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### A Senior’s Perspective on the College Application Journey

Just this past Friday, my parents and I excitedly gathered around the computer as the moment of truth arrived. The long-awaited results from my “dream school,” which marked my final college decision, were finally out. After enduring five months of anticipation, constantly refreshing the page, and pondering what the outcome might be, I summoned the courage to click on the notification.

To my dismay, a glaring “waitlist” notification greeted me.

Having applied to 15 colleges, retaken the ACT multiple times, and challenged myself with rigorous coursework – a scenario familiar to many of my peers – the disappointment of not receiving the anticipated outcome felt utterly devastating.

Confusion, frustration, and sadness enveloped me as I retired to bed that night, resigned to the idea of waking up to another disheartening day.

However, to my surprise, the next morning brought a sense of relief. While the disappointment of the previous night lingered, I felt liberated – for the first time in months – from the tumultuous college admissions whirlwind.

No more incessant waiting for decisions, no more second-guessing my efforts, and no more tethering my self-esteem to outcomes beyond my influence.

In the current landscape, the college application process has become increasingly intricate and unpredictable. In 2024, the number of applications in the US surged by [ppp1] from the previous record established just the year before. This surge, coupled with ambiguous standardized testing policies, has led to a decline in acceptance rates, diminishing the chances of admission for numerous college-bound seniors.

At LFHS, discussions about college typically commence as early as sophomore year. Nearly three years are devoted to this endeavor: countless sleepless nights completing assignments, preparing for standardized tests, engaging in a multitude of extracurricular activities, all in the hope of witnessing digital confetti illuminate our screens come March.

Undoubtedly, the college application season is draining. Amidst the process, it is easy to fixate on a singular goal, a specific institution, a particular outcome. Each milestone may seem like a mere stepping stone towards that envisioned destination. But if that one scenario doesn’t unfold as expected, what then? Was everything in vain?

[ppp0]Photo created by Emma Stadolnik on Canva.

When faced with undesired outcomes, it’s natural to question the value of all the effort invested. I, too, grappled with similar doubts. However, emerging from the application phase, I’ve come to realize that every endeavor throughout my high school journey wasn’t futile; rather, it steered me towards an unforeseen path. The activities I engaged in, the courses I undertook, and the individuals I interacted with have collectively shaped my identity. Ultimately, it is these experiences – not the institution I eventually attend – that will mold me as an individual.

The college admissions process entails numerous factors beyond the applicant’s control. It was challenging for me to accept that a rejection didn’t necessarily reflect my capabilities but rather each college’s unique requirements. Nonetheless, from September to March, I felt as though a significant portion of my life was dictated by arbitrary admissions officers.

That morning of awakening to a sense of relief marked a pivotal realization – I was back in the driver’s seat, not beholden to colleges or external influences. While the disappointment of not securing a spot at my top-choice school still lingers, I found myself reflecting positively on the preceding months. I acknowledged my growth and felt a sense of pride in how far I had come. I even found myself looking forward to the future and its possibilities.

From submitting my first application in September to receiving the final decision in March, seven months had elapsed, during which I underwent personal evolution. As high schoolers, we may presume to have a firm grasp on ourselves and our aspirations, yet the truth is, we evolve daily, learning more about the world and ourselves.

Since finalizing my applications last fall, I have gained clarity on my future aspirations, contemplated what I truly seek in a college, and assessed the learning environments conducive to my growth. My journey as a student didn’t culminate with the submission of my initial application; I have evolved and matured over these past seven months, realizing that my dream school was just that – a dream.

Had someone shared these insights with me a week ago, amidst the throes of the application process, I would have been skeptical. It’s easy, even customary, to succumb to negativity while awaiting decisions – a sentiment I wholeheartedly experienced. However, now that the tumultuous months have passed, I find myself with a clearer understanding of my identity and aspirations.

To the juniors embarking on the college application journey, remember, stress is within your control – don’t let the process dictate your well-being. Embrace a spectrum of emotions – pride, excitement, disappointment – that accompany the admissions process.

It may take going through this journey, emerging on the other side, to realize that if things don’t unfold as envisioned, it isn’t the end of the world. It took me seven months, 15 applications, and numerous essays to comprehend this, but not securing admission to your dream institution isn’t the culmination of your story; rather, it signifies the beginning of a new chapter.