College admissions process applying stress

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Photo courtesy of Cornell.edu

Aastha Bansal and Inaya Khan

With the fall season unraveling and reaching its peak, it isn’t uncommon for high schools across America to be buzzing with seniors anxious to submit their college applications before impending deadlines.
In recent years, it seems that stress about college applications is reaching an all-time high, not only consuming students’ lives for longer periods of time but also beginning much earlier than it used to be.
As high school students, it is safe to say that we can attest to this observation.
For many students (including ourselves), early decision deadlines seem like the route to go when applying to Ivy League or top-tier schools because they can slightly increase chances of admission due to the declaration of commitment one makes if accepted to the school.
Although these deadlines are useful in increasing chances of acceptance, they can also be the source of increased stress because they decrease application time by one-to-two months. The additional stress of completing application questions, supplemental essays, and obtaining recommendation letters and transcripts for an early deadline while also attempting to maintain current senior grades can result in a completely hectic state of mind that can be overwhelming.
It’s nerve-wracking to accurately portray who you are as an individual and what you have done for the past four years of life to appeal to the admissions committee, who simply makes a life-changing decision in the span of a few minutes.
Concurrently, it also seems that the crackdown of certain colleges with their narrowing acceptance rates, higher SAT/ACT score requirements, and increased selectiveness is also a source of heightened worry. With higher-ranking schools becoming increasingly difficult to be accepted into, competition and tension is elevated between students, and the need to attain such lofty goals can sometimes have an adverse effect on mental, and thus physical, health. Students take on more accelerated classes, extracurriculars, and volunteer hours than they can bear, and, in turn, reach a burnout point that seems to become earlier and earlier as the years progress. School can become nothing more than a checklist of items to complete, and many students find themselves mindlessly completing assignments just to get by instead of actually retaining and learning information.
Even after completing such heavy workloads and attaining some of the highest numbers possible, whether it be in grades, test scores, or volunteer hours, it can still feel like it is not enough for admission into certain schools. Sometimes it seems as if you must have created a multibillion-dollar business or been a gold medalist in the Olympics to gain acceptance into these elite schools. This then raises the question of whether increasing the stakes for college admissions is truly a useful process to locate the most gifted applicants, or if it is simply stripping students of their initial purpose of learning and creating excessive pressure to reach an unattainable perfect standard.
While all of this sounds extremely negative in nature, there is a positive side to college applications after all. Although experiencing the challenges of applying to college can be isolating at times, it helps to realize that hundreds of thousands of students across the world are experiencing the exact same thing.
The shared struggles and feelings of pressure help bring peers closer together and create a network of support and understanding that can make the process a lot less overwhelming.
After all, it is important to remember that it doesn’t matter where you go to college, but rather what you make out of your experience there. Ultimately, it comes down to your commitment, hard work, and how you take advantage of the opportunities presented to you.