In recent months, many Mishawaka High School seniors have experienced the stress of applying to various colleges across the country. Colleges in different states often have varying application deadlines, and keeping all of these dates straight can quickly overwhelm students who are still trying to keep their grades up and graduate. Examining this period of heightened anxiety and the effects that it has on the graduating class is crucial, especially when it has the potential to harm students’ current academic performance.
“College application season” is a term commonly used to describe the months after colleges make their essay prompts available to applicants, and when high school seniors begin submitting their applications, in hopes to be considered for admission the following year. During this time, many seniors become consumed by the weight of submitting applications and the seemingly endless waiting period before they receive their decision letters.
Senior Ana Devries, who has applied to more than twelve schools, shared her experience so far during the college application season. “I do have half days and my classes are pretty easy, but it’s just a lot of stress to have school and college applications.” While it is clear that college applications are taxing for high school seniors, the applications themselves may not cause much academic disturbance for students.“I would say it doesn’t really affect my performance, just my overall wellbeing,” Devries said.
Eli Childress, another member of the Class of 2023, agreed. “I got stressed from doing them [college applications], but I finished quite a few of them early on so I kind of got over it,” shared Childress. Senior Ava Raker added, “I think that it has put more pressure on making sure things are turned in on time and that my grades stay up,” suggesting that the stress of college applications actually has a positive overall effect on grades, even if it has the opposite effect on students’ mental health.
Mrs. Kelly Krider, an MHS counselor, offered her perspective on the effects of college application season on seniors. “Senioritis is a real thing,” shared Krider. She stated that, “at the beginning of the school year it is extremely stressful for a lot of students cause they’re doing multiple things, especially if they have extracurriculars…” Although she recognized the stress that comes with applying for college, she concluded that she observes the most noticeable downward trend in grades after students have been accepted into college. “They did all this work and so they’re kind of burnt out and they’re ready to move on, and so, generally, I see the trend in [the] second semester of senior year.”
Even if college application season does not directly cause a decline in the grades of college bound seniors, the effects that it can have on their mental health and senior year experience as a whole is cause for concern. As worrisome as such a correlation might be, there are a few measures that students can take to prevent extreme stress while in search of higher education.
While extreme stress as a result of the college search senior year seems inevitable, there are things that students can do to minimize the effects of college application season on their senior year. “Obviously, start early,” advised Krider, “I’m talking to my juniors now, and I try to emphasize thinking about that process early on, even over the summer. Nobody really wants to do that over the summer going into their senior year, but sometimes that is the most beneficial, especially if you’re going somewhere competitive…”
College application season can be an extremely uneasy time for MHS seniors. To make the process of applying to college a slightly less draining experience, MHS students should begin considering their options before senior year. They should seriously consider working on their college applications between their junior and senior year of high school to make the challenging process as effortless as possible.