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The battle for limited spots

This mentality that Staples’ students have adopted creates a stressful environment.
Caroline Zajac ’25
This mentality that Staples’ students have adopted creates a stressful environment.

The fight for a spot on a college’s class of 2026 list becomes more challenging by the month. College admissions have been more difficult than ever, and kids have aspired to secure their places with a complex network of academic achievements, extracurricular involvement, personal essays, standardized test scores and a host of other factors. 

At the heart of this battle is the scarcity of available spots for a certain class. Colleges have a finite number of spots; the more prestige the smaller the chances are for earning acceptance. In this process, students are pitted against each other, desperate for admissions to the same school, which only creates a toxic atmosphere of pressure, anxiety, and various mental health issues. 

William Deresiewics, professor of English at Yale, found research on how the college admissions process is affecting students. In his research, published in his 2015 book, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, he found that “young people who are taught to chase prestige are overwhelmingly struggling with stress, lack of purpose, and poor mental health – a pattern that often persists throughout their lives.” 

He stated that he doesn’t know if colleges will ever realign their admissions processes away from their current intensity, and that this is a much larger conversation around kids with wealth and privilege. 

This all builds up to the main question in college admissions: What makes a candidate qualified? 

“Colleges will unfortunately only get more strict with admissions as the years go on.”

— Caroline Zajac ’25


As stated earlier, there are plenty of factors that play a role in making you a qualified candidate for admission; it all depends on the level of prestige you want to aim for in admissions. If you go to a top 50 school in the country, it’s known that you need to build your resume. On the other hand, if you want to apply to somewhere with a 90-100% acceptance rate, colleges are more lenient on your application

The most important factor is your GPA. Most high schools in America go up to a 4.0 scale, but Staples High School goes up to a 4.33 scale. Your GPA is used to determine your class rank, obviously the higher rank you have the more likely you are to get into a prestigious school. For example, UT Austin’s automatic acceptance is based on class rank. Now, the fight for a high GPA requires extreme dedication, intellect, self-discipline and hard work.  

According to Susan Whorton, director of the Academic Success Center at Clemson University, “Maintaining a high GPA can make life easier for students while they’re in high school and college, and [where they go] after they graduate.” 

Staples High School alumnae, Grace Cauley, graduated high school in 2023 with a 3.9 GPA. She early actioned to Clemson, got deferred and finally got accepted with the exception of a summer school program before the fall semester started.  

Cauley took 4 APs, excelled in class and played on the varsity volleyball team throughout high school. When she did not get direct admission to Clemson, a 50% acceptance rate, she became extremely worried about how flawed the admissions process is. 

“Applying to college was extremely tolling on my mental health and well being,” Cauley said. “It makes me worried about future admissions because the process will only get more selective and stressful as the years go on.” 

Colleges will unfortunately only get more strict with admissions as the years go on. According to Adam Sapp, assistant vice president and director of admissions at Pomona College in CA, “In the last few years the landscape has shifted – admissions officers know that leadership and extracurricular involvement looks a little different today than it did before the pandemic.” 

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About the Contributor
Caroline Zajac ’25, Assistant Business Manager
News is serious business. Writing is serious business. Business is serious business.    So goes the mind of Caroline Zajac '25, the assistant business manager at Inklings. Never passing up an opportunity, Zajac has embedded herself in the world of Inklings' financial apparatus.    "I'm very self-driven and motivated," Zajac said. "I kind of want to be my own boss."    Zajac has ambitions to start a company someday and believes that Inklings has the means to teach her to achieve this grand goal.    "Although I'm assistant business manager now, I'm not my own boss,” Zajac said, “but I'll get there one day." 

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