Live Through This

Let Me In

So, how’s the college thing going?

John Belushi in Animal House.

The last time I had what might be described as a temper tantrum I was 17 years old and applying to college. On the floor of my high school bedroom, I yelled into the phone at my then-girlfriend about how it didn’t matter where I applied because I wasn’t going to college anyway. The whole process filled me with anxiety and dread, which I disguised as anger: Only over-privileged assholes worried about things like U.S. News rankings and family legacies! And besides, plenty of successful people didn’t graduate from college, my own parents among them. I directed my muddled complaints at the person closest to me because she made me insecure, what with her intellectual upbringing, better GPA, Ivy League summer programs, SAT classes, and cross-country campus visits. But when I finally calmed down, I got to work on my applications.

It’s an exciting time: adulthood is so close you can practically taste the candy for breakfast and moving away from your crummy hometown finally feels like a possibility. And yet the months between applying and acceptance (or rejections!) is an anxious eternity—overwhelming, cutthroat, expensive, and isolating. For those fortunate enough to even consider higher education, it’s always been this way to some extent, but as dentist-office magazine covers and panicky parents tell us, the process is only getting more competitive and therefore more stressful. Every school year, a new group of teenagers has to learn to deal.

“The most annoying question is ‘How’s the college thing going?’” says Jenna,* a high school senior in New Jersey who applied to 11 schools this year. “It’s a normal thing to ask, but you hear it 80 million times.” The chatter is basically guaranteed for at least one whole school year, but some kids remember it beginning way earlier. “My school encourages you to go on college visits sophomore year, which I think is ridiculous,” she says. But then all of a sudden it’s time to apply. “We were talking about it constantly to the point where I told my friends, if we’re hanging out I don’t want to talk about college. It pits students against each other because a lot of us are applying to the same schools.”

While most application deadlines are around January 1, there’s also the option of applying sooner if you’re positive about where you want to go. For most schools, if you apply in the first round, you’re required to go there if you get in. The various deadlines made my own application process way worse. Because I was making myself crazy over it, I decided to have all my paperwork in by Halloween—before any deadline—although I didn’t apply anywhere early decision because I wasn’t sure. But too soon after, I got a big mysterious envelope.

New York University had accepted me early by accident, meaning if I wanted to go there, I had to cancel all of my other applications. A few days later the school apologized, saying that because it was their mistake, I would be in no matter what. I was thrilled because NYU was my tentative top choice, but I would still be able to wait, just in case, for decisions from the local schools where my friends were going, some smaller colleges in New England, and my one Ivy League reach school. Then NYU changed their mind. An admissions person contacted me to say that they had made a mistake again, and that I wouldn’t be notified about the real decision until April. That meant four more months of waiting.

This year, Jenna also wanted to go to NYU. “My application was done earlier than my friends’—I just wanted to get it in,” she says. “I thought if I turned in my application earlier, maybe they’d look at me first, even though I knew that wasn’t true.” She was promptly rejected in the fall. “[Even though] I was nervous before their decision was revealed, I took it way easier than people expected me to,” she says. “I had done literally everything possible to show the school I was interested. And my life is not over if I don’t get into NYU. College doesn’t dictate your entire life!”

Katie, a high school senior from California, didn’t even get to give her dream school a chance. “All my friends applied to Brown or Princeton, and that’s what I’ve always dreamed of doing. But my dad wouldn’t let me or my older sister go out of state because of costs. He also doesn’t want me to be far from home.” Instead she applied to nine in-state schools, none of which she’s particularly excited about, and even that process wasn’t easy. “It’s like $90 per application, $11 per SAT score, and all these things add up.” Money wasn’t even the worst of it; she says she must have edited her writing sample 15 times.

“Some kids had their parents literally write their essays for them,” says Jenna Katie witnessed that and worse on the other side of the country. “I know people who turned in complete fabrications,” she says, like “writing about starting some organization they never did” or exaggerating their family’s financial situation. Frustrations are around every corner: “It’s really, really, really hard to get to know a college before you apply,” says Jenna. “Everything they feed you, from the brochure to the tours, can be fluff or bs. You just have to trust the campus vibe, if you can visit.”

