Anxiety of College Application Season By Zachary Forrest

January is a month most often associated with new beginnings and resolutions. For many high school students, the month begins the next chapter of their lives. Many students have started feeling the stress of these paramount decisions for their future.

Students are currently in the process of agonizing over college acceptances. The time spent crafting their applications is beginning to show results, with either an acceptance, a rejection, or a deferment, meaning that the college will not accept the student now, but may later.

This process stresses every student out, and they cite multiple sources of worry.

To start, competition to get into colleges is fiercer than it has ever been. According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, there are about 20.4 million students currently in college, and that number is expected to grow to 23 million by 2020. Then, due to the ease of finding and applying to schools using the Internet and the Common Application, there are more students applying to college.

To compound the competition factor is the cost of college. Without even attending the school, the average application fee is $40. The tuition for in-state, public, four-year colleges has grown by 35% since the 2001-2002 school year. According to a study done by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, 62% of public college graduates as well as 73% of private college graduates graduate with debt.

DHS seniors are feeling the stress. Senior Madison Watters explains, “I get pretty stressed out, in terms of doing applications and trying to get everything in for deadlines, and then now that the application process is over and it's just waiting for responses, there's a lot of anxiety waiting to hear back from people.”

Teachers and administrators are aware of this. Guidance counselors advise students on their future, and try to alleviate the anxiety felt by students, especially during this process. Mr. Trafford, guidance counselor for the Juniors and Seniors, states that “Generally what I advise them to do is to apply to at least three schools. One that you know you’re going to get into, one that's going to be kinda challenging to get into, and one that's going to be a real reach to get into. I think that's something that's hard to get across to people.”

Top left: University of Pennsylvania, Top right: Brown University, Bottom: Princeton University

Mr. Trafford ia advising students to protect themselves when applying for college, Rather than applying for their one dream school that may be harder to get into, he advises them to have a more realistic view about the process, applying to a school that they know they’ll get into, a kind of safety net, and then a more challenging school and a school that’ll be very hard to get into. This way, the student is protected, and could possibly have great schools to choose from.

Mr. Trafford adds, “The college application process is a lot more random than people would think and it's pretty possible that you could get into that Ivy League college or that really highly competitive college if you just take a shot at it. And I advise them not to, when you’re putting your list together initially, I advise people not to think about cost at that point, because you just want to think about ‘where do I want to go?’ And later on, ideally, you’ll have several different options, different schools, different financial aid packages, and you’ll be able to make an informed decision based on all that.”

He encourages students to have a bit more confidence in their future. He assures them that it's absolutely possible they can apply and be accepted to Ivy League schools. He also advises them to not worry about cost when applying, because when they have all their options in front of them later on, they can figure what will work best for them.

That kind of advice will certainly help Seniors like Daneyh Douglas, who are looking for “diversity and positivity” in a college, where she can feel more comfortable and open, and be more productive.

Student Assistant Counselor, Mrs. Liebowitz, sees the effects anxiety has on students more than anyone. She advises students dealing with constant anxiety to go “old school”: to write a list of everything that worries them, and the organize that list into two sections, one where those things are in their control, and one where those things are not in their control. I think for a lot of kids this reduces their anxiety… You can worry about that as much as you want and it will get you nowhere, it's out of your control,” says Mrs. Liebowitz.

Mrs. Leibowitz ; DHS Student Assistant Counselor

Using the support systems in the school, such as Mrs. Leibowitz and her anxiety support group, students can get help finding relief from the anxiety and stress in their lives. They could also look outside of the school for professional help. It’s important for seniors to feel confident in their future, as they look ahead to making their college experience the “best four years of their life.”

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