The hardships of applying to college


The college board is held up near the counseling offices of the school. Students look at the board to gain ideas about their future.

From the minute students start high school, they are told how to prepare for college. Students are bombarded with information having to do with careers, colleges and classes to take. From day one, students say they are stressed beyond relief of the thought of college. Arlington is an extremely competitive county where applying to college can be brutal.

College applications are put upon young high schoolers because they are a long and tedious process.

“Applying to college is a process,” college and career counselor Ms. Elysse Catino said. “It takes time, thought and energy from the student. It is a time for self-reflection on who you are or who you want to be, and how attending a college that is best for you can support you in that endeavor.”

The process of applying to college has significantly changed from earlier years. It has become more competitive, more stressful, and much more expensive. Students are taught from an early age that they need to go above and beyond to stand out of the crowd.

“The hardest thing is the pressure,” freshman at Penn State and Washington-Lee alumnus Gillian Walsh said. “Everyone is talking about it, your peers, your parents, people in general, and constantly comparing notes on the whole thing.”

Almost all of junior and senior year is discussing college options. Sometimes it gets intense, or even degrading.

“It’s hard not to take some of it personally,” Walsh said about being compared to others. “But just know everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and it is important that you know what’s best for you.”

The classes that are now common to take were courses that were seen as harder level for a top student. The International Baccalaureate program (IB) was seen as high up, along with Advanced Placement (AP) or advanced classes. Nowadays, it is common to take those courses.

“Even as a freshman, I can see the stress that upperclassmen are under,” freshman Mia Shenkman said. “AP and IB classes are becoming almost a standard class to take.”

Taking AP or IB classes is common and not talked about in the same manner, as it used to be considered a challenge to take a much harder class. Now, however, it is simply a standard course. Through middle and early high school, classes are pushed upon students.

“There are [difficult] classes that are basically forced onto students because of their academic track record,” Shenkman said. “Along with applying to college, students are practically pulling their hair out.”

Students stress themselves out to an extreme just to impress college administrations. Along with that, students tend to look at higher level colleges and become discouraged.

“My best suggestion is to not get too caught up in the names,” Walsh said. “That’s what I did. In the end, I was a little disappointed and I could’ve spent more time on the schools that were actually a better fit for me.”

Walsh is now happily living her college life and believes that Penn State was absolutely the right place for her.

Years ago, however, college was a more fun and lighthearted topic. It was talked about later in high school, and classes were not necessarily pushed on to students. Students were more excited, rather than nervous, about the prospect of moving on to college.