For RHS seniors, it’s that dreaded time of year. During these crucial weeks, there are essays to prepare, scholarships to seek out, decisions to make — not to mention grades to maintain, sports to play, and leadership positions to juggle.
In the midst of the whirlwind of college applications, the pressure is on. It seems that every conversation revolves around the same topics: “My mom went to Northeastern so I have to apply.” “Do you think my 32 ACT is good enough to get into NYU?” “My parents will kill me if I don’t get into an Ivy.” “Have you been recruited? Where?”
For many people, there is incredible pressure to apply to the most prestigious schools, despite the fact that most students are aware that there is an incredibly high chance of rejection.
“So many of my friends and classmates are applying to anywhere between fourteen and twenty schools,” one senior notes. “I’m just committed to one school’s academic process because I’ve been recruited through sports, but seeing all of my friends taking high caliber classes while writing all of the essays for so many schools AND paying $60-$80 per application? Just plain stressful.”
This is a common sentiment shared among high school seniors across the country, but is there anything about Ridgewood High School that exasperates this burden?
“Even though a college degree isn’t the ticket to the middle class like it was before, Ridgewood is a town that is, to oversimplify, made up of mostly people whose parents are college-educated and middle class,” notes Harin Jeong, a senior currently applying to eighteen colleges. “So it’s not just the school environment, it’s more the expectations from parents and friend groups engaging in that same pressure that makes everyone so hung up on getting into the best schools.” Not to mention, all seniors are required to attend a class, Senior Focus, during their first quarter to guide them through the process. Senior Julia Rojkov explains that “this college process seems to follow us everywhere. Our college applications are now a source of small talk, and this constant reminder follows us home with our family. It’s actually funny that the Common Application portal now has a timer telling me that my early applications are due in 10 days in this urgent red color. Not intimidating at all.”
Another senior remarks, “I’m just applying to four schools, with Rhode Island School of Design as my top and most selective school. But when I told some people that, they were all really surprised! I felt pressure from my friends to apply to big-name schools because they were all applying to them, too. Whenever my friends would question why I wouldn’t want to go to a school that I apparently could have a chance getting into, I would second guess myself.”
Of course, there are students left wondering whether applying for college right after high school is the right path for them at all. Senior Focus did help some students recognize other options for their post-high school ambitions, such as the military, joining a trade school, or taking a gap year for their mental health or self-started projects. But it seems as if the school environment with all of the packed admissions representative visits and continuous reminders from guidance counselors, makes college seem like the only successful path for students.
At the end of the day, the number of acceptances received do not define a student’s future.
Whether it’s a community college or an Ivy League institution, the name or reputation of the school holds no weight in comparison to what the student makes of the experience. Seniors should look past the flashy pamphlets and school recruiters and find what is right for them. Stay strong, class of 2023!
Graphic: Ruth Fan