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A tale of two seniors

Maverick Notes


TORVALDSReview columnist Patricia Torvalds, a senior at Riverdale High School, applied to 11 colleges, all but three of which had acceptance rates below 20 percent. Torvalds has been accepted to Cornell University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Duke University, Vanderbilt University, Smith College and The Johns Hopkins University.

ROBERTSWest Albany High senior Sydney Roberts is a regular student columnist for the Albany Democrat-Herald and has applied to 10 colleges, all but one of which had acceptance rates below 20 colleges. Roberts has gotten into Wellesley College, Duke and Lewis & Clark College. She is waiting to hear back from five schools.

Here’s what they have to say about the trials and tribulations of applying to colleges:

Consequences of striving for ivory towers

Before high school, this time of year used to be a relaxing period where the weather began to hint at warmer days to come. Plans for summer were optimistically formulated, and the hassle of schoolwork wound down to meandering assignments and lessons taught outside.

However, once I entered ninth grade, free time became a precious commodity to stuff with resume boosters and impressive extracurriculars. In the past four years, I have spent June through August collecting volunteer hours and participating in programs with other motivated kids in ill-fitting business attire.

I traded camping trips for internships in Oregon State University labs, lake visits for government camps and vacations for supplemental courses at the local community college. It was all leading up to this time: college decision season.

My 2015 spring look can’t be found on a runway. It’s a mixture of anxiety, self-criticism and insecurity manifested physically as under-eye bags and a new penchant for regularly wearing sweatpants. This isn’t a foreign disposition to countless other members of the high school class of 2015.

Admission to our favorite schools is no longer dependent only on a high grade point average combined with decent standardized testing scores, but now requires more than proof of academic excellence and a rigorous workload. We also need hours upon hours of community service, a varied range of talents, participation in national competitions and involvement in multiple clubs and organizations.

This not only has consequences on the mental health of young scholars striving for admittance into ivory towers, but also can put a monetary strain on lower-income families, excluding certain socioeconomic groups from important parts of the college process.

Colleges naturally want to recruit the best and the brightest, but at what cost? While I’m glad I did spend some of my breaks debating and learning, I do regret how little time I had to actually be a kid. It’s such a unique and short span of time, and we should revel in it.

Higher education is important, and working toward getting into certain institutions is noble, but there has to be a balance. Work hard and achieve greatness, but not at the expense of your well-being or important milestones.

— Sydney Roberts

Stressing about college admissions

My high school experience has been a world away from Sydney’s. With 1,370 students, West Albany High School has a student body almost six times larger than Riverdale’s — and she’s taken more advanced placement tests than I knew existed. Sydney spends her weekends debating, and I spend mine online shopping and sometimes planning XV classes. I’ve never worn sweatpants to school.

Despite my practiced nonchalance and lack of college credits, however, I’ve managed to cobble together a resume that college admissions boards will look twice at. I’ve done things I’ve loved and, despite the occasional nightmarish internship, had a great time these past four years. High school has been a casual experience, and I’ve made the time to find things I’m genuinely interested in and become invested in those things.

But it’d be unfair to act as if this kind of high school experience could be attainable anywhere. My high school doesn’t offer AP or International Baccalaureate classes. And because our relaxed environment has allowed me to do everything from leaving campus to work at Oregon Health & Science University to teaching my own class, I’ve had a lot of free time to figure out what I care about. Furthermore, my parents have the resources and time to support me throughout the process.

In the end, though, I stressed about college admissions just as much as Sydney. I’ve cried and felt hopeless. I’ve had strange moments of clarity in which I realize that the college admissions process is a strange and terrible game, and just as quickly felt as if my entire life will be decided by people who don’t know me.

It won’t.

But now it’s over. And thank God for that.

— Patricia Torvalds

Contact Patricia Torvalds or Sydney Roberts at education@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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