College Application Season: The Rollercoaster of Emotions

College application season is like a rollercoaster of emotions for high school seniors. First comes the reality check when students realize what schools are actually in their target range based on their GPA and SAT scores. Next is the tedious application process from filling out applications, writing essays, answering EOP questions, analyzing financial documents for FAFSA, and requesting letters of recommendation. After all that hard work, they can finally submit and take a giant sigh of relief because the hardest part is over. The next few months are a stressful waiting game for the decisions to arrive. With the arrival of the decision letters comes a wide range of emotions from excitement, heartbreak, disappointment, confusion, and fear. Deciding what school you’ll spend the next four to six years studying at is a major life decision that has so many influencing factors.

Looking back on my own college application experience, I distinctly remember the rollercoaster of emotions that I experienced. I was so excited to start the next chapter of my educational journey and did a lot of research on schools that I thought would be the best fit for me. The week that all of my college decision letters arrived felt like the end of the world and my first true heartbreak. While it felt like all of my friends were celebrating and getting accepted into the school of their dreams, I was opening letters and emails that all contained the same messages: declined or waitlisted. I was heartbroken and couldn’t understand how after working so hard throughout high school, earning hundreds of community service hours, and finishing in the top 10% of my class I could not be accepted into any of my “top pick” schools. (Disclaimer: I did get into some great schools and graduated with my bachelor’s degree. If only my high school self could have realized that getting into my dream school wasn’t the end of the world.)

I share my college application journey with my students each year to show them that not everyone has the same experience. I celebrate my students’ acceptances, but I am also aware and sensitive the wide range of emotions that others may be experiencing.

So as college application deadlines are quickly approaching and the waiting game begins, I leave you with some tips:

  1. Don’t procrastinate on submitting your applications. Technology isn’t perfect, and deadlines are pretty inflexible.
  2. Use your community as resources. Your family, teachers, counselors, and coaches are there to support you. Reach out to them to talk, edit essays, and write recommendation letters because most times they are willing to help.
  3. Create a professional email, and check it daily.
  4. Take a moment to celebrate your successes, you worked hard to get to where you’re at!
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Chelsea Culbert

Chelsea Culbert

Chelsea Culbert is a proud product of New York public schools where she graduated with her International Baccalaureate diploma. She went off to attain her B.A. in Chemistry with concentrations in Public Health and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies at NYU. While at NYU, she started the chapter of “Strive for College,” a non-profit organization that connects college students as mentors to assist high schoolers throughout the college application and financial aid processes. Immediately after graduation, Chelsea pursued her teaching career with Teach for America Los Angeles. While teaching, Chelsea completed her Master’s degree in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University. Chelsea is currently teaching at her Teach for America placement school in Lincoln Heights where she serves as Department Instructional Lead, Instructional Leadership Team member, and coaches Varsity soccer.

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