The College Search Process
What has the college search process become? Being a junior in high school, I feel like half my conversations every day have to do with college. Where am I looking? How high are my SAT scores? Which Subject Test dates did I sign up for? Every night at dinner my parents bring up college. There is so much pressure nowadays that people are committing themselves to taking five APs next year, just to give themselves a better chance at getting into the most competitive colleges. When I was younger, the college search process seemed so exciting. You are finding your dream school, the place that will determine your next four years of life. However, now that I am a junior in high school, the process is just stressful and overwhelming. It used to be normal for students to take the SATs for the first time in the Spring of junior year, but now it’s all about the earlier, the better. Students spend hundreds of dollars on private tutors to achieve the perfect score, and agonize over a score that may be a little less than what they were hoping for. It’s all about taking the most APs, getting the highest SAT scores, applying to the most difficult schools, and achieving a 4.0 GPA.
Why do students do this to themselves? Students decide the most competitive colleges are perfect for them before even visiting the college in person, because they feel like it’s necessary to apply to the most elitist schools. It’s all about having the longest resume, the best transcript, and the most leadership positions. Senior year of high school should be fun, but I know I am going to have more work than ever before with the courses I’m taking next year. What I’ve told myself, numerous times, is that the perfect college is out there for me, and I don’t need to stress myself to get into it. It shouldn’t be all about numbers, but in a way it is. Some colleges say no immediately if the applicant has below average scores or class levels. What happened to looking at the person as a whole? I tell myself that I should be having fun my senior year, that if a college rejects me it obviously wasn’t the one for me. But even though I tell myself this, I still feel obligated to take four APs and the SATs at least three times. It’s probably because of the competitive environment among my peers, but I still just wish I could be so much more relaxed about the searching process.
Adding to the stress of college searching is the high tuition rate that many colleges seem to have. The average college tuition at a private, four year colleges is $35,000. For public school, it is about $20,000. For many hopeful applicants, the cost of education is too much, and they have to search frantically for scholarships to attend the school they want to. I know so many people who are working hours every week to save just to attend an in-state school. If colleges keep raising the tuition, how are they going to get applicants? Sarah Lawrence College in New York is $59,170. I can’t even fathom that amount of money. That means you would pay $236,680 for a four year college education, not including books and other supplies you will need over the years. The high cost of college leads to great financial strains on family, especially those with several kids to send to school. Students’ options are greatly limited to schools within their budget, leaving the college search process a lot less exciting.
I don’t want to be completely negative about the college process; I actually do find it fun and exciting. I just really wish that everyone could just take a step back and relax for a moment and learn that everything doesn’t have to be perfect to get into college.