The Eyes, Ears, and Voice of Pascack Hills High School

The Trailblazer

Nine Thousand Five Hundred and Four Words Later

Zachary Broadman

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Editor’s Note: The following piece is an opinion-editorial.

Thirty-one pages; 9,504 words; 45,518 characters; 21 schools. These numbers represent the sum total of my college application process – the part that can be measured at least. What they don’t quantify is the crushing stress, the fear of not getting in, and the overwhelming uncertainty about what goes on behind the doors of that admissions room.

People have said I’m crazy for applying to to so many schools. Yeah, I might be a little crazy, but so is the admissions process. Everyone hears about the superstar student with perfect scores who got denied from every top school, the curveball Ivy acceptance, the board of directors’ family member. The bottom line is that no matter what, no one can be sure of what’ll happen. This is why the process is crazy, and this is why I applied to 21 schools.

It’s reached the point where students don’t know the real chance of getting into any given school, because regardless of all the statistics and anecdotes and gut feelings, college acceptances seem to be as random as the toss of a coin. As a result, students that want to go to selective schools feel the need to apply to a large number of colleges and universities just so they have a chance of getting into one.

Students aren’t the only ones who feel so uncertain about the admissions process. Everyone from guidance counselors to parents can, at best, only guess what schools a student will or won’t get into. Even admissions officers will tell you that until they see the entire applicant pool, they can’t be sure of anything.

The consequence of uncertainty is that students pour an unbelievable amount of time and energy into a process that is completely unpredictable. While applying,  which occurred from early October to mid-January, I felt as if applications and essays consumed my life. Not only is this physically and mentally straining, but it’s also emotionally tolling. All of these college essays are personal, so applicants must first present their truest sentiments to a school, then sit and wait for judgment before an unknown committee of admissions officers using a mysterious decision-making process.  

Unfortunately, the issues of low acceptance rates and uncertainty are paradoxical. An increasing amount of students are applying to schools with an unchanging amount of spots, so acceptance rates are declining. As these acceptance rates decline, students are forced to apply to more schools to reduce the risk of not getting in anywhere, and the cycle continues.

The whole process, from applying to hearing back, is hard. I personally don’t know where I will or won’t get in, but it’s out of my hands now, and the best I can do is wait and make the most of whatever happens. I encourage all of my fellow seniors to do the same, and I hope that the underclassmen give themselves plenty of time to comfortably complete the process, because I know from experience that waiting too long is terribly stressful. When you do start, carefully consider what college will make you happy, and really try to present your truest and best self to the admissions committee. If they don’t like you, it’s their loss.

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The Eyes, Ears, and Voice of Pascack Hills High School
Nine Thousand Five Hundred and Four Words Later