Confused about college? It’s OK, you’re not alone.

While the class of 2022 still has a year to go before leaving high school, stress is already building

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Alysa Spiro

A period of cluttered desks, from college letters, to huge SAT prep books to homework is a constant for Mac juniors.

Grace Nugent, co-online editor in chief

A few days ago I was recommended an episode of the podcast This American Life by my amazing and thoughtful math teacher, Mr. Pass. The episode was titled “The campus tour has been canceled” and while Mr. Pass may have been unaware of the stress I was feeling, the podcast deeply resonated with me.

The junior class still has time before applications are due to enroll in the fall semester of college next year, yet stress is already building. The tours have been canceled and acceptance rates, admission numbers and criteria for getting in have all shifted due to the global pandemic that we are currently facing.

According to an NBC article, “Covid is making it harder to get into a top college,the 2020 admissions cycle saw an uptick in applications yet fewer acceptances. In fact, Harvard had a 57% increase in applications, making it one of the most competitive years in the school’s history. This change renders the graduating classes of 2021, 2022 and maybe even 2023 clueless with regards to what universities are looking for. 

Most of my caffeine-fueled midnight homework freak-outs are due to the fact that I feel totally and utterly lost about what is to come after my senior year of high school.”

I’ve had my fair share of struggles with English homework, psychology notes or remembering dates in APUSH, but most of my caffeine-fueled midnight homework freak-outs are due to the fact that I feel totally and utterly lost about what is to come after my senior year of high school. 

This is not in any way trying to say that my teachers have not prepared me adequately for the coursework that is awaiting me and my fellow classmates. But when it comes to actually applying and the kind of schools I am interested in, I don’t know where to begin. Courtesy of COVID-19, this year is different, and not just because most schools have waived SAT and ACT requirements. There are not many in-person college visits, and kids don’t have time to fly to other states and admire campuses from a car. 

Junior year has been tough, especially with the constraints of limited human interaction and being confined to your room all day. I have four AP classes, a pre-AP math class (thanks again Mr. Pass for actually helping me somewhat like math), an extra science class, journalism and, of course, extracurriculars. It’s hard. I’m up late every night trying to not procrastinate and finish my homework along with worrying about things that many teenagers do, such as my public persona or who I am going to hang out with over the weekend. Add in an ACT prep course and numerous emails from college admissions offices in my inbox, and you have a fully stressed-out high schooler that is confused about what’s to come beyond the physical and virtual walls of McCallum.

Just by taking a preliminary glance at what exactly I need for college applications, my brain starts turning gears and mounting panic about applications, visits, and rejection letters. Some may argue that juniors have lots of time to figure out where they want to apply, but the reality of the pandemic has made the future so much more daunting. Not to mention the many college emails and letters that, while have menial meaning, still show up in inboxes and mailboxes that either tear down or build up false hope. 

We as students just need more support with college applications, especially in this new and challenging time, and that’s OK. Colleges (and their frustrating websites), counselors, teachers and parents all need to be significantly more patient with us than they would be under normal circumstances. We also need to be patient with ourselves, too and work on taking a breath and relaxing. Life is so different right now, and while we are on a time limit, we are all entitled to cutting ourselves some slack every now and then and accepting that we have no idea what we are doing or what the future holds.