The reality of college admissions


Adrian Chen

FINDING THE RIGHT FIT: Sophomore Julien Valladares studies a college brochure as they search for a school matching their interests.

Parashar Bharadwaj, Staff Writer

During the tumultuous times of application season, Northwood seniors experience inevitable stress regarding their college applications. But this stress is often exacerbated by an unfortunate school culture perpetuated at Northwood regarding prestige, AP classes and college rankings.
With Northwood’s emphasis on extraordinary success in school, generally due to societal pressure from parents and peers, students frequently overload themselves with rigorous schedules consisting of multiple AP classes and other extracurriculars. This makes up a full day from the start of school to late at night, placing huge amounts of stress on students.
“I can’t remember the last time I could get a full night of sleep during the school year,” senior Sumay Kalra said. “I was always busy with homework, extracurricular activities and sports. It became hard at times, and a lot of it is due to a certain social requirement of going to a top school.”
But Northwood students fail to recognize that a low acceptance rate or a recognizable university does not always equal success.
“What matters is what college or university is going to be a good fit for you. Where are you going to be the most successful and fulfilled?” College and Career Specialist Kathi Smith said. “What is most important is that you are pursuing your own interests and passions.”
Top CEOs are not always alumni of Ivy League schools or top prestigious universities. For instance, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook went to Auburn University, Brian S. Taylor of Mckesson Corp. went to UC Santa Cruz and Jeff McElfresh of AT&T Inc. went to University of Florida.
“I do not believe [the CEOs] are the exception. I believe they are exceptional people who used what they were given and made their experiences count,” Smith said. “It isn’t so much where you go, but what you do when you get there.”
And it’s the job of students to make sure that the college application experience is not all doom and gloom. Going to an Ivy League instead of a state school does not mean one student is better than the other, and this never the case. It’s important to understand that most don’t have the opportunities to attend expensive schools, and sometimes a less prestigious school serves the student better.
“I had the opportunity to visit Edwards Life Science and meet with some of the scientists there,” Smith said. “Every one of them expressed their opinion that if a student wanted to become a scientist, they would get much more hands-on experience going to a Cal State University than attending a University of California.”
While applauding and commending academic achievement, AP tests will not determine your future.Considering the STEM-driven environment at Northwood, it seems that an undergraduate degree in science is worth the same at almost any university, according to a study from Eric Eide and Mark Showalter of Brigham Young University and Michael Hilmer of San Diego State University.
“For science majors, the prestige of a school mattered least of all,” the report said. “And sciences may involve more standardized major requirements, meaning that the core competencies taught are essentially the same no matter where a student winds up.”
Oftentimes, Northwood students try to become the perfect student: maintaining top grades, starting nonprofits and participating in every extracurricular available. But top universities don’t expect a catalog list of activities; they want genuine individuals who show passion for specific interests and have strong character.
“There is a culture of perfectionism and competition at NHS that may result in anxiety or feelings of failure due to comparing oneself to others,” Smith said. “What matters is that the student is intentional in being who they are and having a passion about something. Don’t try to fit a mold. Be your best self!”