As November approaches and you breathe in the crisp autumn air, a palpable tension amid the journey of learning lingers. Perhaps it’s the frantic scurrying of seniors rushing to write essays, the incessant discussions in enclosed circles of friend groups, or even the blank stares you see as some reevaluate the meaning of life. The season for college applications has found its way back to campus, creating a new dynamic among students as they embrace the next chapter of their academic careers.

For better or worse, college applications have promoted a “hustle culture,” prompting a college-centered mindset. This can take a toll on one’s mental health as anxiety piles up. The uncertainty of the decision-making process in admissions offices has grown in recent years, especially with the overturn of affirmative action. Applications seem to have been reaching an all-time high at many institutions, lowering the acceptance rates and adding on to the pressure students are facing. According to a March 2022 Common Application report, the number of submitted applications rose by 21.3% between 2019-2020 and 2021-2022. The college admissions landscape has gotten more competitive, and the holistic approach many colleges adopt has contributed to the unpredictability of decisions.

Although the process may seem daunting, the College Counseling Office is there every step of the way. The official college process begins in the spring of the junior year, which juniors are introduced to through a semester-based seminar and are paired with a college counselor. Students meet regularly with an assigned counselor for planning and support, while they are also encouraged to self-advocate and learn more about themselves along the way. Nonetheless, the application process is complicated and I’ve seen the competitive landscape unfold beyond the school setting. I can only imagine the meticulous planning and writing that comes with these demands, as my personal experience with applying to private schools offered a glimpse into what the college application process might look like. The strategic nature of early decision applications and the prioritization of extracurriculars all seem to be curating an image that emphasizes one aspect of identity over another—sometimes leading me to wonder about the presentation of oneself and how some people “package” themselves to fit a certain category. Yet the process also brings out creativity, encouraging unique perspectives for a balance between statistics and stories.

The admissions process presents an opportunity for students to engage in their next academic endeavor, providing a platform for possibility rather than defining one’s high school experience. Current senior Ola Oladitan ’24 commented, “I’ve been chilling on the college process honestly. Preparations for the rocky time ahead during the summer really paid off, and I’ve been able to keep focus on the things that matter to me the most.” Reflecting back on the experience, recent alum Cecilia Wang ’23 encouraged students. They said, “Believe in yourself. Have confidence in yourself because everyone’s unique. No matter what the results lead to, it's never a judge of your self-worth. You’ve all come a long way to be at where you are now.” Your Concord Academy experience is to ultimately cultivate your skills, both in and outside classes, which can be applied to your life ahead.