High Stakes: The Waiting Game


Illustration by Spencer Klink

Kaelyn Bowers

The Sporty Scientist: Mary*

Mary ’19 submitted an early decision application to a top-ranked Ivy League school as an environmental science major. She will receive her application decision in mid-December. For Mary, that date couldn’t come soon enough.

“I kind of just want Dec. 15 to happen so that I know, [whether it’s] reject or accept,” Mary said. “I hate the uncertainty. I’m hopeful but not expecting [to get in].”

Although her friends have been supportive throughout the application process, Mary said that their high expectations are sometimes burdensome.

“It’s so supportive that it’s detrimental,” Mary said. “People are like, ‘Of course you’re going to get in! You’re going to get in so easily.’ But if I don’t get in, it’ll be worse.”

In addition to her early decision school, Mary applied to the University of Chicago through the early action program.

“I have a feeling that if I get rejected, I’m going to be less motivated,” Mary said. “I made outlines for all of my schools. I also applied to four [of the University of California schools], and it totals to about 17 schools.”

Now that her varsity sport’s season has ended, Mary has more time to focus on academics. However, she said that she is not as motivated as she was at the beginning of the year.

“I’m not motivated to do any work, but I have too much anxiety not to do it,” Mary said. “I just end up staying up really late and not doing the best that I can do. It’s not that the work is so hard that it’s impossible, it’s that it’s hard to get motivated.”

The Artistic Activist: Ashley*

So far, Ashley ’19 has applied to five schools. After submitting an early decision application to Barnard College, Ashley also submitted applications to the University of California Los Angeles, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara and the University of Southern California.

“I would not recommend doing things last-minute,” Ashley said. “You get overwhelmed with school work. You have to do a bunch of college applications, but then you also have a physics test, a chemistry test and AP Human Geo on one day.”

Despite the stress of the process, Ashley has remained committed to her extracurricular involvements.

“If it’s things that I really want to make a difference with, to set a precedent for next year and kids who will be coming to Harvard-Westlake next year, I want to do well,” Ashley said.

In line with her interests and extracurricular involvements, Ashley applied as a political science and sociology major.

“These are things that I am very fired-up to learn about and things that I’ve really been learning about my whole life,” Ashley said. “I want to make a difference in a world, and this is going to help me do that.”

Ashley said time management has been the most difficult part of the process, especially due to her perfectionist tendencies. She has not yet started writing supplemental essays for regular decision colleges because of this.

“I rely on myself to do things exactly the way I think they should be done,” Ashley said. “The smart thing to do would be to just get it done, even if it’s trash, and just go over it again. Then, you can review and edit them again. But, I want to do it right the first time.”

Charismatic Captain: Cody*

Although many of his peers are still waiting anxiously on the results from their early application schools, Cody ’19 said he feels pretty relaxed.

“At least at this point for me, a lot of my friends are more stressed out than I am,” Cody said. “I did my research, I got a thumbs-up from different people. I have my reach school, and I have my settle-in school already. It’s really nice. I’m kind of relaxed now. It’s out of my hands now, whatever happens.”

Cody ultimately decided to apply to colleges through the recruitment process. After applying early action to the University of Puget Sound, he said he got a “thumbs-up” from the school coach. Last week, he visited Grinnell College on a recruiting trip. Cody said he has finalized an agreement with one school in particular, although he is not yet officially committed.

Cody said most of the stress of the college process has stemmed from the logistics of the application process itself.

“I don’t like putting a lot of stress on myself for things that I can’t really control, but there has been stress with all the things that I could control,” Cody said. “Recently, I got an email, like, ‘Hey, you’re missing stuff in your financial aid.’ It was due on the 30th, and this was the 27th.”

Cody said that he has appreciated the help his friends have given throughout the process.

“They’ve been very helpful in reading over my essays, giving me pointers,” Cody said. “Even their families have been helping me out. It’s been really nice. We’re like our own support group.”

The Musical Mastermind: Mitchell*

Sitting anxiously through his improv meeting, Mitchell couldn’t stop thinking about how decisions for his restrictive early action school, Stanford University, came out. At 5:45 p.m., he opened the email.

“[I prepared] myself very hard for rejection,” Mitchell said. “I couldn’t see myself getting into any school at the beginning of the week. I [had] told myself, ‘If I [didn’t] get into Stanford it [would have been] a red light, but it [would] eventually turn green.”

To his and his family’s surprise he found out he was accepted.

As a result, Mitchell has decided to not write more essays. Despite this, he is waiting to hear from USC Thornton School of Music for a potential music scholarship.