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The College Evolution: How Stress about College has Grown Over the Years

Graphic by Caitlyn Rand '13

When she was my age, my mother took the SAT only once. She didn’t study, she didn’t have a tutor. She just walked in, took the test, and walked out.

When it came time to start looking at colleges, she only went to her school’s college night. No visits, no tours. She just listened to the presentations, without even taking notes.

When she began applying to colleges, my mother applied to Williams because the boy she liked was applying there as well. And that was the college she went to, for all four years.

Now, this may not have been the case for everyone’s parent. But I think we can all agree that in the past thirty or so years, the college application process, or maybe even the entire high school experience, has gotten a little out of hand.

Weeknights have been taken up to do the hours of homework assigned. And Sunday mornings are absorbed by an SAT prep course, or a calculus tutor.

I know people who say they’ve toured upwards of twenty five schools. I know that I’ve already looked at several schools in the Boston, New York, and Washington D.C. area: big, small, urban, suburban.

Extracurriculars, something people once did for fun (what a novel idea!), are now used by many to pad their college application.

Have we gotten too college obsessed? Or is there simply no other option? Is it a demonstration of our generation’s work ethic, or is it just too competitive environment?

A New York Times online article said that going to an elite school has become less and less valuable over time. So why is it, then, that the fascination with those coveted “elite” schools has gotten bigger and bigger?

Certainly, the value of education has gone up in the past thirty years. We’re the information age. Blue-collar America is disappearing as we move our work overseas.

And there is that whole idea of population increase has led to college competition increase. There’s simply more people. And granted, there are more schools, but who wants to go to the online University of Phoenix? There may be more people, but there isn’t more Harvard.

But is this college mania just a thing of the suburban northeast? Do people from rural Alabama, for example, care about college as much as we do?

Most of my friends from the south seem to care about college, but not to the degree that we do. So maybe, the college obsession, the exponential growth of concern over what school to apply to, has simply become something local, or at least demographic.

All I know is, I won’t be taking the SAT only one time.

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