Unhealthy Expectations

By Rebecca Stamp, Sports Editor

With the slow melting of winter to spring, students will check their mail for anything from college recruitment pamphlets to acceptance and rejection letters. Ask any senior and they’ll be happy to tell about the soul-deadening process of applying to colleges that may decide they don’t want them. For some, this college mania starts as early as preschool when parents enroll their children in elite schools they are convinced secure future success. The intensity of the college admissions process is detracting from what it’s meant to be — an exciting first step towards the rest of one’s life.

The college admissions process has changed. Getting into an Ivy League school — or one of equivalent prestige — once meant straight A’s. Today, applicants must measure up to impossible standards. Students are judged in categories as trivial as “demonstrated interest," despite these colleges not demonstrating any more than superficial interest in the candidates. To these colleges, applicants are nothing but another number.

The U.S. News & World Report is famous for its yearly college ranking, but less well known for being a cause of college-related stress. The Report factors in school selectivity, causing colleges that want to elevate their rank to pull in as many new applicants as possible — whether they are a good fit for the school or not —  and raise acceptance standards, resulting in lower acceptance rates. According to the book “Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be,” in the late 1980s, Yale admitted about 20% of applicants, while in 2018, they admitted only 6.3%. Other sought-after universities such as Northwestern and Duke mirror this trend as well.

Parents and students alike are swept up in the frenzy of the college application process, and many fall into the trap of caring about the prestige of the school they attend. The public school on the end of a student’s list is going to give them just as extensive an education, possibly offer them a wider range of new experiences, and is much, much more likely to accept them. High-schoolers should take the energy they pour into making sure their application presents them as a well rounded, perfect student, and use it to figure out what they want from the rest of their lives.

Whatever school you attend, it doesn’t define who you are, and it doesn’t define your future.