Under Pressure

The+college+inbox+of+Lily+Kuhn%2C+12%2C+holding+hundreds+of+emails+from+dozens+of+colleges.

The college inbox of Lily Kuhn, 12, holding hundreds of emails from dozens of colleges.

Lily Kuhn, Bronco Editor in Chief

My junior year, when I took the ACT for the first time, I made a new email account to use for it, to help keep all my college-related emails in one inbox. In the next year, I would use this email to take the ACT twice more, in addition to the PSAT. I had the good luck and skill to score well on these tests, and inadvertently invited an overwhelming barrage of emails, letters, lookbooks, and postcards to my inbox and home.

I spent countless hours sifting through everything, sorting college materials into stacks on my bedroom floor. Eventually I grabbed a trash bag and just started discarding the ones I knew I would never apply to, and piling the rest in a folder. 

Once I had my list of schools I was applying to, I had to tackle the part I was really scared of. I always hoped that the college admissions process would be easy. The hard work, my parents always told me, was in my first three years of high school. I had a plan laid out for how I would spend my years in high school; as an underclassmen, I would work hard at academics and my activities, laying the foundations to become a leader and ace the tests I needed to ace. Then, as a senior, I would turn that all into some sort of coherent application, and hope it was enough to get me into a good school.

I spent so much time preparing for it, and then everything fell apart. For years, increased emphasis has been put on standardized tests in order to “equalize” the process between distinct high schools, but the virus wholly disrupted that system. I was scheduled to take the SAT over spring break my junior year, when our lives first began their shift into the indoors, but it was the first of many standardized test dates to be canceled. Colleges find themselves in an impossible situation where there is no fair way to judge students’ grades–some schools shifted to pass/fail, some states closed, some didn’t–and no way to judge their standardized test scores–some can take the ACT and SAT, some can’t. Even then, the scores don’t carry the same weight when they’re taken in five hours in a mask, after long months of online school. A new, wholly holistic judgement must suddenly be made by colleges, one that doesn’t put the same weight on scores and grades, and it leaves me longing for the time back that I spent stressing about their importance. 

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