College planning through high school

Throughout high school, the looming pressure to prepare for college is ever present. Classes, grades, class rank, and standardized testing scores are all factors which comprise the college application process. Beginning freshman year, the stress associated with high school to create the optimal portfolio for colleges and scholarships greatly affects students.

The societal pressure to have college plans is the byproduct of the need of employers to have highly skilled workers. On average, college graduates earn $58,000 in comparison to the $32,000 high school graduates earn.  

However, the expectation to do well in high school to prepare for college could be harmful for students who rather enter their field directly or attend a trade school.

According to STEM counselor Fred Mann, “Any job that you interview for they’re asking you to have that college education,” Mann continues, “that is how it is going to be in the world moving forward.”

The large margin of earning potentials can be enticing for students to choose a traditional path of higher education. 86 percent of students at Perry do go onto college and face the application process head on. Over the course of four years, students strive to compose the prime high school resume, but what toll does it have on them?

High school is shaped by a series of numbers, spanning from grades, and quantity of classes, class rank or simply a sports jersey number. However, some of the most notable are those on the score reports of standardized tests.

As determinants of scholarships and an indicator of skill, tests such as the ACT, SAT and Advanced Placement (AP) subjects hold an important role in the college application process but instill a potentially adverse level of expectation.

This is one of the main factors in the college application process to create pressure to mold into a college’s expectations. As career center counselor Pat Phillips shares, “[for] a lot of students, I think that it’s not that they don’t know the content, but they’re not great test takers.”

To even be considered an applicant, the majority of students must pay a mandatory application fee. According to U.S. News, the average price of an application for class of 2016 was $42. Yet for more selective universities, the range can be between $75 and $90.

“Application fees are too expensive. If they want more students to apply they should actually lower them. Like I get that colleges actually need the money but to have them at $75 to $85 each is kind of expensive.” Senior Serena Chang shares.

However, more than the application fee is needed to be paid. In addition, the $12 standardized testing score report and high school transcript order must be attended to. With these additional fees layered on the other various academic expenses, to have your name even considered for admission.

Beyond the financial stress of applying to college, the average cost to attend is another burden for families. The average tuition for the 2016-2017 school year for a public school is $9,650. This is in addition to the thousands students have to pay for housing.

Most students factor in the cost when determining college to attend. Students who decide to stay in-state mostly make the decision out of cost-consciousness. Senior Nikki Galvez determined that she needed to stay in-state after receiving the National Hispanic Merit Scholarship for University of Arizona.

“I want to stay in-state where it is cheaper,” Galvez continues, “and get my basic skills together at U of A and when I go to MIT, I actually know what I am doing.”

The college application itself is a chance for the culmination of four years of experiences to be compressed into a snapshot for the eyes of reviewers. The multitude of time spent in sports, clubs, and jobs; the rigor of the academic courses taken; the experiences earned over volunteering are all subject to word count and review in an appeal to scholarships and universities.

This condensation of high school adds pressure to expound on the activities done during the four years. Add this to strain of deadlines for multiple applications and the result is stress upon students while completing the deciding factor in the next four years of their life.

Unfortunately, the feeling of relief comes scare for the many that are unprepared for the multiple essays, test submissions and letters of recommendation. As Senior Travis Latimer said, “The process for college applications can seem daunting, but if you take the initiative early… the worry goes away.”


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