Every year, the end of October brings two daunting prospects for WHS seniors: the end of the first quarter and early college application deadlines. Over the last several years, the vast majority of students have applied to at least one school early, especially to schools they consider their top choices.
This application process, paired with the increasing demands of senior year, can be a major source of stress for students.
“The process is stressful in itself, but it affects other parts of my life which makes it more stressful. So, for example, I’m submitting a cello supplement that I have to film, but because I don’t have time due to writing my essays, I’m stressed about that part too,” senior Ashley McCoy said.
Furthermore, the selective nature of college applications can lead to anxiety and stress.
“There’s so much to consider and so much to do and this is the most important application that I have ever done. I also feel a lot of stress about how unpredictable the criteria for acceptance are,” senior Albert Wu said.
Statistics for the class of 2020 demonstrate a steady increase in the number of early applications per student over the last six years. Students on average are sending out 3.87 early applications each this year compared to 2.47 for the class of 2014, according to past WHS Student Progress and Participation Reports and an October 2019 Wildcat Tracks poll of 30 randomly selected students.
“I think what adds a lot of stress to students is feeling that you have to know by November 1 what your favorite is,” guidance department head Marla Schay said. “There’s the idea of ‘Should I apply to the one where the chances look a bit better, but in my heart I really, really love this other school and shouldn’t I be applying there?’ More than anything, it’s the amount of emotional stress of having to make this decision.”
Senior Alex Carpenter, who is applying to a binding early decision program, commented on how this affected her own stress levels.
“I’m not as stressed as some people I know. [The school I’m applying to early decision] is my first choice school, but it’s not the only school I’d be happy at, so I’d say I’m less stressed than people who absolutely know they have to go to a certain school,” Carpenter said.
Despite the overwhelming stress of this process, there are ways for students to manage it.
“The whole process has a lot of little things. It feels stressful because it feels big, but it’s a lot of tiny little steps. The real key to reducing stress is to break down the steps so you can do them in chunks,” Schay said.
In particular, Wu suggested that students should start planning as early as possible.
“I did research about schools early and finished testing early, so those were big things off my plate going into the summer,” Wu said. “I didn’t spend enough time on essays, so that would be something I strongly advise since I was very behind going into senior year.”
The early application deadline for most colleges is fast approaching on Friday, November 1, with most decisions being released in mid-December.