Opinions: Nayak knows: Obsessed and overstressed


Reading preparatory books are the way to go when looking for what a college application essay should look like. It is always helpful to look at successful examples when I have no idea where to start.

For the past two years, I’ve obsessed over the whos, whats, wheres and whens of college and scholarship applications. Now that it’s time to get to work, I am lost in this high-stakes world.

Applying for college is like investing in the stock market. I’ve spent hours on collegeboard.com researching, reading prep books and talking to friends and adults who have been through the same process, but there is still uneasiness.

Teachers and counselors have shared wisdom throughout my first three years of high school:

  • GPA is important
  • freshman grades actually matter
  • join clubs and/or sports
  • always embrace leadership opportunities
  • take AP classes

The list goes on.

All of these elements guided me through freshman, sophomore and junior years, but I realized that no one ever gave me a to-do list for senior year. I had to construct my own.

Although over the past two years, I’ve read seven preparatory books and scoured databases to assess where I belong, I still feel unprepared. In past years while doing research, there was always a time-cushion between senior year and I.

Now, I have to choose exactly which colleges to apply to, complete those applications, write essays and not-to-mention find scholarship and financial aid applications.

There are so many essential parts of the application process that seniors have to consider: deadlines, resumes, essays, recommendation letters, the Common Application (an online application used by over 500 schools), supplements and standardized test scores.

The scary part is that this laundry list of tasks is specific to each individual. How am I supposed to know what to do? How can I keep my priorities straight when there is so much to keep track of? How do I make sure everything is turned in on time?

It’s common for an EHS student to apply to two to five schools and have one clear dream school, according to Mr. Jeff Buckman, college and career specialist. I’m envious of my friends who know exactly where they want to go and are finished applying.

I have no idea where I will end up or which school is the perfect college or university for me. Currently, there are nine schools on my apply-to list, and I might add one or two more. I’m a bit overwhelmed to say the least.

On top of my internal struggle, I have to deal with a flood of unsolicited advice from my parents’ friends. Every adult I talk to has their own opinion on the schools and majors I’m considering.

I’ve answered the questions “Where are you going to college?” and “What do you plan on studying?” and “Where all are you applying?” so many times that I have a carefully-rehearsed answer for each inquiring adult. When responding, I try to keep my answers concise; I am vague enough to keep my sanity but substantial enough so they are content with my response: “Oh, I’m looking at a few schools in Boston, a couple in Chicago and, of course, a few around here, as well.”

Friends of the family have good intentions, and I know they are just curious about what is in store for me. But, I need to straighten out my plans before I can gush about the future.

I know what I’m feeling is not unique; thousands of high school seniors across the country are feeling the same anguish, and millions have experienced my distress in the past. However, it is new to me.

Last year’s graduating class has proven to be an invaluable resource. Whether I have a quick question about the Common Application or am looking for advice on an essay topic, my friends from the previous senior class are just a text away.

The EHS staff is also a resource if I am looking for some advice. Mr. Buckman and Mr. Craig Kennedy, A+ and testing coordinator, have provided insightful answers to my S.A.T. vs. A.C.T and this college vs. that university questions.

There could potentially be no reward for my hours of research and dedication. It’s frightening that I could put in all of this effort and ultimately, it could all be a waste. Only time will be able to calm my anxiety. One year from now, it’s impossible to believe I will be sitting in a college classroom with all of these worries a distant memory.

Like an investor revels in the peaks and is disappointed in the dips in stock values,a senior must deal with the highs and lows of admittance and rejection letters.

I’m investing my time to portray my best profile to universities. My investment hinges on being able to write stellar application essays. I’m investing in myself.