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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The College Admissions Process Should be Less Stressful

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It’s the time of year when accepted students’ Facebook groups are steadily growing in size. Envelopes thick and thin are arriving at students’ homes. And scores of teenagers are making decisions about where they’ll be heading for the next phase of their educations.

I’m not an expert on college admissions. I don’t know how colleges make decisions about which applicants to accept, what factors to prioritize, and where to do outreach. The one thing in this process that I do know a lot about from experience, and that all of us at Carleton know a lot about from experience, is what it’s like to be an applicant. When I was one of these teenagers awaiting an envelope, the question of where I would be for the next four years seemed like the most important question there was, and it made my last year of high school extremely stressful—more stressful than any year I’ve spent at Carleton so far. Here’s what I wish I had known then: it definitely isn’t the most important question there is. So, on the off chance that any prospective students are reading this article, I have a few words of advice for you.

First, the individual college you pick doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. I’m very happy I ended up at Carleton, but with a little bit of perspective from the whole process, I can see that I could have been happy in a lot of different places.

Second, if you go to one school and then discover that it’s not a good place for you, the world will not end. Many people make the decision to transfer and end up happy at another school.

Third, when you go to college, if you’re anything like me, you’ll realize that there is an awful lot of stuff that you don’t know. And if you’re anything like me, this will stress you out. But that’s okay. Not knowing things is the reason why college exists in the first place.

If I could change anything about my college process, it wouldn’t be where I applied or where I ended up—it would be my frame of mind. If I could, I would replace some of the stress with serenity and some of the fear with gratitude. Hindsight is 20/20, but I can see now that the angst that kept me tossing and turning at night and kept all of my classmates and me jittery and tense was totally not worth it.

Sure, there’s stress inherent in the idea of applying for anything, and there’s fear inherent in the idea of potential rejection from anywhere. But some of it was self-imposed, at least for me. Some of it came from false premises or shaky suppositions. Some of it came from a culture of stress. I’m sure that applying to college was not the last time that I’ll ever stress myself out for no reason, but I am still hopeful that by talking about it more, we might all work on changing the culture of the college admissions process. 



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