“Senior year is the best time of your life”, they say. “Senior year is the time to let go and have fun”, they say. “They” must have ended their educational career at senior year because I’m not sure who could have such a grand ole time while drowning in never-ending college applications. If you happen to overhear any senior conversation in the hallway you’ll sense it, if not explicitly, in their uncertain, exhausted tone. What you’re noticing is the constant distraction from being a senior that is living life in limbo and waiting on letters in the mail to determine their future. This is the double-edged sword that every senior holds: wanting to enjoy the present, but constantly worrying about the future.
Although acing hard classes, taking standardized tests, playing sports, and balancing a social life throughout high school is a near-impossible challenge, college applications bring on another level of adversity. While I knew that gathering the criteria to fill out a top-notch application would be hard work, I don’t think I truly understood how much trouble actually filling out the applications would be. It may seem like answering a ton of personal questions and writing a bunch of essays would not be so hard, but really it is the magnitude of the effects that your answers to those questions and the quality of your essays could have that pushes me to a writer’s block. Not to be dramatic, but your whole future and the rest of your life is riding on those applications. As Mrs. Fournet so comfortingly explained, “college essays are likely the most important piece of writing you will ever complete.” No pressure.
Applying to college is disturbingly similar to chasing after a hot date. You have a vague idea what they want from you from your inside sources who know them, but they are not so direct about it. You want them to know you’re interested, but you don’t want to be annoying or desperate. So, you offer up your best self, along with every decent thing you accomplished over the past four years. There you stand in that fateful moment with flowers in your hand, awaiting either a validating embrace or cold rejection. Except, unlike in most date-ask scenarios, colleges play a bit coy and make you wait for months (that feel like years). The whole “playing hard to get” method really seems to work for them.
The first semester of senior year often looks like tears as explained by Bryn Daneshfar who responded “they make me want to cry a little bit” when asked about her college applications. These aren’t the nostalgia tears that come when we hug each other and “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus soundtrack plays in the background — these are different tears. These are stress tears and fear tears from kids who have no idea where they will be living next year, much less who with. As Caroline Frentz reveals, “I’ve been so on edge knowing that any minute now I could be getting a rejection letter.”
To the lowerclassmen reading this and wanting to quit high school now, I do not mean to scare you off. We do make time in between due-dates to have fun making meme-can-sculptures and wrapping a few houses here and there. Isabel Frederick even explained that she “feels relieved because once she turns an application in, you know you’re going somewhere in life — no matter where you go — you’re going somewhere.” The High School Musical themed silver lining is that “we’re all in this together.” Every senior is facing similar struggles and dealing with some serious growing pains while juggling college and scholarship applications with a full course load of papers, projects, and tests. We are all paddling down the same rocky, rapid river toward the rest of our lives. At some point though, the waterway will branch off in many different directions and we will travel into the distance of our own path. For that moment alone, when we find our place in this world, all of our risks will be rewarded and stress about these dreaded applications will be worth it.