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The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

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5 types of people who make the college process stressful

The college application process by itself is stressful. It’s scary, it’s exciting and sometimes it’s overwhelming, but what pushes it over the edge is pressure from your peers. For the next year, conversations among seniors will all center around the same topic. Everyone is interested in everybody else’s business, and the conversations that occur spark insecurity and stress among the class.

There are five different types of people who start these conversations. We’re going to talk about why they’re wrong and why you’re in the right. Read on:

1. Curious George

On Monday, somebody came up to me and asked where I was applying to college early. Three times.

Until all applications are submitted, all anyone wants to talk about is where they are applying. After application are submitted, all anyone will want to talk about it whether they will get in. And after decisions are released, all anyone will want to talk about it where they are going to college.

The only one I can justify is the last, because frankly where I am applying to college and where you are applying to college is nobody else’s business.

Keep your list to yourself and stop asking others about theirs. Now is not the time to be showing off where you are applying to college; don’t count your eggs before they hatch, because how uncomfortable are you going to feel facing your classmates when you don’t get into the college you had spent months advocating as yours? When you get into the college of your dreams, you can then justify a little bragging.

But more so than anything, the pressures that come with hearing where others are applying to college are ridiculously stressful and reach us all on at least an unconscious level. Hearing others desperately share their list of top-tier colleges makes us question the schools we are applying to. Am I good enough? Why aren’t I applying to four Ivy League schools?

Ending this epidemic starts with those who are answering the questions. When you stop answering, people will stop asking. Talking about the college process makes the college process infinitely more stressful. You hear a million different things from a million different people and you start to doubt your own knowledge.

On a similar note, stop talking about your test scores.

2. The possessive one

Undoubtedly the most obnoxious people you will ever meet your senior year are the people who walk around talking about a college like they own it. We can’t get in, we can’t apply, we can’t even think about applying, because that school is theirs.

You don’t own the college. Your parents may have gone there or you have some other “monumental” connection to the school, but either way you do not own the college. It’s not yours for keeps. So stop being rude and stop discouraging everyone who comes your way from applying. And if you did own the college, why are you complaining? You’re getting in over anybody at Paly at this school anyways. But I would bet a large sum of money that none of you do.

Anybody can apply to any college they want to within reason (see next section) because this is a free country, dangit.

3. Mr. Harvard Princeton Stanford III

Notice we said within reason. This does not mean applying to six top-tier colleges.

If you are smart enough to be applying to Ivy League colleges, you are smart enough to understand that you need to apply to safety colleges as well. This is a simple fix, and a fix the majority of your teacher advisors are probably attempting to plant into your minds as well. But some students have decided it is Ivy League or bust. Be realistic. Create a list of colleges that include your dreams, but also include schools equal in personal likeability with higher acceptance rates. Ivy Leagues and other top-tier colleges are dreams that many students have, and dreams that for some are attainable, but they are not the only option.

The pressure of our community plays a large role in deciding where we apply to college. This includes your teachers, your family and your peers. But remember, this is not their future on the line, it’s yours. Do not jeopardize your happiness or peace of mind to please those around you. The college you go to should be perfect for you, and maybe this is a Harvard or maybe this is a Chico State, but whatever it is it should be you who is deciding this.

Importantly, apply to safeties you like. For every Harvard there is a college of lesser prestige that you would be entirely happy with. In the case that your dream school does not accept your best efforts, there must be another school that will accept you, and that you will be happy at.

There are over 4000 colleges across our nation. To choose a few safeties to accompany your dreams may sound daunting, but it’s not impossible, and it is very necessary.

And keep this in mind: You will not go to college at somewhere you hate. And if you do, you can always transfer.

4. The one with perfect grades/test scores

Yes, colleges are looking for students with good grades and good test scores. Yes, great colleges are looking for students with great grades and great test scores. But no; no college is looking for students with only these.

Stop advertising this to everybody thinking that you are going to get in every place you apply. Grades and test scores will definitely be taken into consideration in whether you are accepted to a college, but they are not the only reason for admission. What makes a student great, and worthy of admission, goes beyond academia. Colleges are looking for characteristics in students that exemplify their ability to go beyond the classroom. Extracurriculars and essays are essential to this measure. It literally states on the login page of The Common Application that “membership is open to colleges and universities that promote access by evaluating students using a holistic selection process” ( A holistic selection process; not a grade/score-based selection process.

Some may argue that while their extracurriculars are relevant, they are no more impressive than those of the next applicant. More so than being wrong you are disregarding every fantastic feat you have ever accomplished outside of the classroom specifically to you. And in many cases, these feats say more about you than any grade or test score.

Your extracurriculars help create the “holistic” image of yourself that colleges seek. And do not forget the impact your essay will have on this image as well. So give yourself a little more credit, and realize that while the numbers are important, there is so much more that goes into your acceptance or rejection.

5. The one who can’t accept that life isn’t fair

This is directed at the student who is constantly complaining about the state of admissions these days: It is time to face the fact that college admissions is not a fair playing field. Students will get into colleges they may not be as qualified for due to family connections or athletics, and other students more qualified will be rejected. But this must be kept in perspective.

Growing up in Palo Alto, many of us have opportunities such as hiring SAT tutors and college counselors that others do not have. These benefits already skew the field in our direction, so think twice before complaining about how unfair the system is.

Nothing in life is going to be straightforward and transparent. College admissions is no different. The best thing to do is just embrace that there is nothing you can do to change this, and instead focus on what you can do: making yourself a more attractive applicant. Whether this is retaking a standardized test or editing essays, put your time to good use instead of complaining about how the world is unfair.

Also, remember, even students with connections usually deserve their admission. And if they don’t, they will struggle at a school they were not at all fit for, so feel a little sorry for them.

And for the athletes, it must be kept in perspective the time put into that particular sport. No, maybe they didn’t get straight A’s like you, but they dedicated a huge part of their life in order to earn a spot on the college team. Put yourself in their shoes for a second. If you had the same opportunity, would you behave any differently?

In short, try to keep the big picture in mind. Nothing is fair, but it’s a bit more complex than many people are making it out to be.

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About the Contributors
Jack Shapiro, Author

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