STAFF EDITORIAL – Maintain perspective during college search and application process

Back when our parents graduated, it was common to hear that people were only applying to two or three different colleges. When a student is asked now, the student might respond with anywhere from five to fifteen colleges.

At Mason High School, many students place a large amount of pressure on themselves by loading their schedule with Advanced Placement and Honors classes. For students, five hours of homework and extracurricular activities is normal. This desire to overachieve can extend into the college application process when crafting a list of schools. Each additional college adds on new supplemental questions and essays, and another application fee. We bite off way more than we can chew and begin sacrificing sleep and free time just to get everything done. Time to relax and focus on self-care becomes nonexistent in a very stressful time.

But why? Are we applying to so many schools because more equals better in our society? Are we trying to appease our family or friends? Are we hoping to brag about how many schools we are accepted to? Are we unsure of our next step and want as many options as possible?

The issue is that we often throw schools on our lists with bare bones research. Does the school have the academic program you want? Is it a size and culture fit? Is the location a fit? Is it a healthy financial choice? Do you have time to visit campus? These factors are all critical in making a college decision, and larger lists muddy up our ability to collect enough information on each school. Applying to ten schools on minimal research leaves out key details, and can lead to us underestimating factors that swing decisions. The eighth school on your list may have an amazing new research facility in your program of study, but you never visit campus and overlook it.

It is very easy to take an “apply now, visit later if I get in” approach on schools, especially prestigious and out of state universities. This practice can be helpful if you are certain you are interested in a school but haven’t had the opportunity to take a trip and visit, but it is also dangerous. Putting off college visits until second semester only further delays your final decision, and requires you to fit a trip into your schedule. The average application fee ranges from $50-60, and it can cost an additional $20 to send test scores to each college. Those fees can pile up very quickly.

Instead of spending multiple hours on supplemental essays for a school you are more than likely not going to attend, use that time to research the university and decide if it’s a fit. Narrow down your list before taking the time to fill out each individual application and pay an excessive amount of fees.

So why apply to so many colleges, some of which we know we will never go to? Just to say you applied to an Ivy league school? Just to appease an alumni family member? Just because your friend is also applying there?

We wield our own destinies, and our decision on life after high school is critical to building towards our desired future. Our college lists should reflect that and not be cluttered up by the expectations and standards set by others. Choosing a home for the next four years of our lives is stressful enough, don’t make it more difficult by overextending yourself on an unmanageable number of applications and schools to choose from.