A Senior’s Story: College application season brings new challenges

Jan. 8, 2021

Editor’s Note: Molly Wetsch is a senior at Lincoln High School and the editor-in-chief of the Statesman. She has agreed to periodically share her experiences this year as a high school senior.

Most seniors spend the majority of their first semester wrapped up in one crucial life event: college applications. I am no stranger to this novelty; I experienced the exact same stress this last fall.

Not just because of the pandemic, the college application process has changed dramatically for students in the past few years. It undoubtedly has become an even more competitive process, depending on certain schools and states. And in light of the past nine months, it has become equally as convoluted and confusing. 

Virtually every college’s application is online, and, as of the past decade or so, most be filed through two filter sites: the Common Application and the Coalition Application. Using these applications, students can apply to multiple schools at once. Despite these more streamlined services, it seems as though every year the application grows more daunting. Supplemental essays, multiple letters of recommendation and alumni-based  interviews used to apply only to the most elite schools, and now they have become commonplace in most college applications. For students who are applying to multiple schools — I’ve heard of 20 or more in some cases — college applications become an incredible burden.

Since I cannot speak on behalf of my classmates, I instead will tell the story of how my college journey played out. I began researching colleges during my freshman year of high school, when I was just 14 years old. I obviously did not know just how difficult the decision of college would become. As a younger student, I focused primarily on aesthetic decisions: which school had the prettiest campus, the best colors. It was fun to think about my future.

My third year of high school was when everything started to get real. I began to understand the weight of student loans, the price of higher education and the issues that arise when wanting to move across the country. Eventually, those concerns mounted even higher when I actually began the college application process. Every school that I was applying to asked me what felt like thousands of questions: How will you contribute to our campus? Why do you want to attend? I was, needless to say, incredibly overwhelmed.

COVID-19 obviously put a massive wrench in my well-planned timeline. I had no chance to visit most of the schools I was applying to, some of them in different countries. I relied heavily on virtual tours and information sessions, which were helpful, but I still felt as though I lacked insight. It is hard to explain just how important in-person campus tours are. They provide an invaluable look into the college experience and for many students can make or break their decision.

I worked through application season for months, beginning the summer before my senior year, and the stress continued until December. I was lucky enough to hear from several colleges early, relieving lots of anxiety.

Many students aren’t that lucky. In fact, the usual timeline for college decisions ranges from March to April. National Decision Day is May 1. This means that students have only a matter of weeks to select the college they will be attending for the next four years. Not only does this place an unusual burden on an 18-year-old’s shoulders, but parents also feel pressured to help their students make the right decision.

I do not want to write this to make people feel bad for seniors and the onus of college applications. I understand that having the opportunity to attend college is a great privilege that I definitely do not take for granted. Rather, what I’d like to do is shed light on the mounting pressure that many face regarding higher education. This year, especially, be a little bit kinder to the seniors who you know are applying to college. It has been a very long few months, and for lots of seniors, they still have no idea exactly what they will be doing or where they will be living next fall, pandemic or not. 

Although everyone’s lives have been thrown into turmoil, think especially of those who have to make momentous decisions in the middle of what can be considered the most tumultuous years in American history.

A Senior’s Story: Fall semester brings change, challenges


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A Senior’s Story: College application season brings new challenges

Making a big life decision is even harder during such a tumultuous time. In our latest installment of “A Senior’s Story,” high school senior Molly Wetsch takes us inside her college application journey.

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