I’m fine. We’re fine. Right?

The college application process is toxic

I’m tired.

And frustrated. And angry. And stressed.

I haven’t been more stressed at any other point of my high school career than I am right now. So, adults, stop telling me and everyone else that junior year is the hardest. 

But I’m not really mad at adults particularly. I’m fed up with all of it. I’m reaching that point where the whole “college application process” has taken such a toll on my mental health that I’m starting to question whether any of it is worth it.

Yes, writing college essays is annoying and tiresome. That’s nowhere near the worst part though.

Teachers and adults consistently assure us that where we go to college doesn’t matter and I understand that. But if it doesn’t matter, then stop treating it as the only thing that does.

The worst part is being judged by a group of people who don’t know you. The worst part is adults asking what you want to do with your life or where you’re going to college when you have no idea and it’s absolutely none of their business. The worst part is that most people can’t afford college and so just when they’re done submitting the last of their college apps, they move onto scholarship apps and more judgement. 

How am I supposed to live my life and be happy like people keep telling me if I’m stuck in my room writing essays about random things that might amount to nothing?

How am I supposed to live my life and focus on myself when all adults seem to care about is where I’m going to college? Is my post-high school destination the only thing about me that matters?

I fully acknowledge that I am more fortunate than a lot of people. I may not have the monetary means to go to school anywhere I want, but I still have more resources than most people in this country do. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t feel all the pressure and the stress. The whole system is senseless and destructive and frustrating.

What baffles me is the fact that I think most people can see the absurdity that is the American college system and yet nothing is being done about it. We all keep contributing to the cycle of judgement, fostering insecurity in our country’s youth as we, and others, measure our worth in terms of which schools will admit us. 

To try to escape this madness, I applied to some schools out of the country. But somehow that, too, has only left me more stressed and frustrated than hopeful for the future. 

I applied to four universities located in the United Kingdom, all of which have AP requirements for U.S. applicants. I’ve applied to the majority of them knowing the most I will get is a conditional offer of acceptance. This is because I do not have enough AP scores. This fact is attributed to our school’s policy of not offering AP courses to freshman and sophomores (thanks New Trier). 

The thing is, I don’t have the confidence to reject any offers I get in the U.S. with the hope that I will score 5s and 4s on this year’s AP exams. And so, I am forced to accept the reality that I may be sucked into the vicious cycle of the American college system like everyone else. But who knows, maybe I will get the opportunity to escape. 

Yet even if I do get the opportunity to escape, I know I will only be faced with more judgment because what on earth would make me want to leave America? Isn’t America the greatest? (*laughs*) I’d want to leave America because 1) I’ll be in Europe (duh) and 2) the cost of tuition is half of what most U.S. universities cost. And no, America isn’t the greatest. 

I know America has many great institutions and I do want to learn (nerd, I know). But right now, it just feels like education is the last objective of any university. Their first priority seems to be to take your money and make you feel insignificant. Hooray, college. 

Why can’t being a young person eager to learn be enough?

The issue really isn’t the not knowing where I’m going to college. It may be a miniscule part, but more than anything it’s the exhaustion and feelings of insufficiency and the pressure and the unfairness and confusion of it all that’s dragging. me. down.

The amount of times I’ve cried over all this in the past months would probably seem embarrassing to many of you. But I really don’t care. It’s good to cry. It’s good to feel.  

I know I’ll feel better and I’m sure I’ll be happy wherever I do end up, but that doesn’t change the toxicity that is the American college application process. And I only see it getting worse. 

Unfortunately, I don’t really have ideas as to how we could fix this problem. But I suppose the one thing I would suggest is that people realize that seniors have other things going on in their lives, not just college apps.

Teachers and adults consistently assure us that where we go to college doesn’t matter and I understand that. But if it doesn’t matter, then stop treating it as the only thing that does. If you really care about us, ask us how we’re doing, what we’re involved in, what shows we’ve watched, what cool art we’ve seen. We are more than our post-high school destination.

Rest assured that we have thought about college a lot; we don’t need anyone to remind us of our stress. So, let us live and enjoy our last few moments as high schoolers.