Reflections on the College Process

By Grace Yang

As snowflakes are landing here on campus, college applications are landing on the desks of college admissions officers. This is what we seniors have been preparing for our whole lives: college.

Over winter break, I sat down and talked with with my two siblings about their college process experiences when they were in high school nine years ago. I learned that there was stress then, but not like the stress there is now. The pressure to exceed the expectations of college admissions staff has increased.

The process begins when one enters high school. As soon as the freshmen begin choosing their extracurricular activities, they are told, “It looks good on college applications!” Their email addresses fill sign-up sheets page as they respond to the appeals of club and activity leaders.

During sophomore year, there tends to be less stress on how to make your resume stand out for colleges. The college process does not seem to be something that many sophomores worry about. Yet, once the seniors go off for senior projects in May and sophomores gain upperclass privileges, preparation for the college process and junior year begins. I remember my advisor telling me at the end of my sophomore year, “Next year really determines how colleges are going to look at you. Take the time to think about what is going to make you stand out from the rest of your classmates.”

“Junior year is the big year,” everyone is told. It is filled with standardized tests, college visits, harder classes, and the journey to find yourself. As I reflected on junior year, I found that students followed two paths. The first path was that of hard work, putting in a great deal of effort to achieve one’s goals for the year. The second path was a glide through junior year, where individuals leaned on fate in their college process  and trusted that they would end up where they were meant to be. Stress still comes with the second path, but in smaller doses. But despite the stress of junior year, I believe that it carries a hidden gift: it forces us to establish what our true passions are, how we want to pursue them, and what we value in life.

Once students begin writing and submitting their college applications, it is as if they have been locked in a large pressure-cooker. They create such a competitive atmosphere for themselves that it is hard to escape. No conversation goes without mentioning a college or university’s acceptance rate, what the admissions staff looks for, or which student did or did not get into his or her top choice of school.

As the final college application deadline rolls around, seniors begin to relax as they await the college decisions. The phrase one will hear repeated during this time is, “Everything happens for a reason.” No matter where students end up, they will be happy. College is a place to broaden your education, meet new people, explore and try new things. It is where one becomes a young adult and transitions into the real world. Each of us will find that the stress and hard work of the agonizing college process will pay off in the end. When snowflakes give way to blossoming flowers, the admissions decisions will be in and the Class of 2018 will know where they will be taking the next steps on their life’s journey.