“We’re all just waiting for this to end,” Katie says. It’s almost over: most U.S. schools deliver final decisions by the beginning of April, often via email these days, and not in the traditional big (good!) or small (bad!) envelopes. On personal blogs, Twitters, and Facebooks, people are posting cryptic, emotional messages about their own college acceptance sagas, with everyone acting as the star in their own coming-of-age drama. On message boards like College Confidential, kids and parents compare stats and try to predict the future, as if there’s some magical code to crack about who gets in where. All the private counselors, test prep classes, and letters of recommendation in the world don’t guarantee entry. Preparation and privilege are real, make no mistake, but so are luck and positivity. When my own application headaches faded, the rest of my senior year was a blur of extended goodbyes, parties, and slacking at school. When spring rolled around, I didn’t get in to the top schools I tried, but NYU let me in again—for real this time. Moving away from home and taking out student loans are issues for another time, just like choosing a major, dorm life, and surviving on Top Ramen. But they’re all forms of growth that easily eclipse the college application process, which, while soul-sucking, is totally temporary. “I’m exhausted, but I have some hope that I’m almost there,” says Katie. “I’ll be able to be my own person soon.” She’s right, and I can tell you this much: I no longer remember my SAT score.

* The girls’ names have been changed.

72 Comments

  • crimsonandclover March 7th, 2012 11:14 PM

    I’m so glad Rookie finally touched on this! It’s ridiculously defining for teenagers these days. My favorite is the terrific irony of reading stuff in English that tells you that conventionality is a waste of time because life is meaningless and then going to study for the SAT or do college stuff. SAT this Saturday, who’s excited?

    • kaylafay March 8th, 2012 12:48 AM

      I completely agree!! It makes me feel so much better to know that I’m not the only one having lowkey anxiety attacks about college even though I’m only just taking the SAT this saturday.

    • queserasera March 8th, 2012 6:47 PM

      I’m taking the SAT this sat too HIGH FIVE (jk. i’m sobbing really)

      http://mercurialmanic.blogspot.com/

  • Pollyana March 7th, 2012 11:14 PM

    For some reason this cheered me up, I had been crying earlier because NYU is my top school but my transcript seems inadequate compared to other applicants.

    Even though im only in junior year, I had a chat with my guidance counselor who said that there was nothing I could do to bring up my gpa. So i’m basically screwed

    YAY. T.T

    • falkor4eva March 8th, 2012 5:28 AM

      Guidance counselors should be more encouraging than that. You can still make it to NYU, get really involved in volunteering, actually do start a little organization up, or excel in something specific, your gpa doesn’t determine everything. You’re not screwed! (:

    • darksideoftherainbow March 8th, 2012 10:09 AM

      hey, you never know. my SAT scores were good, not great and my gpa was like an 89 and i got into NYU. if you do go there, promise me that you’ll appreciate it and enjoy it. i spent my time in college wishing i had gone to fordham university and it’s only now that i’m realizing how lucky i was to be in a place with so many different people and the opportunity to learn so much. wherever you go, work hard and have fun. it really is the time to grow a little and be young.

    • erin March 9th, 2012 3:40 PM

      if it makes you feel better, my guidance counselor told me straight up “I don’t care about your GPA. That’s not my job. My job’s to get you graduated.”
      Nice, right?

  • Sefe March 7th, 2012 11:16 PM

    That really is spot on. ‘How’s the college thing going?’ is one of my most despised questions, right behind ‘Did you get accepted anywhere yet?’ and ‘Are you going to go to the same school as your sister?’
    oh senior year…

  • marimba_girl March 7th, 2012 11:18 PM

    Junior year is sucking majorly, I can’t even imagine how much senior year will suck worse. The SAT and all of my AP exams are making me so nervous and strung out, all on top of my regular schoolwork and indoor percussion ensemble practice. I just wish that this process was less stressful, although my summer will probs be filled with college visits and band camp and volunteering at least I’m not being graded on it.

  • Kristen March 7th, 2012 11:21 PM

    I’m in the waiting period right now… and it’s terrible.

    All I want to do is go to NYU, but my dad keeps talking about how it’s too expensive and I’ll probably have to end up going to Pitt, which is a state school in PA.

    I visited Pitt, and it had nothing on NYU. I’m afraid that I’ll have a miserable four years in Pittsburgh if we don’t get any financial aid. WAITING FOR ALL OF THIS IS JUST INSANELY DEPRESSING.

  • Fanfanfarlo March 7th, 2012 11:22 PM

    This is my life right now. Waiting anxiously to hear back from schools that I desperately believe I need to get into. I vacillate between unconditional love for the academic institutions, and a fear that reality won’t meet expectations. And I hate people who lie on applications. Grrrrrrrrr!

  • asleeptillnoon March 7th, 2012 11:26 PM

    Sadly, I remember my SAT score because it was the lowest out of my friends. I never told any of them my real score. But I got lucky in the end because I only applied to the one college I wanted to go to (not counting community) and I got in. What was worse than the “how’s the college thing going” was the “what are you going to do with that?” when I said I was an English major.

  • ebcstar March 7th, 2012 11:35 PM

    Ive been waiting for an article like this to appear on Rookie. As a high school senior I have agonized over college for months. didn’t get into my dream school but so far I’ve gotten into a couple schools I’m interested in and realized that it isn’t the end of the world.

