January, February, March: the three longest months for a senior in high school.
Everytime I open Instagram, I am bombarded by congratulatory posts for my peers who’ve been accepted into and committed to their top-choice school. Congrats to my girly on Blank University, sending my bestie off to Blank College, University of Blank got a good one! Retreating from social media, I mechanically log into my applicant status portals, having done so enough times that each username and password is ingrained into my fingertips. But the same screen pops up over and over, imploring me to wait patiently until decisions are released in March.
So I comply and wait, along with the millions of teenagers itching to receive an acceptance letter, anxiously anticipating the fateful day in mid- to late-March that will determine our futures. I have been waiting for this moment for nearly eighteen years, having spent almost my entire life preparing for college applications. Reflecting back on the countless hours spent studying, evenings passed completing assignments, and days wasted writing and rewriting essays, I ask myself: was it all worth it?
Recently, after wishing away the past four years of high school and praying for March to come quicker, I came to the realization that this is it. High school is almost over, and soon, I will have to say goodbye to my friends, pack up my things, and leave the town I’ve loved (and hated) for nearly eighteen years. This realization brought with it a wave of fear: fear of the future, fear of living on my own, and fear that I might lose touch with my close friends. But the most crippling fear of all was the fear that my hard work won’t pay off. College admissions have gotten so competitive that good grades and test scores no longer ensure a spot in a school. Students are required to meet with alumni for interviews, write dozens of essays showcasing their best writing and brilliance, and bulk up their résumés with jobs, extracurriculars, and volunteer experience. But still, even after achieving the requirements– the GPA, the test scores, the recommendations– students find themselves at the mercy of an admissions officer, sitting somewhere in a stuffy office and a tweed jacket, skimming through their seventieth application of the day.
Students who are qualified for certain schools may be rejected by an admissions officer who didn’t like their writing style or wasn’t impressed by their hobbies or believed their interview reflected poorly on them. So, if that’s the case, if a biased stranger finds fault in what I believe was a perfectly adequate application, was it all worth it?
I’d like to think it was, because even if I don’t get into my dream school, the last twelve years truly have molded me into the person I am today. Through my schoolwork and academics, I have learned how to learn, study, and budget my time. Through my extracurriculars, I have learned what hobbies I enjoy and how to refine my skills independently. And through my work and volunteer experience, I have learned how to cooperate with others and behave as an employee, skills that will benefit me for the rest of my life. Many of the decisions I’ve made over the past twelve years may have been influenced by my hope to one day attend a top-tier university, but the learning experiences those decisions have provided me with have been invaluable in every aspect of my life.
So yes, I do believe it was all worth it, because ultimately, the boxes we had to check to complete our applications have set us up for success in the future. So for the next month, whenever you’re feeling anxious about the decisions weighing over you, just remember that you have done everything in your power to achieve your goals, and try to enjoy the time we have left together.