College Talk: How Private Should it Be?
Come spring, Packer’s class of 2020 will be donning college apparel, and their focus will turn to the next four years spent at their respective schools. Although we are still months away from this time of year, the topic of college is constantly being discussed. As they enter one of the most grueling parts of the college process, Packer’s seniors have turned to their peers to relieve some of the stress that applying induces. While venting to friends seems like a natural reaction to a stressful situation, it is not as simple when discussing the college process.
Because it is such a massive part of senior year, it would be impossible to ask Packer’s seniors to cease talking about the process all together. However, since choosing a college is an individualized experience, when people begin to discuss more intimate aspects of their process, there is a concern that students will judge their own decisions in comparison with their peers rather than themselves.
“I would encourage everyone to keep the process to themselves, because once you start talking about it, it inevitably becomes an opportunity to compare yourself to someone else,” cautioned College Counselor Nila Fortune. “You’re making a life choice for yourself that is very individual, so it makes no sense to compare yourself to someone else. It’s a disservice to you—how you might want to grow and change may look very different than someone else.”
“When you’re talking about stuff that actually reflects your student abilities, your SAT scores, I see where it gets more intimate and uncomfortable,” expressed Farida Salami (‘20).
Conversations about applying early decision can turn the process into a competition of who can get into the most selective school, instead of one in which individuals can focus on searching for the best fit for themselves.
“I have experienced a lot of disregard for schools that aren’t as prestigious, there’s a lot more focus on title and ranking than there is on specific things about a school that people are looking for,” said Annabel Barnett (‘20). “I never felt any remorse about not applying early decision to an Ivy League school until everyone around me was always talking about it.”
For similar reasons, college counselors have made an effort to avoid referring to colleges as “safety schools” at the risk of the term being perceived in the wrong way.
“I don’t ever say safety school, for several reasons,” said College Counselor Lisa Shambaugh. “The world of college admissions is so competitive right now that I don’t feel comfortable pointing to a school and saying, ’this is your safety school, you’re getting in.’ If a student identifies a school as a safety school then they’re looking at that as a worst-case scenario—like this is where I’ll go if other things don’t work out.”
The college process has not just taken over conversation inside the walls of Packer, but has made its way to social media as well. When the ears of their fellow students are not available, seniors have turned to posting about their personal struggles and achievements with their college decisions online.
“I wouldn’t post about the process,” said Blair Chase (‘20). “Some people think that if you get into a school you might as well celebrate and let people know, but in my personal opinion, I think it can come off as boastful. If you just found out you got in, that probably means someone else just found out that they didn’t.”
Some seniors argue that if you don’t want to see a post about the college process, then you should simply unfollow or avoid watching certain stories or posts.
“I’ve made an effort to not follow certain seniors’ finstas because I know that all they post and all they talk about is college,” said Leila Narisetti (‘20). “I’m already talking about and thinking about college so much already that I don’t need to get it from more people.”
Other members of the class of 2020 have found the constant college talk so frustrating that they have considered deleting social media altogether.
“I have considered deleting my social media many times. Sometimes when I’m working on college stuff and I don’t want to think about college anymore, I go on to my social media only to find college related posts,” said Annabel.
However, despite all the turmoil and stress that the college process has caused the seniors, it does not necessarily have to be that way.
“If you’re going to approach it in a way that you have to get into as many of the top schools as possible, then it is going to be really stressful because you’re setting yourself up for that,” explained Nila.
If handled correctly, discussing college can be an incredibly positive experience. Lisa summarized what the college process has the potential to be: “In the best cases, it can be an incredibly fulfilling time to engage in some really meaningful self-reflection, and I hope that doesn’t all get lost in the process of [wording it].”