  • roonilwazlib March 7th, 2012 11:39 PM

    I totally know how much this college application stuff can suck. I applied early to like eight schools total (my mom made me) and so far got in to all but one, which I haven’t heard back from. I’m not trying to brag, but I am trying to say all that didn’t even matter since my mom’s making me go to the one that’s like around the corner from my house after we’d already decided on my top choice. The application process seems so silly looking back. Once you choose one, it’s like why’d I apply to all those others?

  • Mollie March 7th, 2012 11:46 PM

    I firmly believe that if you’re going to be happy in college, you’d probably be happy at many different colleges.

    I don’t believe in a perfect fit.

  • glendastjesus March 7th, 2012 11:49 PM

    I have to wait one more week to find out if I’ve gotten into my first choice and it’s killing me. And I hate people asking me where I want to go or what I plan on doing after high school because it’s so up in the air right now. I better stop before my hair falls out.

  • Juniper March 7th, 2012 11:52 PM

    I’m in this process right now and it’s so depressing! I don’t think that getting in to your school of choice is the main problem, but paying for it is.

  • caro nation March 8th, 2012 12:22 AM

    My mom’s college anecdotes are hilarious. She was VERY cavalier towards the notion of going to college at all, while my dad orchestrated his entire high school career so that Harvard would except him. Who had the better experience?

  • Antionette March 8th, 2012 12:47 AM

    Even though I got accepted into my top school UChicago, I know exactly what it feels like to endure the wait that seems like eternity. It is so painful, especially when people are asking you every day “did you get in?” “Have you heard yet?” frustrating. Rookie always has and always will explain everything the best.

  • heygirl March 8th, 2012 1:06 AM

    It’s scary how accurate this is! I’m also a high school senior and soon SO SOON decisions come out. ANGST ANGST ANGST

  • Naterlies March 8th, 2012 1:19 AM

    I was in the same boat back in the day (last year) – I had a panic attack while visiting the college I’m now attending and wound up crying on my parent’s hotel bed instead of going to an overnight with another student. I hated the entire process with a passion, I mean, why should i prove how awesome I am? I know I’m rad, so colleges, why don’t you goddamn throw yourselves at me? okay that doesn’t really make sense, but that’s what i wanted. And for those of you who feel trapped between the top-tier colleges and some lame-o state school, might i recommend SMALL LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES WOOOT WOOT. They’re more focused on interdisciplinary studies instead of just your major, so you can take a bunch of different kinds of classes instead of being stuck with what you chose in your freshman derpyness. They also have smaller classes and therefore your teachers actually become your friends, and the rumor ’round these parts is that they’ll take you out for beers when you’re 21 to discuss philosophy and shit. HOW ADULT. And one more thing – liberal arts college look pricey, but they can offer great financial aide packages, so they are worth a look. Some friends pay less here than they would at their state school. So basically, they’re easier to get into than an Ivy, but offer an awesome educate, so if you’re interested, Colleges That Change Lives is pretty helpful: http://www.ctcl.org

    college is awesome guys, go to it.

  • stellar March 8th, 2012 1:23 AM

    yech–why not just be able to say “this is so lame; why do i have to ‘prove’ myself after all those years in high school? wasn’t that enough pressure to ‘perform’ already?”

  • Nincom March 8th, 2012 1:58 AM

    I was so pleased to see this article on Rookie. This is my first week of University, the Australian equivalent of College. Although the tertiary education system is completely different I can absolutely relate to the feeling of anxiety when waiting to see which University has accepted you, not to mention everyone fighting over places into the major Universities.

    Although this is only my first week I’m already finding the grass is greener on the other side. I go to Sydney University which is a massive Hogwarts-like traditional institution, the people at smaller or newer Universities (some right next to the beach *sigh*) talk about how wonderful it is to be part of a progressive institution, being able to meet at least half the people in your classes within a week and actually be able to talk to your lecturers one on one regularly. Things like that are near impossible when you’re in a class with over 500 people.

    • Minnah March 8th, 2012 2:36 AM

      As a newly minted UTS student, I have to say that I am way, way jealous of your hogwarts campus!

    • Flossie March 8th, 2012 4:14 AM

      Heya! I’m second year at Sydney! Don’t get disheartened. Even though Sydney is up Shit Creek in terms of overcrowding and lack of staff and facilities, there are a lot of advantages too. I mean, the campus is beautiful, and there’s obviously the reputation Sydney has as one of the best Universities in Australia- and the world. And the benefit of such a large institution is the number of choices of courses and majors. I don’t know what you’re studying, but there are so many options that aren’t going to be available at smaller uni’s.

