The Common Stress: The Ways in Which the College Process Has Bled Into Everyday Life

By Julian Fuchsberg

At lunch tables, in the classroom, or on the walk to the subway, Beacon seniors often find the conversation dominated by college talk. The topic is almost inescapable. Students unite under a common plight as they endure the heavy burden of encroaching deadlines and the myriad of supplemental essays. Most schools boast intensified applications and lower acceptance rates by the year, amplifying the hypercompetitive nature of the process, and making it difficult to avoid the urge to share standardized tests results or college lists. This “stress culture” is compounded by the general diligence of Beacon’s student body, as well as the rigor of the environment, where the average SAT score is nearly 200 points higher than the national median.

Industrious senior Narek Ghazaryan acknowledged that Beacon’s college counselors are beyond helpful in reducing admissions-induced anxiety, though their guidance is often offset by the overbearing frequency of conversations, in and out of the college office, on higher education. “It gets to the point where even mentioning anything college related induces stress,” he put it. 

Beacon senior Noah Vaknin feels some degree of comfort in knowing that “each student faces their own battles in getting into college,” though the continuous dialogue regarding college admissions provokes anxiety. Namely, in the sense that the “constant talk acts as a reminder that there is much so work left to be done.”

Some hold a relatively positive view on college discussions. Lucas Haber, for one, felt that “in general, people are very supportive towards each other and tend to assure others that they will get into colleges that they are applying to.” Nonetheless, he perceives that competition can often get the better of some. Though it is rare that students consciously debase others, Lucas was quick to note how “some people talk about how bad their scores are even when they’re better than other peoples’ scores, which will inevitably make others feel bad.”

Enterprising senior Maxine Slater expressed similar sentiments: “I think a lot of it is unconscious. Simply the language we use can devalue certain schools and estrange students from the college process. Sometimes we don’t consider that others’ goals don’t align—or simply can’t align—with our own.” Maxine went on to suggest that a “broader reconceptualization of the way Beacon students talk, think, and approach college” is necessary to “make college applications more forthcoming and inclusive.” She particularly advocated for greater sensitivity surrounding early-decision admissions, a “contractually-binding process which are not a financial viability for many students.”

As the workload gets more intense—for college applications and for classes—it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s no surprise that Beacon students are concerned about their future, and it’s even less of a surprise that they’re eager to talk about it. It’s difficult to straddle the line between seeking comfort and sympathy and making others feel insecure about their own abilities, especially when surrounded by highly competitive students. Seniors should strive to be more aware and more open when it comes to college-related stress, and to find an appropriate outlet for expressing their frustration.