Summer has ended, fall has begun, and now the real work begins for most of Gunn’s nearly 1,900 students. Yet, for most seniors, the workload has been doubled instead of just merely being started. During the final three months of the calendar year, seniors who plan to attend college must finish applications, along with experiencing the normal or perhaps enhanced rigor of their academic course loads.
Campus administrators have noted rising stress levels for senior class members over the course of the past few years as a result of these college application pressures. “It’s probably increased a lot in the past few years especially with all the students during early decision and early action,” Assistant Principal of Guidance Tom Jacoubowsky said. According to Registrar Tracy Douglas, 43 percent of the senior class of 2014 applied early, up from 37 percent of seniors last year.
A survey conducted by The Oracle within the current senior class revealed that, of the 203 responding seniors, 23 percent reported they were at a stress level of eight on a one to 10 scale (10 being extremely stressed).
Administrators believe students’ viewpoint on how college will factor into the rest of their lives has contributed substantially to the stress. “The pressure they feel about colleges and how they feel it would be the be-all, end-all to whether or not they will have success in life has created a lot of unnecessary angst that really shouldn’t exist,” Jacoubowsky said.
Guidance counselor Myesha Compton concurs with Jacoubowsky that seniors who elect to apply to schools through Early Decision or Early Action are usually the ones who feel the most stressed. “I think many students underestimate the amount of time it takes to do all the supplements,” she said. “And at the time their applications are due, around November 15, that’s typically when their courses are starting to ramp up, so it makes for the perfect storm.”
College packets for students applying early were officially due by Oct. 4 as a means of ensuring the guidance office can send in all required materials to colleges by the deadlines. “Even if you come in with a November 1st packet and it’s October 25th, I’ll always take it,” Douglas said. “But, because you didn’t get the packet in by the deadline, you’ve lost Guidance’s guarantee that we will be able to submit your materials to the colleges on time. We will do the best we can.”
Compton and other counselors advise students to start the application process over the summer. “For many students, the idea of applying to college just does not become real for them until they enter into their senior year,” she said. “The procrastination could just be a subconscious wanting to delay the inevitable.”
When students report to counselors with extreme cases of stress, sometimes including a severe lack of sleep, there are a number of ways their problems can be alleviated, according to Compton. Students are sometimes advised to cut down on the number of schools to which they apply, recycle essays for supplements, or switch from an early application to a regular one.
Compton advises students to factor in college apps as part of their daily schedule. “The way I look at it, college apps are like an AP class-and-a-half,” she said. School administrators say that the workload for completing college applications has expanded due to the growth of the Common Application. “It’s so easy now to apply to so many schools that it’s hard to know when to stop,” Jacoubowsky said.
According to senior Tejas Kannan, working on college apps has affected the time he spends on many of his other activities. “College apps take away from a lot of time for doing homework and other extracurriculars, so I have less time to have fun, and I have to spend more time doing work,” he said. The Oracle survey revealed that 18.6 percent of responding seniors’ social lives and 6.4 percent of their extracurricular activities were “heavily affected.”
Senior Madison Thomas believes college applications have negatively affected her social life. “My friends and I don’t see each other as often because we’re all worried about getting our applications done on time,” she said.
Compton believes that social media has had a large impact on the college application process for students. “Students can now advertise where they’re applying and their own horror stories,” Compton said. “It definitely helps to build angst because some students feel pressured to apply to the colleges that everyone else is applying to.”
Social media has also created another burden for students applying to college. According to Jacoubowsky, many private institutions look up prospective applicants on popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. to check their digital records.
Senior Rauhul Varma believes that colleges now have a more personal look into applicants’ lives. “From the college side, they get to see more into who you are,” he said. “Now, it’s not just what you send them in your application.”
In addition, Thomas says she is now constantly bombarded with advertisements for colleges. “I get a lot of emails about colleges that want me to apply, but they’re all places that I didn’t even want to think about,” she said.
Kannan says that his social media presence has been severely affected by the college application process, and he is more careful now with what he posts. “Now we have to spend more time monitoring our profiles so that nothing inappropriate is visible,” he said.