      How can you not be loving it? :D

    • eliza dolittle March 8th, 2012 9:27 AM

      Oh dood, I totally get what you mean. I’m a second-year-technically-third-year-changing-degrees-woo at usyd, and I spent the past two years kinda wallowing in misery because I had pumped up sydney uni into this amazing mythical beast in my mind, then my friends in design courses at uts or media courses at unsw formed huge groups of friends and I was always somewhat alone in my physics class of 800 WUT.

      But then I changed from an Arts Science to an Arts degree, learning that as much as I loved astronomy the maths involved for a career makes me want to die, and am madly in love with Modern Welsh after my first week of lectures. I totally harassed one of the people in my class of 12 (12!) for her number, and we’re going to be Welsh study buddies.

      THE POINT IS taha, once I’d settled into uni and started doing the courses I seriously wanted to do, regardless of how completely useless they may appear, the fun I was having multiplied a thousand fold. So if you’re doing something practical and you absolutely hate it, take a pottery class and have an awesome time with it :)

      ps. This week has been INSANE, I’ve never seen so many people on campus. Give it three weeks, and there’ll be half as many students, max.

      pps. Do philsophy. Luke Russell is a hot nicolas cage! It’s sydney uni’s best kept secret!

      • elleee March 10th, 2012 4:56 AM

        I am a usyd student too! Give it a bit longer and you will love it, seriously

  • fullmetalguitar March 8th, 2012 2:08 AM

    Wow, I just sort of randomly picked colleges to apply to from all the mail I got. I didn’t do any research really, just enough to know they were fairly small, mostly liberal arts, with good English programs. No college visits. Nothing like that. I didn’t even have a top choice until I was waiting to hear back, and I realized that I only wanted to go to Kenyon. Luckily they accepted me, right? And I love it here, so it all worked out.

    Anyway, point is, I look back on that time in my life and laugh fondly. After all, if you think applying to colleges is hard… just wait until you’re getting ready to apply for grad schools and jobs.

  • Killjoy March 8th, 2012 2:09 AM

    I’m just an eighth grader, but I already know what this feels like! I applied to 4 really good boarding schools and I’ll find out in 2 days if I got accepted to any. I literally finished the essays on the day I had to submit them.

  • Marguerite March 8th, 2012 5:47 AM

    One more month and then my sis will stop freaking out at every mention of the word college. The big thing is just getting rejections, everyone is going to get at least one, but it really sucks when they tell you that that done want you, especially if it’s your top choice…

  • hannachronism March 8th, 2012 7:42 AM

    I stressed so hard about getting into the right school that was far enough away and doing it all right. I got in and had one of the worst experiences of my life. My second semester was marked by weekly nervous breakdowns and I had to go on anti depressants. I’m taking a year off to work before going to a technical institute to get my fashion merchandising diploma and just hope that’s what for me. Doing everything I felt I was supposed to do about college just screwed me up royally. Though I did learn a ton about myself and became super independent in a way that you only can if your 3000 miles away from anyone who cares about you.

  • bloodymessjess March 8th, 2012 8:19 AM

    Applying to undergrad programs in Canada seems so much less stressful. I had no essays to write and they don’t ask about extracurriculars. I guess if you had low-ish marks you could fill out a supplementary info form which I think is an opportunity to say here is what was going in my life and why maybe I was too busy with caring or supporting family or being awesome in some sport or with a million extracurriculars that I didn’t get higher grades. But they really only look at your grades and decide based on that. It’s really not that competitive to get in and not nearly as expensive to apply. I paid $90 to apply to three schools, all with the same form because all the Ontario schools use a central admissions center to manage applications.

    • AnguaMarten March 8th, 2012 3:47 PM

      you canadians with your simple, painless, and efficient government assistance! college, health care… i think y’all have got a better system than we do.

  • ghostlightshow March 8th, 2012 9:19 AM

    Yes! Seniors, the process and the waiting is stressful and terrible, but it’s temporary! Once you actually pick a school, it’s a lot better. I didn’t get into my top choice (Pomona College), and I didn’t even end up at my favorite school I was accepted at because another school, which I hadn’t even been considering seriously, offered me an amazing scholarship. So now I’m here as a freshman, and I’m pretty much obsessed with it. Tour, pick somewhere you get a good feeling from, but everything will end up just fine.

