OPINION: An underclassman reflects on the 2022 admissions cycle

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As the school year comes to a close and seniors prepare to attend college in the fall, underclassmen inch increasingly nearer to their own college application process experience. As a sophomore, the 2022 admissions cycle has made the prospect of applying to college more daunting. With record low admission rates across the country and record high tuition costs, this year has been especially hard for seniors. Seeing them go through this process has led many underclassmen to dread and fear for when their own college application cycle comes around. 

Students work so hard to get into their top-choice colleges, but are often faced with the crushing reality of how much this may cost. With most private universities—many of which Townsend Harris students are admitted to—costing upwards of $60,000 a year to attend. When making her college decision, senior Rochelle Avezki said “tuition was very important because you don’t want to graduate with a lot of debt, especially since undergraduate [education] can now cost up to [more than $80,000]. ”

With rising college costs, but inadequate financial assistance from these colleges, students are left with no choice but to choose what school is best for them financially, not academically. Senior Maryam Ibrahim said “as much as I wanted to go to my top choice school, I did want to graduate debt free so I had to pick a cheaper option….in my religion I’m not allowed to take out loans with interest, but regardless, I would not have wanted to do that because people get stuck in so much debt.” 

With student loans being out of the picture for many, the only other option for them is to just rule out any schools that are too expensive. “There are some schools that I thought were simply too expensive to be an option,” junior Andre Coles said. “I was really opposed to taking out student loans to pay for college because I didn’t want to have such an immense burden on myself. It just seemed like digging myself into a hole that I would then have to dig out of.” Watching all these seniors have to make sacrifices because of high tuition costs adds anxieties on the already unnerving thought of the college application. Underclassmen not only have to focus on their academics and extracurriculars for their senior year, but also financial concerns such as looking into scholarship opportunities.

The hefty price tag of college minimizes the fulfillment that seniors experience when getting into colleges. Senior Alejandra Palomeque, who got into her first choice school, said “I applied early decision so I didn’t really have a choice to turn down the acceptance, but it was definitely disheartening to see that I had to pay $40,000 a year.” Oftentimes, students are forced to turn down their top choice school for a cheaper alternative. Senior Berelyne Chalas said that “I had to rule out a school because it was too expensive. It was kinda disappointing because it was a really good school and it would have supported my major better than my current school.” 

Seeing some seniors have to turn down great opportunities was definitely discouraging for many underclassmen. Junior Anna Kim said, “I feel like [tuition] will become an issue in a lot of college applications and decisions. After hearing from many people about not being able to go to a certain college simply because of tuition costs, I am pretty anxious about how this might affect my chances of attending my top schools.”

Not only is college more expensive, it is more competitive. A surge in applications this year has caused record low acceptance rates, with many prestigious schools’ falling below 5%. This was a stressful time for many students. “I think that at Townsend, everybody has this mindset that elite colleges are the only way to go and if you don’t [get in] you’re not smart enough, and honestly I was so stuck in that mindset,” Maryam said. “It hurts when you don’t get into a school and it’s not necessarily your fault, it’s just that so many kids are applying and admission rates are getting super low. It kinda does suck to get rejected because it makes you feel like you’re not smart enough.” 

As an underclassmen, seeing so many qualified applicants get rejected made me feel more compelled to take on more responsibilities in hopes of having my best shot when my own college application time comes around. Whether it be applying to harder classes or taking on more extracurriculars, there is definitely additional pressure for underclassmen to be doing more to prepare for college applications. Sophomore Karen Lin said “After seeing the seniors go through the college admissions process, I do feel pressured to involve myself in more extracurriculars.”

These fears are accentuated by the fact that students witnessed their senior peers go through this stressful process in person. Junior Erica Jin said  “The return of in-person school brought me to terms with the reality that I have to apply for college soon. Entering the pandemic in freshman year and returning in junior year, the huge jump made me feel compelled to work harder to make up for the lack of resources provided during quarantine.” 

After my first year in person at Townsend, I have felt the competitiveness of the college admissions for the first time. Starting off the school year hardly even thinking about college, this in person school year has definitely created new fears for the future. 

Seniors should not have to choose between going to their dream school or accumulating excessive amounts of student debt. This past year’s admissions cycle was a difficult one, and if recent trends continue, it seems like tuition is only going to get higher and college admissions more competitive. After witnessing their senior peers go through the 2022 admissions cycle, many underclassmen are left feeling apprehensive about their own future college application process. 

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