College Stress Levels, Too Much

As seniors round the corner to their final semester of high school, the reality of college smacks hard across their minds.


Photography, DJ McInturff

Ashlyn Baldi stresses over the massive amounts of college scholarship and entrance forms.

College.  Just that one word can inspire so many feelings in the hearts and minds of high school students.  Some students might feel hope for the future, excited for their nearing future, or even pride while recalling all of the hard work that they have completed in preparation for this worthwhile goal.  However, during the senior year, the thought of college can be incredibly stressful for high achieving students.


“Can’t.”  That’s the first word that comes to college-bound senior Aliya Gilley’s mind when asked to think about furthering her education.  But don’t misunderstand Gilley, a very successful student at HHS. She has every intention of attending college, and has for many years, saying that she sees it as “something I have to do to go into the workforce.”  Furthermore, she’s been aware of the need to make herself appear as an attractive candidate for admissions and scholarships by “joining clubs, doing well academically, going on college visits, and attending college fairs” in preparation.


Although many seniors have aspired to college for years and are now anxiously awaiting life as a college student, the confusing process of applying to colleges can still be a daunting task.  Many times these long, drawn out forms demand that applicants provide schools with intensely specific, seemingly random tidbits of information and odd details about the student, and sometimes even about parents, who often struggle to produce the answer to the challenging question!


“The essay prompts are really vague,” points out Gilley, who expressed frustration at the ambiguous  nature of the admissions process. She says that she finds herself most frustrated “when you have to copy your entire transcripts.  Also putting in all your awards, because you don’t know what they want… You have to change your answers depending on what they want.”


Not only do students tend to find themselves stressed while attempting to comply with the rigorous demand set forth by various institutions, but also complain about just trying to keep themselves organized and on task throughout this entire overwhelming process.  


The office of admissions at Harvard University, an institution traditionally famed for its expertise, published an article with advice for applicants struggling with these exact issues.  The writer of this article, who was admitted to Harvard itself after muddling through the stressful process, advices that rising seniors make this difficult time easier on themselves by front-loading.  “By front-loading you’ll be less stressed about deadlines and this way you can be sure that your application is exactly how you want it by the time you hit the submit button.”


The infamous personal essay was also touched on in this helpful article, and the writer, who has successfully composed an admissions, has just one thing to say in regards to the subject:  just be yourself! The insightful author says “in applying be sure to show who you are as a person,” goes on to say that the best way to accomplish this is by simply telling your story in your personal essay, which should after all be rather personal.  The writer also recommends making use of additional letters of recommendation from adults you are well acquainted with, and who you know have a close and positive opinion of you, from a variety of extracurricular activities both inside and outside of school.  Although the seemingly endless lists of boring forms and financial aid questions can sometimes zap the life out of anyone, don’t forget to add a little personal to your application, because that is what will make you as a student stand out.


Even the supposed genius from Harvard admits, the college application process is incredibly confusing!  But don’t worry, you are far from the first person to have gotten lost in the trapping of this over complicated system, and plenty of people are more than willing to help you through the same exact process which they have slogged through before and happy to share with you the tips that they have picked up along the way.  “You have a lot of resources around you,” wrote the sympathetic writer, “and you should definitely utilize them.” Do not, I repeat do not, hesitate to ask any older siblings their advice, or reach out to parents, teachers, guidance counselors, current college students, college admissions representatives, or even just simply searching for answers online.  Chances are that anyone you might be able to ask a few questions wants you to succeed just as much as you do.


The website recommends meticulously organizing all of your various essays and applications to keep them on hand for reference and to ensure that you don’t miss any deadlines, which will help keep any anxiety minimized during this stressful time.  This resourceful website also recommends having a trusted adult proof-read your applications to ensure that there are no errors and applying to at least one test optional school if you’re worried that your scores might not be quite high enough, this way your admissions status is not completely reliant your performance on a single test on one particular day.


Once the stressful process of applying to schools is complete one would hope that you suddenly feel a huge weight lifted from your tired shoulders… But one would be wrong.  The task of applying might be over, but this is just one small step along the path of making attending a school realistic. “I’m not worried about getting in,” says Gilley, who is a member of the National Honor Society and a high honors student, “but I am worried about getting enough money to afford it based on my scores.”  This statement is surely one that resonates with many students who now find themselves confronted with yet another endless stream of scholarship applications to make this now closer dream attainable. “It’s only the beginning,” says Gilley, “I have to start applying for scholarships.”


The College Data website also provides pressured students with a few helpful hints on how to weather the tension of waiting for the arrival of admissions decision.  The article students to dive into the exciting distractions of senior year, to get excited for your upcoming life as a college student, and find out more about college that might be lower down on your list of preferred schools.  “Rejections are a natural outcome of applying,” states the author of this article, “and getting excited about options besides your top choices will ease your anxiety about those potential details.”


Last but not least, Gilley, who herself has already completed a number of college applications, has a few pieces of advice to pass along to future applicants.  “Focus less on what you want to do and more on where you want to go, because that school may require certain clubs or credits… And you can just go undecided.” Possibly an even more valuable tip, “try not to fight with your parents, because this will be prime time for fighting with your parents.”  And if there were ever a time when you would most definitely need your parents on your side and all the help that you can possibly get, this would be it.


Although this time in a person’s life can be unnecessarily stressful, it is still incredibly important; and being able to manage this stress is an important part of being successful throughout this process.  Also, even though some helpful tips have already been provided to you, make sure to do your own research and find what works for you. Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy this exciting time in your life, nor lose sight of the bright future!