  • Fortune_Goddess March 8th, 2012 10:12 AM

    Okay… I am thirteen (birthday’s in January) and I’ve already got my top college picked out (Cornell) and some tentative majors (history, women’s history, possibly dance or theater). I know what I’m going to be doing to get a scholarship (writing essays about Judaism for the Maltz Museum and other Jewish scholarship programs) and what I can use on my transcript as extracurriculars (Model UN, volleyball, theater). I have taken the ACT once, am planning to take the SAT next year (in 8th grade) and I am taking a high school credit course now (for Algebra) and two next year (Honors Spanish and Geometry). I know what I need to say to apply for financial aid. I know what my second and third colleges are (NYU and Standford). I know what my grades are at all times (a B+ in Algebra that needs to come up-I need a B average to pass the class but an A average might still be possible- and an A- in Social Studies that my mom urged me to take care off before it dropped any lower). I am killing myself slowly. If it’s like this in seventh grade, how is it going to be like in 12th?

    • Karen March 8th, 2012 12:29 PM

      As a senior in a selective, highly rigorous school from a typically Tiger-Mother-Asian background, I totally get where you’re coming from. But…

      First thing’s first: RELAX.
      You really shouldn’t be stressing over ~Teh College~ until junior year, or maybe sophomore year at the earliest. Yeah, the pressure’s on when you’re in an environment that constantly stresses academic perfection, but realize there’s more to life than just your test grades. You’re at an age *perfect* for exploration, so make sure you’re having some fun while you’re doing all this work.

      To clarify: The School You Go To Does *Not* Determine Your Worth. It’s really all about how you spend your time – are you doing something you’re passionate about and excelling in it? If you are, in the end, you’ll be totally okay no matter where you end up (or what grades you get!).

      It took me a really long time (probably around the middle of junior year, when I had a legit breakdown and stormed out of Latin class in tears) to fully understand that the most anyone can realistically ask of you is to simply do your best.
      I applied ED to Brown, was deferred, and am still waiting for the other schools to notify me. But you know what? As class president, as someone who’s in charge of two clubs, and as someone who spends her time volunteering at the library, I’ve been doing what I love and making a difference. I have a B+/A- grade average, am incredibly sleep deprived, and love to hang out with my friends.

      I like who I am, but if a college doesn’t, why would I want to go there? Ask yourself the same thing.

    • hannachronism March 8th, 2012 2:08 PM

      I agree with Karen, relax. You’re 13, by the time you’re in junior or senior year you’ll be a completely different person. Don’t plan everything out too far ahead and too exact. I did that and when it didn’t end up perfect and I actually ended up hating university and all of my carefully laid plans had been for nothing and fell apart, I was a wreck. You need to spend high school figuring out who you are and what you want and not just follow a path that you’ve set out for yourself in seventh grade. Focus on what you want to do and what is best for you and not what you feel you’re supposed to do.
      Also I slacked off in high school, and didn’t even care in junior high only putting in the minimum effort to get above 80% and without the academic stress, I graduated with a 95% average and got into every university I applied to. A hint, if they’re just looking at grades and not necessarily the courses, classes like typing and cosmetology and home ec, non academic things that you enjoy, bring your mark up a lot and help to figure out what you want to do. University isn’t the be-all end-all
      But good luck with your plans, I wish you happiness and success.

    • AnguaMarten March 8th, 2012 3:46 PM

      holy shit. this makes me feel inferior and freaked out and also vaguely satisfied with myself. because damn it, i have time to make feminsit art out of tampons and read terry pratchett books and watch daria and read interesting wikipedia articles about everything from gibraltar to druids to sex-positive feminism! relax. spend some time actually doing stuff, and find out what you like, and work hard. that’s the best advice i can give.

    • Elumps March 8th, 2012 5:04 PM

      whoa dude. when i was applying last year for schools, there was no way for them even to see my middle school stuff. they got my high school transcript and that was it. it’s awesome if you have done some things for a long time (like volleyball and theater) but you do not need to be freaking about grades or even about standardized tests! learn the material for your classes and learn how to study but don’t stress yourself out.

      even in high school, remember to have fun and do stuff you like! i wasted so much time worrying about doing perfectly and worrying about the future when i should have been appreciating where i was. yes, it’s important to do well in school (high school) but you don’t have to destroy yourself.

      plus, you may think those schools are the ones for you, but in 5 years you might think totally differently!

  • illonablyton March 8th, 2012 11:01 AM

    Eep! This is a totally brilliant article! I am applying for university this year and it’s crazy, even here in South Africa. My top choice is pretty cutthroat so fingers crossed!

  • Sarah March 8th, 2012 11:44 AM

    FELLOW SENIORS: WE’RE ALMOST THERE!!

  • isadora March 8th, 2012 11:52 AM

    Here the selection process is different, but the anxiety, the depression, the stress are the same. I didn’t even make the first cut (there are two phases of selection) to my university of choice, so I’ve been kind of living in limbo since november.
    Gonna try this year again, what else can I do? But just thinking of going through all of this again makes me want to crawl into a ball and never get out of bed.

