The Pressure To Be Perfect
A high school senior offers some perspective on top-name colleges even as a sophomore in high school, you probably already have some top-name colleges and universities that you really want to get into. It’s fine to aim high, but too many students are experiencing undue stress by putting pressure on themselves to get into one of these schools.
One student who went through this experience is Katie Walsh, a senior at The Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and the executive editor of the school’s newspaper,The Pharcyde.
Katie wrote an essay for The Pharcyde detailing her experiences trying to get into one of the name schools and what she learned in the process. We wanted to get her insight and advice on the topic for our readers.
Why did you think you had to go to one of the top-ranked schools?
I think I felt compelled to attend one mainly because everyone else around me did. When you’re a high achiever, it’s almost expected of you. No one wants to attend a school that no one has heard about. Isn’t that the end game of high school—to get into a great school, preferably an Ivy? There’s a certain amount of ego and pride attached to that.
What is the biggest mistake students make when selecting where to apply?
I think they often don’t spend enough time finding out what they want from a college and instead focus more on what the college wants of them in terms of SAT,ACT or GPA. By the end, many people forget why they applied to certain schools in the first place.
How can students lower their stress levels during the admissions process?
Start early. The earlier you start researching, planning and writing your essays, the more time you have to revise, contact admissions counselors and focus on getting the best grades you can the first semester of your senior year. A lot of people wait until the last minute and end up getting super stressed over [winter] break.
How can students best determine if a school is right for them?
It’s hard to explain. Sure, you want a school with your major and everything, but there is also a certain sort of magical feeling [that] happens when you visit a school and, for whatever reason, it feels like all your boxes have been checked. I think I more so fell in love with the people I met when I visited. Although they were all different, I felt a [common] attitude [among] them that made me feel like Davidson College (NC) would be the best place for me.
Katie says she’ll probably study English and history at Davidson. “But liberal arts schools, especially small ones, have this tendency to offer so many different, interesting things,” she says. “I’d love to get out of my comfort zone a little and take some art courses.”