College counseling has begun for the juniors, and my head is spinning. It’s time to take the SATs and the ACTs and the SAT Subject Tests. I need to start planning college visits and thinking (at least a little bit) about applications and essays.
All of a sudden, I have a brand new pile of things to be stressed about. It’s intimidating to think about the thousands of smart people (many of whom are willing to get much less sleep than I am in order to stuff their applications with extracurriculars) I’ll be competing against.
And looking at my transcript is a little frustrating. I wish I could tell my freshman and sophomore selves to study more for certain tests.
And then, of course, my mind is tempted to go into a ridiculous spiral of anxiety. Doing badly on a test means getting a bad grade in the class, which means having a bad GPA, which means getting into only bad colleges, which means having a bad life.
But it’s completely unreasonable to think that way. Everyone from Country Day will get into a decent college. A lot of us will go to fantastic schools. And even though I probably won’t be accepted to an Ivy League, I doubt that my life will, in the long run, be adversely affected by any of the letters on my transcript.
When I attempt to be objective, I realize how incredible it is that I can count on going to college at all. It’s easy to forget that Sacramento Country Day is not an accurate microcosm of the world or even the United States. According to The New York Times, 30 percent of American adults have bachelor’s degrees, a record high number. Chances are 100 percent of my class will earn a bachelor’s degree, and many will go on to graduate school.
Many of us get caught up fretting over prestige and acceptance rates. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have high standards, but the reality is we can get pretty much the same experience from a less fancy school as from the college of our dreams. Or so I’ve been told by the many teachers who have attempted to reassure us that we will find a good college even if it’s not Harvard.
But, naturally, none of the reasonable things I tell myself about college completely get rid of my nerves. When it comes to choosing the place where I will be spending four years of my life, it’s hard not get a little anxious. And I can’t deny I’d mind the bragging rights associated with a first-rate school, even if the education is only marginally better.
For me, the struggle is to ignore the voice in my head that says that both my worth and the course of my life will be based on the colleges I get into. The more intelligent part of me knows how lucky I am to be able to depend on getting a good education.