  • Nishat March 8th, 2012 1:09 PM

    I think I got really lucky about the admissions process. I’m totally fine with writing about myself and I’m pretty confident in the things I write. My grades are pretty good, my SAT score wasn’t the best but I was alright.

    The most helpful thing for me was knowing exactly what I wanted to do. It’s much harder for those who don’t know what field of study they’d like to study in – you’re open to pretty much every college out there.

    The scariest part? I applied to 7 schools, I’ve been accepted to all 4 that have gotten back to me… and now I fear rejection. I’m dreading it. I’m so scared because my parents are so proud that I’ve gotten in to all the others. Does anybody have advice for that?

  • Moxx March 8th, 2012 1:33 PM

    It’s not so difficult: work like a dog now, or work like a dog later.

  • Hannnah March 8th, 2012 2:29 PM

    They had a really big change in fees for UK universities and I’m one of the first to have to pay the higher ones. There were/are loads of protests against all the cuts and higher fees and everything, but judging from this article/the comments, we have it way easy! I mean, I don’t even have to think about money yet… but the application side and the waiting is hard enough alone!

    I don’t know how many times last term I sat and cried in my room because I didn’t know what else to do with myself. And the waiting might be over for now, but I’ll still have to wait for my exam results to come out in August to determine whether I’ve really-really got in or not… gahhhh

  • Flower March 8th, 2012 3:33 PM

    I’m 14 and obvs haven’t expereinced this but I have been through something similar; grammar school application. I don’t know if you have grammar schools in America, but if you don’t then its a school that only take the highest acheiving pupils. I was so teriffied about not getting in – I’ve heard of people falling into terrible depression because of it- that I spent a year and half beforehand revising for about an hour a day and then the last six months pretty much all night EVERY night. It was pretty hellish and I was so so so scared about not getting in. Eventually it payed off and I got in which was pretty crazy as there were 4 applications for every 1 place. I’m not bragging here, just saying that waiting for things is horiffic.

  • AnguaMarten March 8th, 2012 3:41 PM

    i’m only in eighth grade, but my brother’s a sophomore so the whole college thing is starting for him.

    my parents are terrible college snobs. they like to remind me that they both went to georgia tech on full academic scholarships, and that i can’t go to a school that they haven’t heard of/advertises on a billboard/is all girls/doesn’t offer courses in stem fields/has a graduation rate of over 50%.

    i haven’t thought about college at all because, duh, i’m not even in high school yet, but i’m kind of looking forward to it. my brother’s getting all this mail from colleges and it looks like a lot of fun… plus my friend’s sister loves it, and i had a great time when i did a camp at bryn mawr. so yeah.

    also, i feel like i’m missing something. why is everyone’s dream school nyu? i know they have a great film department, but it seems kind of disproportionate.

  • helloleah March 8th, 2012 3:57 PM

    I can totally identify with this. Even being within the top 10ish in my class and having really good ACT scores and extracurriculars, the process freaks me out. I always feel like there’s more I could be doing, like these crazy-motivated people who do things like research river bacteria over the summer or intern with a brain surgeon. College visits are cool, but seeing all of the people who act super intelligent (and who could easily pay for college without scholarships anyway) is stressful.

  • MissKnowItAll March 8th, 2012 5:05 PM

    I’m only a freshman but I feel so stressed whenever I think about college. To get into my high school I had to take the SHSAT and I felt so stressed about that test. Now whenever I take a test, I feel like my whole college acceptance rests in it. I try to tell myself that it only counts for 4 years but I know there will always be more. Some times I just want to screw the whole thing and go to Hogwarts instead.

  • puffytoad March 8th, 2012 5:30 PM

    Did you know that college used to be way cheaper? People didn’t have to take out loans that they’d be paying back for the rest of their lives. Check out the Occupy Student Debt Campaign! If you feel like enough of a badass you can sign the Debtor’s Pledge.

    http://www.occupystudentdebtcampaign.org

  • Abby March 8th, 2012 6:03 PM

    I am SOOOO glad I’m DONE with college stuff. I applied early-decision to my top school and got in and I’ve been done since before Christmas. For all of you who aren’t, though, once you are, it’s all worth it, and it’s the greatest sense of accomplishment in your life.

    And like the article said, visit the campus if you can. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to this college, but I visited. I took a tour with current students (who were awesome), and talked to the chair of my major’s department, and I was sitting it this gazebo on campus overlooking the beautiful valley, and it was just like this voice inside my head was saying, “This is the place for you. You belong here.” So, if you can, visit. It’s REALLY important.

