College Crisis

It’s time for the big decision. Are you ready? What do you want to be when you grow up? What high schools are you looking at? Have you started thinking about colleges? What about majors, have you decided? These questions start hitting us like a firewall far before we have even begun to think about […]

It’s time for the big decision. Are you ready?

What do you want to be when you grow up? What high schools are you looking at? Have you started thinking about colleges? What about majors, have you decided?

These questions start hitting us like a firewall far before we have even begun to think about their daunting answers.

Typical teenage responses include: No. No. I don’t know. Oh, I think my food is ready…

At any family holiday get together every single relative wants to know every single detail of our futures, even if we have already told them.

Emma O’Malley (‘15) spouted off one question that drives her crazy with no thought at all.

“Have you applied to college yet? I’m like ‘no I haven’t, okay?!'” she said. “My mom: ‘are you going to YALE?’ Like, step off.”

For Miya Takahashi (‘15), it’s the redundant question of where she is applying that bothers her.

“The most annoying thing about applying to college is that people always ask me where I’m applying,” she said. “It’s like every other day ‘oh where are you applying?’ Didn’t I just tell you yesterday? Like, okay.”

Thinking about college is one thing. The whole process of getting into college is in a completely different ballpark.

It seems so easy — we grow up with one or two ideal, perfect schools in mind. We will apply, get in, have the time of our life, and that’s that.

Oh, how we are shielded from the harsh reality of the application process.

Emma had one school in mind growing up, but now her mind has changed.

“Notre Dame — and then I realized how hard [the school] is, so I decided, nope,” she said matter of factly.

As we grow older, we might be drawn away from our original Ivy League dream by a number of factors. In depth research and college visitations might reveal that our aspiring college does not offer quite what we want.

Emma had one realization that she shared.

“I’m not a 5.0 student and I can’t go to Harvard.”

“What’s changed my view on where I would like to go to college is probably what I want to major in and what I want to be in the future,” Miya added. “Over time, I’ve figured out that I want to be a doctor, so I’ve definitely had to change the way I want to go to college and find a program that would fit my needs to go and do what I want to do in the future.”

Life experiences might influence what we want in a college as well. We could have had our hearts set on Harvard or Stanford, or NYU, but if we go to a large high school, we might find learning is not as enjoyable or effective with huge classes.

Or the opposite might occur: going to a smaller high school might encourage us to expand our college horizons and branch out in a larger learning environment.

Miya herself prefers a larger college.

“I do like a larger college, but preferably, if I were to get into a college, I would like to go to UC San Diego,” she explained. “Their college system allows me to be in a program that is small but within the larger community–you’re still part of that large community.”

The older we get, the more we learn about ourselves and what we want to get out of the college experience.

Miya is already looking far into her future and is figuring out what she needs in college to help her attain the goals she has.

“I would like to get out of college the education I need to do before I go to med school,” Miya said. “Pre-med is something that I am looking for or something that I can major in that would help me get into med school.”

Location is key as well. We might dream of going far away, but in reality, closer to home might make the transition into a new life easier.

“I love the beach, so I want to go to a school near the beach so I can have that as an option,” Emma explained. “Also, California has perfect weather and everything nearby, so you can go to Tahoe if you want the snow, San Diego if you want the beach, or Napa if you want the valley.”

Miya finds different advantages and disadvantages to being farther away.

“The advantage to being closer to home would be not having to pay as much to stay at a college,” she articulated. “But I think for me, I would like to be farther away in terms of growing up and having that experience of being on my own and being in control of what I have to do and taking responsibilities.”

Nevertheless, as we begin to approach deadlines, that fantasy of easy acceptance fades away.

News flash: applying to college is stressful. But what is it that really makes it so intense? Is it the great unknown of how the actual applications work? Is it the SAT and the ACT tests that are ever-so nerve wracking, or just a pain in the neck?

How about fear for the future, as in saying goodbye to our childhood and hello to completely new ground?

Emma finds essays to be the most stressful part of applying to college.

“I’m a horrible essay writer, so the idea that my entire future depends on how well I can answer my background stresses me out.”

The college acceptance process seems to have some sort of rigged system behind it. And what is it that motivates this? Well, money of course.

Let’s say you want to apply out of state. Well, the tuition for most schools will be extremely high because you are not considered a resident. You have to pay the out of state tuition.

But if you want to stay in state, colleges are less likely to accept you because you receive in state tuition privileges and therefore do not have to pay as much as an out of state student.

According to the US News ranking and reviews, UC Berkeley and UCLA are in the top 100 for lowest acceptance rates, with UC Berkeley at 17.7% and UCLA at 20.4%. Stanford is at the very top and has 5.1% acceptance rate.

But let’s look at demographic statistics: UC Berkeley has an 18.9% CA resident admission rate and a 20% out of state admission rate, excluding international students. UCLA has a 17.87% CA resident admission rate and a 33.68% out of state admission rate. And Stanford has a 54.2% out of state population, with a 37.6% CA residential population.

There is an obvious theme here: if you are from California the chances of you getting into one of these schools are lesser than if you are from another state.

“I think its kind of unfair for students that don’t live in the state to have to pay more, but it does help students that live in California to have a better opportunity at getting into schools within California,” Miya said.

“At the same time it creates more competition and California is a very overpopulated state which makes it a lot more difficult for students when we have so many students graduating every year and trying to get into a college within the state.”

Thus, the competition rate to get into a school closer to home is more difficult than going farther away.

The diversity of the student population on campus is another factor that makes it hard to apply close to home. It is most definitely not an impossibility, however, demographic stats are more appealing to future applicants. Colleges want to cater to that aspect.

On tours at any campus, one thing that is bound to come up is how absolutely diverse their student body is.

International and out of state students give colleges the best of both worlds. Money and diversity.

How is that fair to applicants nearer to the colleges? It isn’t.

Let’s just take an example–The University of California. I live in California and I have a reasonable GPA, I take rigorous courses, and I have a solid commitment to my extracurriculars

But why would a UC school accept me when there is an out of state student with the same qualifications who will pay more to attend? So many students around the world are competing for a precious spot in one of the worlds best education institutions, that the exotic idea of foreign exchange overshadows admitting actual California residents.

The UC Berkeley international student admission rate is 10.2%. UCLA has an international acceptance rate of 20.8%. Stanford’s international population is 8.2%.

It feels almost as if we have to prove ourselves even more since we live in California.

Colleges are scary and stressful no matter where we go, but everyone has to go through the application process, as daunting as it is. No matter what the college crisis is you are facing, acceptances happen where you are meant to be.

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