Standardized tests. Teacher recommendations. Transcript requests. November 1st deadlines. Essays. Supplements. Naviance. All of these elements make up the typical first quarter for seniors at Ridgewood High School. Between navigating the Common Application, studying for tests, and completing homework, September through November of twelfth grade is arguably more stressful than all of junior year, and many seniors can attest to this. The last year of high school is “so much more stressful”, says senior Grace Pizzuti. In a recent poll of thirty-nine seniors, twenty-seven of them (69%) responded that the first quarter of senior year was more draining and stressful than the previous year. Teachers increase the workload before losing their students to the annual second-semester ‘senioritis’, but for many current seniors the third and fourth quarters are in the distant future.
Applying to college takes a huge toll on students’ mental health. Even rising seniors who wrote their Common Application or Coalition Application essays and supplements over the summer found the first few weeks of school extremely difficult with balancing homework responsibilities and application deadlines. “I feel like a mess and senior year is so emotionally draining”, says senior Violet Maxwell. Besides the physical workload, the psychological component of worrying about potential college rejections takes a toll on mental well-being and self-esteem. Many seniors are frantic over not getting into their top school and competing with fellow classmates to do so. Rejection letters are feared and taken as not only a failure but as embarrassing. When a peer is admitted to a school and another is not, it makes the person rejected feel inferior and undeniably creates tension between friends.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t help when adults tell seniors that they will end up at the school that’s “right for them”. Hearing the same phrase over and over does not reassure students, nor does it prevent disappointment when receiving a rejection email or letter.
RHS holds frequent meetings with guidance counselors in order to make sure students are up to speed on their applications. Other schools do not require seniors to talk to their counselors as much: one New Jersey school holds two major meetings, one at the end of junior year and the other in October of senior year, to help seniors find their way around Naviance. The same school sends out a packet during the summer that includes a checklist so rising seniors can make sure they are up to date on application requirements. “I like the way my school deals with the college process, however I think there could be some improvements”, says an anonymous student from the school. “For example, I wish our guidance counselors would take the initiative and set up meetings with us instead of the other way around.” Ridgewood students should consider themselves lucky in the sense that they are given more opportunities to work with guidance counselors through the college conference at the end of their junior year and numerous meetings throughout the first quarter of senior year about Naviance and the entire application process.
Ridgewood High School prides itself in preparing its students for college, and compared to other schools in New Jersey does a sufficient job in assisting students with college applications. However, December through March is when seniors’ stress is heightened again due to acceptance or rejection letters. At this point in the school year, seniors can’t quite relax until they know for sure where they will be attending college. Although some seniors know where they’ll be spending the next four years, the majority feel as though the second semester seems just as far away as it did in September.
Graphic: Nicole Kye