Like many other seniors, the college application process is not one I have been enjoying. The entire admissions process is one that causes anxiety and is dehumanizing to an extent.
It boils years and years of hard work, dedication, success, and failures down to numbers and statistics. College admissions officers are supposed to understand who you are in 650 words, a GPA, and maybe a test score. Sure, colleges boast “holistic admissions,” where they claim to “look at the individual as a whole,” but there is no way for them to know who you are by reading a piece of paper.
I suppose what I am getting at here is this: You are more than a few numbers. It doesn’t matter if you get
accepted into every single school or rejected from your dream school. You will be happy wherever you end up.
The entirety of the college process sends many teenagers into spirals about their
future and causes unnecessary stress. Especially for KO seniors, going to a “college prep” school, the pressure can feel like it is magnified. Attending a school that is academically rigorous and competitive can certainly be an advantage for our students, but at the same time, it can also be a detriment.
The conversation around college is always present; whether you are being asked about your top schools, what you want to major in, or even what your test scores are, it feels like you never get a break from this conversation. The pressure to get into a “top” school is more prevalent than it would be elsewhere. Whether that pressure is intentional or not, it is still there.
There are many aspects of the college admissions process that I could critique, but instead, I want to talk about some of the things that I wish I had realized earlier, and the parts I am still figuring out.
As the youngest, I am lucky enough to have a sibling who recently went through this process, and he has given me some helpful advice on multiple occasions, so I am going to share it all with you.
Chances are you won’t get into your top schools. Statistically speaking, it’s unlikely. Most of the schools that are “reaches” for you are probably reaches for everyone else too. Not to say that everyone falls in the same categories, but when I say that, I mean those top 20 universities. Nobody, regardless of what they say, is “likely” to get into an Ivy League school. It doesn’t matter who you are; you could have the perfect stats and still get rejected. You don’t have to come up with a cure for cancer to get into a “top” school either.
This leads me to my next point, college admissions decisions aren’t always rational. Just because you get rejected from one school, doesn’t mean you’ll get rejected from another with a similar acceptance rate. Acceptance rates are not everything, and they do not measure the quality of that school either.
A college doesn’t have to be “prestigious” to be a great school for what you want to study. Different schools specialize in different things, and sure the college name is appealing, but if they don’t have what you want to study, you don’t have to apply there because of the name.
The last piece of advice is probably the one that took me the longest to realize, but I am glad I eventually did.
You don’t need to have the answers to everything now. You can not know what you
want to major in, or what you want to do after you graduate college. We are still teenagers; your interests will change and that’s okay. That’s the entire point of college – to find what you are truly passionate about. Sure, some of you may have it completely figured out now, but it is normal if you don’t. I know I don’t, and for a while that really bothered me until I came to terms with the fact that I am still 17. I have four years of college, years filled with trial and failure ahead of me to find out what I am passionate about.
I just said all this stuff that makes it seem like I have the whole college process figured out, right? Truthfully, I don’t. While all of that sounds perfectly rational as I write it, I am still struggling to accept some of those realities too.
My point here is to remind everyone, myself included, that the college admissions process is grueling but it does not define who you are or what you have achieved.
Where you go to college doesn’t have to determine the level of success you will undoubtedly have in the future, so be kind to yourself during this process. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other people’s stats or their college lists.
Be okay with the decisions you make for yourself and trust the fact that it will work out for the best.