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The common stress

Seniors stress over completing the Common Application, while lowerclassmen prepare for college applications

Illustration by Ashlee Kothenbeutel

Illustration by Ashlee Kothenbeutel

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online-side-thing-commmon-stress-res-600Senior Megan King types anxiously on her laptop – the clock is ticking and she is almost out of time. She has to leave in half an hour for Junior Retreat, where she is volunteering as a peer leader, but her dreaded deadline has arrived. Her college applications must be submitted before retreat.

She rushes through the last-minute touches on her applications, thinking to herself that she wants nothing more than to go back in time to two weeks ago. She would have more time to perfect her resume, essays, and short answers.

She ties all of the loose ends of her application together, and she hits send, relieved.

The college application process encompasses many things, including taking the SAT and ACT, visiting colleges, and building transcripts. Many times this causes students, their families, and even school faculty members a great deal of stress. Because of this, beginning the process early is a good idea.

Student stress is recognized by many faculty members throughout the building who admit students’ stress could go down if they planned further in advance. “Some of my seniors seem a little stressed but that’s something that they maybe procrastinated about and they could have avoided, by doing it ahead of time,” Spanish teacher Jane Michael said.

College counselors agree, suggesting the best thing to do is begin writing applications even before senior year. “The students who tend to start early on in the process and have their college visits all done and really get started on that college essay early on in their senior year, if not before, I think definitely have an advantage, and they do seem a little bit less stressed,” college counselor Kelly Smith said.

Senior triplets, Mary, Caleb, and Iain Olsen started their college search in the beginning of their sophomore year. According to Mary, their mom didn’t want them to be overwhelmed with stress throughout senior year.

Caleb has completed all of his applications and values their early start, comparing his friends’ stress from juggling school work, Senior Project, and college applications, while he has more time “to focus and keep stress levels down.”

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Even non-seniors, such as junior Kathryn Hodges, have begun to plan their college application process. Hodges began by taking the SATs in March in order to see which areas of the test she needed improvement in. “I did that so I would have time to prepare and get the score I want,” Hodges said.

Hodges’ knowledge of how to approach the college process early comes from watching her brother go through the same thing a few years ago. “Having an older sibling was honestly a huge help because watching Robert go through the whole process showed me what and what not to do,” Hodges said.

However, many are not as fortunate as Hodges and do not have a sibling to base the experience off of, such as senior Shelby Umbarger. “It is more difficult having to do everything with no guidance from a sibling,” Umbarger said.

Classes such as the junior College Planning class are offered to provide guidance for students in both situations. Meeting once a cycle, the class is devoted to looking into various colleges and their applications.

According to college counselor Carrie Siemsen, the class is very helpful but not many students take it seriously. Hodges agrees saying, “I think you get as much out of it as you are willing to put in. If you don’t take the opportunities the counselors are giving you, it probably isn’t that useful to you.”
The College Head Start Class is a class which is offered to incoming seniors over the summer and aids in writing the Common Application and essay. Both Umbarger and King took this class, and confessed how much help it provided.

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According to Siemsen, writing the essay is one of the biggest struggles seniors will have. They overthink it, trying to “perfect” every detail. “The best advice is to think about what or who you care about, what the most important thing in your life is, or what you spend most of your time doing and create a story from that, and accommodate to the application question,” Siemsen said.

It’s also essential for students to get an early start on visiting colleges and preparing applications. Whether it’s figuring out where and how you should get involved, preparing for the SATs sophomore year, or writing college essays in the summer, students need to finish as much of the college application process as they can before senior year begins. “It takes a long time, and it is not something that you want to rush at all,” Umbarger said.

An important thing to remember throughout the stressful college process is to “have faith that you will end up where you’re meant to be as long as you respect how much time and energy the process really requires,” Siemsen said. “Give yourself motivation, time to think about where you really belong, and more options for yourself.”

By doing this, you will find relief and great success. No stress, no problem. Caleb agrees, “It’s really exciting and rewarding to open that letter and see that you’ve been accepted into a college, especially when your number one college sends you an acceptance [letter],” he said. “At that point all the worries in the world seem to wash away.”

Pia Scotto, Ein McCloskey and Christina Giovanazi are Community Editors for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.

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The common stress