  • yourenotfunny March 8th, 2012 6:38 PM

    I’m only a sophomore but I already feel some pressure– are my grades good enough? Am I not taking enough Honors classes? what if I’m not doing enough outside of school? Where will the money come from? It doesn’t help when I’m really not confident at all about what “career pathway” I want to take. Thinking about college is actually pretty fun and exciting, but it also is a great way to unearth your greatest insecurities.

  • taste test March 8th, 2012 7:10 PM

    the college application process sucks ass. I am so glad I am done with it. now I’m on to scholarship applications. whoop-de-friggen-doo. why does this have to be so hard?

    I agree any questions about college should not be asked to any teenager until they’re, like, about to graduate. I applied to eight schools and I have no top choice. I don’t mind because that means I can be flexible, but it makes it hard to answer Adult Questioning. when I say I don’t know where I want to go, it’s always followed by either “well, do you know what you want to do?” (which I don’t) or “so where did you apply? have you heard back from any?” listing off all eight schools I’ve applied to and which ones I’ve been accepted to so far to every adult I meet gets very old very fast.

  • merry go round March 8th, 2012 7:55 PM

    This nearly made me burst into stress-tears. The whole process has been so frustrating. I was only able to apply to four schools (UNC Chapel Hill, Northwestern, American, and a safety, Appalachian State) because my father refused to pay for applications to schools he thought I would be rejected from. He was only willing to help pay for App and W Carolina, so I had to work extra hours and borrow money from my grandmother to pay for UNC, AU, and NU. At this point, there’s nothing I can do but wait and pray.

  • Skatapus March 8th, 2012 9:28 PM

    Gah, this post almost gave me a panic attack. I’m a…I dunno which one it is in America, I have one more year of high school after this one. Anyway, my problem is that all of the colleges that I’ve ended up being interested in are the super difficult to get into Ivy League/fancy liberal arts colleges. As a result, at least weekly I’m having these major emotional freakouts about not having enough extra curriculars/leadership positions/high enough SAT scores (For god’s sake, most kids in my country don’t even take SATs and I have to take IB exams as well!) . Pretty much, thinking about applying to college is bringing out my terrible self esteem and anxiety terribly. D: While I know that in the long run it probably won’t really matter where I end up going, I still put so much pressure on myself. It’s difficult not to buy into the idea that certain prestigious schools will be the very best.

  • youarebananas March 8th, 2012 9:47 PM

    advice: don’t think about college until junior year! focus on figuring out what you LOVE and PURSUE THAT THING and do it well and do it because you love it. the rest will fall into place.

  • stoked March 9th, 2012 4:02 AM

    So much talk about NYU! I know it sounds like an amazing school, and in many ways it is, but truly it is EXPENSIVE. I applied early decision many years ago, was THRILLED, then deeply saddened about my financial aid.

    NYU does not give need-based scholarships, and it gives few merit-scholarships. This translates into taking out a lot of loans. That you or your family, or both will have to pay back. It is not fun and can seriously restrict your future decisions/choices/actions in many ways that you are not able to see at the moment. Definitely something to think about as you all apply. I wish someone had said these things to me as I was looking at colleges.

    I ended up attending for one year, was very stressed about money, felt poor and isolated around the mainly wealthy student body, and my grades really suffered.

    Still want to attend school in NYC?

    Consider looking at Eugene Lang College for Liberal Arts, which is part of the New School University, which also has Parsons. True it is almost expensive as NYU, but shockingly their scholarships are much better. I transferred from NYU to Eugene Lang and was much happier. Not only because of the cost, but because the classes are much smaller (max. 15 people) and seriously interesting.

    I also have taken many courses at Hunter College, which is part of the CUNY system. I can’t say enough good things about Hunter College. It is a state college, but has amazing teachers and courses, is insanely cheap, especially if you are a NY resident, and has probably the most diverse student body of all NYC colleges.

  • Margo March 9th, 2012 4:10 AM

    Wait until you’re working on your thesis, So, how’s the thesis going on? What was your topic again? And when are you going to submit it?

  • stoked March 9th, 2012 4:10 AM

    Hunter also has an Honors College, which if you get into gives you FREE school. And $$ to live on! You can actually get paid to go to school.

    If I could give any further advice it would be to apply to more than one school!!!! Especially if $$ is an issue. You would be shocked at how many different offers schools will give you. This is especially true for schools that want to help first generation college students.

    Naturally you should research any school you are thinking about attending, but look into their financial aid. Do they have an endowment for scholarship funds? What is the average financial aid package offered? Is aid based on need or merit?

    And in general, don’t freak out about applying to colleges! It’s just college. I know that sounds funny, but it is only four years of your life. Not necessarily the best, but they can be awesome if you make them awesome, and you can make that happen at any school, or hey! don’t even go to college! many amazing people choose not to. good luck people!

