The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

Midnight Drafts to Early Decisions: College Hopefuls Aren’t Free of Junior-Year Stress Yet

Art by Sami McKenney

I’ve subconsciously developed a new ritual this year. I do it every time I open my agenda. Flipping through my color-coded tabs to find the right page, I always catch myself wondering what it would feel like to get there and see absolutely nothing.

No club meetings, no projects, not one upcoming test and absolutely zero pending assignments. I’m struggling to process the notion that after just a few more exams, that impossibility will become my reality.

My junior year of high school, these infamous nine months spent with my eyes locked on a computer screen, dawn to midnight, will come to an end in a couple days. The year that really counts, the year colleges really scrutinize, will be behind me. 

Me and my fellow juniors will walk out with our transcripts and our test scores, some gleaming, and some not so lustrous. We’ll burn all our notes in bonfires with our friends. We’ll collapse into our beds and finally get a full night’s rest. All will be well at last.

And I’m sure that when Common App opens in August, stress won’t dare try to overcome me again. I dragged myself and my flying colors out of junior year, after all. Anything more is insignificant. 

When I’m typing an application essay furiously at my dark kitchen table mid-September, a week out from an early decision deadline, I definitely won’t be reminded at all of junior year’s frequent late-night homework crises and heavy eyes.

And when it’s time for most of me to open that all-important acceptance email, I’m sure I’ll still be calling my junior year the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

All sarcasm, of course – I might be slamming my crowded agenda shut in a few days, but there’s a clean one waiting for me on a shelf somewhere, and I can almost see the terrifying swoop of “College!!!” scribbled on its pages in my own messy handwriting now.

I don’t expect admissions season to be overwhelming in the sense that junior year’s workload was overwhelming. I expect it to be degrading. I’m worried how it’s going to feel to see my entire self compiled into a few essays, some test scores and a list of accomplishments. Very real moments in my life, added together like numbers in the most important equation of my high school career.

I want colleges to see me as more than one success-machine selected from many, rewarded for optimal performance during my high school test-run. I want to do more during my senior year than worship the admissions process. And I am capable of more than straining through 

mind-numbing burnout in hope that some faceless university representative somewhere will be mildly impressed. 

And yet, if I went into senior year hoping to remain unhindered by the college admissions process, I would be kidding myself – and cruelly.

Especially among honors students, there’s few choices but to grit our teeth and study. We’re all sacrificing an hour of sleep for 60 more minutes of homework or review or volunteering or sports or clubs or standardized test prep. We’re all forgetting our social lives and our families. We’re all sprinting full-speed on the hamster wheel that is the road to higher education. 

When senior year hits and admissions season begins, that determination will change, but it won’t die. The big year is behind us, but the big essays, the big test scores, the big lists – a few of those are still to come. And none of us are going to finish the marathon walking. 

So, I’ll drop my ritual for a few summer months, maybe I’ll even toss my agenda in the bonfire, but come August, the diligently-recorded workload of junior year will be replaced with the fear of not being enough for a university that really does make me feel like I belong – wherever I decide that may be.  

Right now, I can only see the near future as three days of exams until the end of rock bottom, and three months of summer until I hit it again. It’s a negative outlook, I know, but in my defense, I’m crawling out of my junior year of high school, and I’m exhausted. 

I’ll concede to one positive of the 11th grade grind, and a pretty huge one at that: I really do think college-freshman me is going to look back and say it was all worth it. She’s the motivation behind my turning pages in that stupid agenda all year, and she’s the reason why I’ll hunker down through a humanity-stripping college admissions process this fall, one last time.