to get athletic scholarships to schools that allow them to go play a sport for a smaller cost. For example, senior Blaze Lopez-Raveles says, “I have only applied to one school so far because I have a scholarship to play soccer at the University of Pacific.” I congratulate and applaud all student-athletes who have received scholarships to play at the next level. At the same time, I do believe it is important to apply to a couple schools as a backup option, in case things do not turn out as planned. For example, unexpected events such as an injury could occur and you might no longer be able to play that sport. In that circumstance, it is important that you have a variety of options because there are a lot of unfortunate and bizarre things that can happen, costing you a scholarship. 

In addition to the emotional factors, financial issues play a large factor in decision making as well. Senior Nathaniel Wilkinson says, “Applications have been challenging for me because I do not know where I want to apply simply because I do not know what schools will eventually become affordable or not for me.” Finances and stress go hand in hand. For example, if there is a university that you have desired to attend for the longest time and you find out that you can not afford to attend that school, you will be very frustrated and stressed out. In this instance, you would feel obligated to work for all the scholarship money you can and this can get exhausting. Moreover, senior Julianna Dorris agrees, stating, “Finances play a role in where I apply.” Once again, creating realistic plans for yourself is really meaningful. It is important to be mature and ask yourself, “Is it realistic for me to attend this school?” In some cases the answer will be yes and in some it will be no. You need to determine that as soon as possible, and move on with the application process based on your answer. 

Overall, it is important to evaluate the process of college applications before you dive into it. Managing your time, creating realistic goals and taking periodic breaks between applications are three of the most effective pieces of advice that I can give when applying for colleges.