  • Annabanana March 9th, 2012 4:21 AM

    I would love there to be an article about the British system which is different but no less stressful! xxxxxx

  • Victory March 9th, 2012 1:40 PM

    Eek, reading this has made me so glad I’m in the UK! Applications over in yankland sound so expensive (I paid £20 in total), but then we can only apply to up to 5 universities due to our system.

    That didn’t make it any less stressful writing my personal statement!

  • yeslucy March 9th, 2012 3:17 PM

    I applied to a lot of private, liberal arts schools and got into them all. But, because of money and other stuff, I ended up choosing my safety school and only public state school. Turns out, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m incredibly, incredibly happy here. I graduate in May and I’m staying here another two years for my grad degree. I love it that much. I think that just goes to show that the right thing is different for everyone.

  • erin March 9th, 2012 3:52 PM

    Oh wow, thank you Rookie! I’m still kind of freaking out inside, but this helped soften it a little. I just took the ACT this week (for the second time) and am dying to know if I got a higher score than last time. My GPA has kind of fallen short this year, so I really need a good ACT score to pick me up for scholarships and stuff. It’s so nice to read this and all the comments about other people struggling.
    But… how many colleges should you apply to? Because I’ve only got like, four in mind, and only two of them are feasible I think because the other two are out of state and I don’t know if I can get a good enough scholarship to get in to either of them. Are good weighty scholarships hard to come by (for a good, active student like me anyways)? and I wonder how much I could get for being the first member of my family to go to college?

  • queridahijalove98 March 10th, 2012 9:04 PM

    I’m in eigth grade and already have to deal with going on a field trip to either UC Berkeley or Stanford. We have college day each year, and in sixth grade we all visited our local junior college. Thank you rookie, for creating yet one another helpful piece of writing! <3

  • lorobird March 11th, 2012 11:08 AM

    Going to a uni/college or another (depending on the country) is important, but the most important thing is…

    Wherever you go, you will have access to ACADEMIC MATERIAL. Online journals and articles, ability to obtain passes to other libraries, etc. That is the most important thing for me. As long as you have access to that elitist, restricted world of knowledge, you can educate yourself endlessly!!

  • artobsessed March 12th, 2012 8:01 PM

    I am a junior interested in NYU and other Manhattan colleges. I took the SAT in January and got 5 (50 in SAT points) points lower than my PSAT. I knew I had done horribly, as I was worried and unfocused the whole time (also there was a cute boy I had met at a party sitting next to me, I couldn’t help it ok?). When I took the ACT, I did even worse. By the time I got to the science reasoning portion, I was so stressed and upset that I started bubbling in random answers (ok on the ACT). It also didn’t help that I knew people in that class, also (my pathetic excuses). I am going to study up for the next few months on my math skills, and write the essay AP English style. When I sign up for my second round of both SAT and ACT I will also be registering at an incredibly remote school as to avoid seeing any people I know that could possibly distract me.

  • koolkat March 13th, 2012 6:45 PM

    I’m only 14 but I want to go to NYU–I didn’t realise the rest of the world did too!

  • Bren March 14th, 2012 1:13 AM

    I’m almost 20 and still not in college. I’m patiently waiting for a visa, and I hope I get it. I just want to be able to learn, and study.

  • Jenn March 14th, 2012 9:43 PM

    AHHHH all of this is just killing me because my high school is SO COMPETITIVE and I just don’t even know why everyone freaks the fuck out because 1/2 the senior class ends up going to UNH anyway? The pressure is insane and hearing about every other kid and their mother doing more and doing better, when all the “regular” (honors, AP, independent study and theater) stuff I do is piling up and giving me anxiety attacks just makes me 1) ill 2) think everyone is superhuman but me or 3) think everyone is lying but me (and you guys at Rookie).

  • EmmaAmerica March 16th, 2012 3:12 PM

    Oh, I am so glad I don’t have to worry about this yet… (not to rub it in your faces :))
    But still, this summer at my camp everyone was talking about Uni, and it was super stressful. Also even now, at fourteen, everything is related to UCAS. Literally everything. At this point though, because I am super keen, I actually have a whole ton of points racked up… Yay, but also I’m fourteen okay, can I please worry about this later?

  • openyoureyes May 1st, 2012 3:33 PM

    Funny how this is all so important how it stresses out half the teenage world probably actually MORE than half.
    Everyone is so scared because college is well scary….I hope to god I will come out this whole process happy with what will be the outcome but in the begining it probably wont feel that way.

  • turquoisedawn May 7th, 2012 8:41 AM

    It’s worse when there are literally only three Universities (that the government subsidises your school fees for) in my country…

    And I’ve applied to 2, and got no answer.

    My friends already have offers. D: I don’t know how to take this.