The Pressure Is On

Alara Walcott, Staff Writer

If you have ever heard people using a jumble of words such as SAT, ACT, GED, ED, EA, RD, and every combination of two or three letters imaginable, they are probably talking about college. To anyone else, this sounds like nonsense. In our day and age, it is becoming harder and harder for us high school students to avoid these letters. 

To understand where it went wrong, it can be helpful to start with an overview of what the college application process looks like. When or where any one person starts depends on quite a few factors, such as career choice and athletic choices, but generally includes a defined path for their future. Freshman Abby Brown already has some ideas for her future: “I would like to go somewhere with a good reputation and academics.” However, senior Ben Hiegel weighs in on other factors: “I plan on earning my college degree, but I would like to stay closer to home.” No matter where you start, there are plenty of online tools and resources to help you. The Common App is the most well known, and provides the most access to colleges across the United States, and even a few internationally. 

To explain three of the terms above, you could apply ED, EA, or RD. ED (Early Decision) is a binding choice that gives you the highest chance of admission, but students should be invested in a particular college to apply in this manner. Deadlines usually fall in November, and decisions in December. EA (Early Action) still gives you a higher chance at admission with the same deadlines and decision dates, but is not binding. RD (Regular Decision) is the most traditional and relaxed choice for college admissions. Deadlines usually fall in January, and decisions in March. 

To explain a couple more of the terms above, the SAT and ACT are also emphasized in the college application process. The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) is a comprehensive, timed test of English, reading, and mathematics. The ACT (American College Testing) is a somewhat equal aptitude test composed of English, reading, mathematics, and science. Colleges truly have no preference between the two. Although, the popularity of aptitude tests is weakening, especially among the progressive California state colleges. The UC system, in a controversial move, went test blind for the 2021-2022 applicant pool and possibly going forward. This move may have backfired, where we see one of the issues arising in college applications. 

Under the California Environmental Quality Act, UC Berkeley was forced to cut its enrollment by nearly 2,600 students for the 2020-2021 applicant pool. Alameda Superior Court Judge Brad Seligman held UC Berkeley’s enrollment in response to residents in the City of Berkeley who sued the college, challenging the enrollment growth’s impact on city services, scarce local housing, and noise. As students are no longer required to submit SAT or ACT scores, the UC system has seen an influx in applications, a record year for some schools such as UCLA. The truth is, the SAT and ACT can be time consuming, expensive, and extremely stressful for the majority of students hoping for a high score, but it seems like we are all becoming aware of the inconsistencies. As junior Molly Sheppard states, “People with money have more experiences to write about. It seems like more and more genuine people will be turned away for financial reasons.” 

Class tutors, ACT and SAT tutors, college counselors, school resources, and even access to a computer are all dependent on wealth, and can all drastically change a student’s application, but these resources will not make or break your future. For many, a gap year, or GED (General Educational Development) is more than enough to fulfill their life path. For many others, athletic talent is more than enough to earn admission to some of the best of colleges. For athletes, different factors are involved, as sophomore Jake Goldberg says, “I am happy to go anywhere I can commit to!” 

To end the overview of the college application process, and the cherry on top of a boring academic spreadsheet, the personal statement will be your voice. Most often, college admissions want to hear a story that you hold close to your heart, and one that you can teach yourself and others a lesson with. Personal statements can range from 200 words up to the limit at 650 words. This can often be the most stressful part of your application, as it sounds like a great task to show who you are in a measly 650 words. 

Whoever you are, and however you choose to represent yourself in your application, the college application process does not determine your success or your failure. It may seem as if attending Harvard is the only guaranteed method to succeed, but while this article focuses on the experience of college applicants, it needs to be emphasized that there is no definite way to succeed. There are many fulfilling, profitable career paths that do not even require a college degree at all.