It is now the time when many Uni seniors are rushing to get their college applications done. This application process can be stressful, with stress stemming from multiple angles, such as from parents and peers.
“It’s a period of incredible pressure for a great many Uni students—more than it needs to be,” said freshman English teacher Stephen Rayburn.
School counselor, Kristi Bandy, has noticed that many seniors came back from summer vacation feeling very stressed.
“A thing that we dealt with a lot at the beginning of the school year was students overscheduling themselves,” said Bandy.
She noticed that the prospect of college was becoming a reality for seniors, leading to stress. She also noticed that this stress related to college was more concentrated in the senior class.
Subfreshman Amaya McDuffie said that she will stress out about college more as she approaches senior year. “I guess when I get older it will get more [stressful] but not right now,” said McDuffie.
Freshman Reed Broaders echoed similar sentiments, claiming that college was on her mind, but not constantly talked about in the freshman class.
Bandy said that the college application process is introduced to Uni students in sophomore year, as sophomores are introduced to standardized testing when they take a practice PSAT. College information sessions will then increase through junior into senior year.
This has made junior Olivia Taylor feel very stressed, but she pointed out that it is mostly self-imposed.
However, another major source of stress that many students feel is pressure from parents.
“I don’t want to blame parents for everything, but I think we often have parents who feel like there are only certain schools that are acceptable,” said Rayburn.
Parents can influence their children’s decisions by voicing their approval for high ranking schools.
Senior Anna Troutt agreed that many of her classmates face pressures from their parents and were raised in environments where only a certain kind of school was deemed as acceptable.
She believes that there is a relatively elitist stance on college from many students to only attend Ivy Leagues and schools with low acceptance rates.
“I don’t necessarily think it’s from the students themselves, but from the environment they grew up in,” said Troutt.
Rayburn also believes that peer pressure is a factor that influences Uni students’ college process.
“If it’s not a school that other Uni students have thought about, then either people won’t look at it, or if they do look at it they get a lot of flak from their classmates because if they haven’t heard of it then they assume it must not be a very good school, which is an erroneous assumption in a great many cases,” said Rayburn.
Troutt, herself, is hoping to attend schools that she believes many Uni students don’t typically look at and she said fellow students have joked about her choices, which she believes reflects the elitist atmosphere.
“A lot of my friends want to go to these big name schools (…) so I get a little bit of flak for that because I want to go to a big school with a 90% acceptance rate and that’s kind of like a joke to some people here because of social perceptions,” said Troutt.
Troutt believes that many students in her class think that a school with an acceptance rate over 25% is bad.
Senior Lara Morgan has experienced the same reactions as Troutt. As a result, she doesn’t like to tell people where she is applying to college.
“I feel like they’re going to think ‘Oh, she would never get in there,’ or they would be like ‘Oh, that’s not a good school,’” said Morgan.
Morgan believes that Uni’s elitist atmosphere about college that Troutt referenced can lead to many offensive and insensitive jokes.
“Everyone makes jokes about some colleges, which is not very cool because a lot of them are actually good,” said Morgan.
Morgan believes that the elitist view of college is something unique to Uni and not in neighboring Champaign-Urbana schools. “People [in neighboring public schools] wouldn’t judge you for saying you want to go to Parkland, or even like the U of I.”
Komal Kumaran, a senior in Centennial High School, believes that most Centennial students are applying to college and that they are just as stressed as Uni students. “They [students] want to write the best essays, have the best GPA, and the best ranking.”
Christina Harden, a Uni alum from the Class of 2012 and Cornell University graduate, can relate to the stress that some Centennial and Uni students feel.
“I think definitely at Uni we were always told we were a feeder institution to Ivy Leagues, so there was this ‘Am I special enough to pass this test,’ mentality, which was stressful for me,” said Harden.
Harden said she was one of many in her class who was fixated on getting into an Ivy League. Ultimately, she did, but she believes that the process was more stressful than it needed to be.
“Being a senior, they [people] make college out to be the rest of your life,” said Harden.
Harden said she experienced a lot of peer pressure and pressure from her parents, but she believes that she would’ve been fine if she didn’t attend Cornell.
Rayburn believes that it’s not productive for students to only focus on a select few colleges. He has observed that many Uni students set their eyes on schools in certain parts of the country, such as the Northeast and the Northern Midwest.
“We get the mindset that the important thing is to go to college, rather than thinking what it is you really want to do,” said Rayburn.
He said that he has had many students who have taken paths to Uni students would consider unconventional, but they have been highly successful.
Senior Julian Montague is one of the only students in his class who is not applying to college and he believes that he experiences less stress because he doesn’t need to focus on standardized tests and writing essays.
“It’s sort of like a burden lifted because I don’t have to worry about it, like other Uni students,” said Montague.
Whatever paths Uni students decide to take, Rayburn and Harden would like for students who choose to apply to college to know that everything will be fine.
“I wish they [Uni students] would relax and understand that they’ll get into a good school,” said Rayburn.