The Stress of College Applications

College applications can cause stress for students trying to balance work, homework, and extracurricular activities. However, the excitement of college makes the stress and vigorous essay writing worth it. (photo courtesy of Abigail Mabe)

The time of year is here for seniors applying to college. Stress levels are increasing and application deadlines are approaching quickly. Many early action applications are due October 15 or November 1, and students applying through the Common Application have to provide a personal essay on top of the supplemental school ones.  

The application process starts with listing personal information such as your name, birthday, family, residency, etc. The information slowly starts advancing into intended majors and careers, and you can’t forget the personalized essays for each college. This is a time-consuming and stressful process for many students trying to balance work, extracurriculars, and school. 

“College applications have been pretty time consuming considering how many schools I am applying to [9]. I try to work on them for at least 30 minutes a night, whether that’s revising essays, looking for and applying to scholarships, or doing some research on the schools I am applying to,” said Alex Walczyk, senior at Leesville Road High School, through text. 

Not only are there multiple steps for applying to college, but also to each scholarship, especially if they are larger ones. There are typically multiple essays per school-specific scholarship on top of the number of personalized and common app essays going to that one school. This can be even more time consuming for the student.

“Applying to the schools themselves isn’t too time consuming, especially with the common app, but finding and applying to scholarships is VERY time consuming,” said Nicole Arwood, senior at LRHS through text.

However, some of the burden is lifted due to online school this year because of COVID-19. “I feel that online school gives me more time for [college applications], this might just be because I am not in AP calculus anymore so I don’t have 3 hours of homework a night. I am able to use my long lunches and I feel like I have a lot less homework that I dedicate to my applications,” said Rianna Gilles, senior at LRHS, over text. 

Especially with the extended 2-hour lunch and shortened instructional periods, there is in general more free time built into the online learning system. “I feel like I definitely have more time this year-classes are shorter, and I don’t feel like I have as much work,” wrote Arwood. 

The multitude of essays assigned by colleges and Common Application to the students applying come from vastly different subject matters and required lengths. Sometimes it becomes difficult for the students to come up with ideas of what to write about and can cause stress on their end, especially since college essays are so different from the English or History essays students are used to. 

“The hardest part of applying [to] schools for me is writing the essays. I’m not an amazing writer to begin with, and of course I want to make the essays as good as I can, so I’ve spent many days writing, and rewriting essays for schools,” wrote Walczyk. 

It is difficult to let others revise essays without losing the personal touch. If an essay is revised too much, it can end up sounding fake or not true to the student’s personality or writing style, so it is tricky to find that balance. “I want to sound very eloquent and knowledgeable but it is difficult to know if my writing is good without help from others,” wrote Gilles. 

Arwood explains the amount of stress college applications cause. With deadlines coming up quickly, especially for scholarships, stress levels are high. There is a lot to get done in a short amount of time, and a lot of precision that has to go into the applications. Not only is the application process stressful, but also the waiting process, since after submitting an application most students do not get a response until January at the earliest. They just have to wait, questioning if they got into the college or not.

 “Applying to colleges is very stressful to me but once I submitted most of my materials a lot of the stress subsided and I feel pretty well. Now I am just like second guessing, and I’m thinking what if I didn’t include everything or I don’t get in. Very stressed about what my decision will be for those schools,” wrote Gilles. 

However, applying to colleges can also be exciting for students. “I’m excited to have all my applications turned in, and see what schools I many or many not get into,” wrote Walczyk. “I am most excited about being able to move out and having the freedoms and responsibilities that come with being a college student.”

Most students are excited about the freedom college has to offer, as well as the fact that college is the path to their future careers and lives. Students can also make friends with other students from around the world, an opportunity typically not offered in high school. “The most exciting thing about college to me is the chance to study abroad,” wrote Arwood.

Overall, although the college application process is stressful, students are looking forward to college with excitement, and will bear through the stress to get to the reward of learning with new opportunities and people.


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