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College stressors

Maria Carrillo High School students enter the College and Career center in the administration office (Photo: Marissa Caesare, The Puma Prensa)

By Marissa Caesare, staff writer

As upperclassmen enter the transition from high school to college, there is much that needs to be completed regarding preparation. The senior class of 2023 has already begun writingpracticing their college essays in English class, thinking about majors, and deciding which colleges to apply to. Maria Carrillo High School students have continuously been presented academic challenges that push them to their limit. Online school, wildfires forcing evacuation, and rigorous classes are just a few of the obstacles that students have had to face over the past four years. Many students are swarming around Ms. Kim Handel’s College and Career Center, eager for advice and aid that will help make the college application process a little less nerve wracking. “So, as seniors enter essentially the most crucial time of their high school experience, how are they affected? What feelings and pressures are they encountering?

Kate O’Malley, a senior, expresses her feelings of anxiety and stress whilst preparing for college. She reports being stressed almost every week due to how overwhelming the college selection and application process is for her. O’Malley also notes how sometimes she is so stressed that she, at times, cannot hang out with friends because she has to work on finalizing her choices for college and composing applications. Kate believes that the most worry-inducing part about getting ready for college as a senior is just picking out the college she wants to attend; she worries about finding a college that suits her right and provides for her needs. 

Senior Cassidy Dorr is going through a similar process as Kate, and shares the same feelings and experiences with her concerning stress levels. Both Dorr and O’Malley have reported feeling stressed everyday due to college preparation alone. Dorr’s bigger worry when it comes to college applications is not getting into her top choice schools. “I’ve spent so much time researching and thinking about what life would be like at these colleges, and put a lot of work in” on college essays and applications. Both seniors feel overwhelmed at times while having to balance school, and extracurricular activities. While they admit to feeling nervous as their final year of high school finally sets in, they still urge others to not let their stress get the best of them. 

Evidently, getting ready for college and future plans can create a daunting environment for seniors at times, but how are juniors affected? Junior year is supposedly the most difficult year of high school, according to most students. With the SATs, the ACTs, and the start of college considerations for many, it is typical for junior students to experience anxiety and worry. Colleges are also known for typically focusing on junior and senior-year grades of high school students, but especially junior. It is commonly encouraged, whether by college alumni or counselors, to take the most rigorous courses possible, in order to prove to colleges that one is a worthy, hardworking student. Danya Ali, who just entered her junior year, admits to beginning her college journey preparation in middle school, when her teachers began to emphasize the importance of taking steps that could get future high-school graduates ahead of the game. Danya, since her freshman year, has chosen to engage in demanding honors and AP classes, such as AP Chemistry her sophomore year, and Honors Spanish 3 currently. Like the seniors, she reports being worried about her future in college and having to prepare almost constantly, as it is a common conversation topic in her environment. She pushes herself to get the highest scores she possibly can on her AP classes, and is already prepping for the SATs. Furthermore, the more college talk buzzes about, the more her realization of college being just around the corner settles in. “”I knew that growing up was inevitable, but senior year being close makes it feel so much more real; it’s scary but exciting”. Luckily, she feels that her family and friends are supportive, and encouraging as they push her to do her best. As for coping with her worries, she remarks that the time period of junior and senior year is “stressful, but that’s just part of life”, and plans to take life’s encounters day by day, without trying to overthink the future too much. 

Hence, the shared stress and anxiety levels among Maria Carrillo High School juniors and seniors are felt, but what are high school seniors and juniors across America feeling about college preparation? Are they experiencing similar encounters with stress? According to the CDC, More than 1 in 3 high school students had experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2019, which is a 40 percent increase since their study done in 2009. This statistic illustrates how students nationwide are indeed dealing with their own struggles of feeling anxious, sad, or burnt out in high school. One NYU study recently linked chronic stress to academic pressures, varying from social to parental expectations. Students’ mental health is intimately tied to what they undergo academically and socially at school, which can provide reason for the fact that students are overwhelmed with college preparations, as it is a majorly known priority on campus. 

Nevertheless, Cassidy Dorr suggests to other juniors and seniors to “trust and pursue what [they] feel drawn to. Also, the college process is not meant to be just stressful. Try to enjoy it.”

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