I’m stressed and blah blah blah blah blah. If you’re a senior or junior you already know what I’m talking about: sophomores, just wait a few months and you’ll know too. I don’t think further explanation is necessary. Stress is just a part of the culture here, and most people have come to accept it.
The administration knows we’re stressed too; like I said, it’s part of the culture. They’re not ignorant, They understand that the demands of a school where 33 percent of students go on to attend Ivy League colleges can break a student every once and a while (my panic attack count is at three this year so far). And the administration also knows that there’s a particular pool of stressful occurrences during the second semester of junior year and the first semester of senior year.
APs, SATs, SAT IIs, college tours, summer plans, US history papers, college applications, finals, Chronicle layout, Playwright’s Festival, Cabaret, spring season sports and fall season sports training are all going on right now. If I forgot to include whatever stressful activity you’re doing, please know you’re included in spirit.
Yet last week, I attended a two-hour long event known as College Night and by the end of the year I have to turn in a four-page, in-depth questionnaire on top of the other six-page questionnaire I turned in January and peer review forms where I have to write recommendations for other students. All of which are designed to “help me get a sense of what the application process is like” and “to get me thinking about what I could write about for my common app.”
I won’t deny that these exercises are beneficial. I’m all for getting inside the mind of admission officers or doing some prep for the probable dozen college apps I’ll fill out. They’re great if I don’t have other things that may draw my attention away, like grades or SATs, or APs or all the other stuff.
However the 10 other juniors who I was in the room with were just as untrained as I was in terms of evaluating applications. The admissions officer who was in the room with us was very experienced and worked for a very selective college, but ultimately any decision regarding my application or anybody else’s is subjective and admissions counselors can’t give advice on how to beat subjectivity.
Throughout the night I heard several pieces of advice that distilled down into two major points: schools evaluate the entire student, not just GPA, and the personal essay is a way to get across your personality. Two points, both of which were drilled into my head during the 11 information sessions I attended during my college tour.
The application and admissions prep is great, but it doesn’t go on my transcript, unlike the grades that I will receive in the classes that are quickly coming to an end. I can attend a college night where I can talk to admissions directors and make myself known, but those admissions directors meet thousands of applicants. A firm handshake and a pleasant exchange brought to an abrupt end by the other student who cuts me off to schmooze is going to make less of an impact on my acceptance than a solid grade on my AP US history paper.
The administration can tout these “helpful” events and questionnaires all they want. They’re still annoying inconveniences to me and all the other juniors who just want their stress to be alleviated by a decent night’s sleep or by finally completing that Bio lab.
It often seems that the administration is just accepting the culture of stress too readily. They’re not doing anything to help the problem. We don’t need both the questionnaires, and we probably don’t need the peer review forms that most schools don’t require for admittance.
They need to cut back and make sure that what we’re doing in preparation for college will actually help us, and not take away our fleeting time.