The Truth About Senior Year

College application season is in full swing, and it’s all that most people can think about. But are we okay?


Photo courtesy of Karri Terra

College is the main goal for many students, which can be a stressful process due to the competition.

Senior year. It is often believed to be the most “fun” part of high school – a time when teenagers party the nights away, explore their love interests and indulge in the last blissful moments of their high school career. 


Well, that’s what movies try to tell the world.


In reality, we spend our nights with our laptops. And rather than FaceTiming our friends to gossip about the latest relationship drama, we’re agonizing over our words on a Google Doc. We’re condensing our entire lives into 350 words or fewer to somehow convince college admissions officers that we are worthy of attending their educational institutions in the fall. 


We’re clueless as to what colleges are looking for, so we volunteer for nearly every charitable cause, retake the ACT and SAT until we reach the top percentile and stress over every grade until it reaches a 95 percent. Because that’s what we’ve been trained to do. Ever since we started high school, we’ve been told that college was the end goal. 


For three years, we’ve done everything we could to build our resumés and gain life-changing experiences. But the act of applying to college has been regarded as a later issue. 


And somehow, those three years have passed by like a blur. The class of 2020 has grown up, and suddenly, college applications aren’t just around the corner. They’re here, and the stress will consume us until we get that acceptance letter in the mail.


Take a walk down the hallways: there’s undoubtedly a group of seniors discussing colleges, comparing their stats with one another, talking about their most recent college visits or stressing about their essays.


Photo courtesy of Amy Stork
One of the highlights of senior year is graduation. But what comes before graduation is a large amount of stress due to college applications.

It’s undoubtedly an extremely stressful time for most, if not all, of the seniors. Everything we’ve worked for has led up to this point. But, even so, there’s a chance we might not get into the college of our dreams. Since the college admissions process is such a mystery, there is no formula for students to follow. Sure, having good grades and mountains of extracurriculars may help, but there’s no guarantee of acceptance.


According to Rebecca Zwick’s New York Times article, “Colleges themselves have widely diverging views on what makes an ideal applicant. […] It’s not that grades and test scores don’t matter – they nearly always do – but colleges aren’t obligated to choose the students who are deemed most likely to earn high college grades or graduate.”


Because of this, a lot of seniors plummet themselves into damaging amounts of stress as they are left to wonder if they’ve done enough to be accepted. 


“The Dark Side of Getting Into College” states, “Colleges are becoming even more competitive. More students are applying to more schools, and the barriers to more schools, and the barriers to admittance grow increasingly daunting.”


The competition has grown, and it’s becoming harder to get in. As a result, many of us spiral downwards into depression, anxiety and a multitude of mental health problems since we’re expected to meet an abstract standard that the admissions offices have set.


Dr. Pope, the founder of Stanford’s Challenge Success program explains, “College admission is how a lot of people are defining success these days.” 


Ultimately, it’s unhealthy for students to continually obsess over a college acceptance. Having this mindset that one envelope congratulating us on admission is the only definition of success is toxic and needs to be changed. 


So, seniors, just remember: college is important, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out like we planned. The process is confusing, but it’s not worth losing sleep over.