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Applications Induce Unhealthy Rivalry

Illustration by Grace Schafer Perry

It’s that time of the year once again. No, not Christmas time, but college admission season. That magical period when seniors stop caring about regular school and start stressing out about the higher education institutions they so desperately want to attend the following year. With this comes many things, the most prominent of which are benign inquiries into the schools peers have or haven’t gotten into or applied to. While this can seem fun, and is often unavoidable, it can create somewhat of a toxic environment full of competitiveness. There is no way to stomp out discussions regarding the college process,  but there are ways to lessen the toxicity of them. 

On the contrary, friendly competition when it comes to school, and essentially anything for that matter, can be beneficial. This may not be true for all high schoolers, but at Berkeley High School (BHS) light-hearted yet serious academic competition often leads to better grades. Students are motivated by those around them. However, there is a fine line between amiable and malign competition, and the latter should be suppressed. 

Rooting out all college discussions is impossible and would prove harmful because students could not receive support from their peers in this stressful time. After all, college is a large part of what is on most seniors’ minds this time of the year. However, one way to keep the unfavorable aspects out is to respectfully avoid the volley of college questions you, seniors, may not want to answer. 

According to a Washington Post article, students should anticipate unwanted questions and craft responses. Tish Peterson, the director of college counseling at the private Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Maryland, says that they try to “empower” students not to feel awkward about the topic. She says that a response such as “I’ve decided to keep that information private” will suffice.

Another way to avoid the undesirable conversations about college applications and where people got in is to focus conversations towards those of common ground. Competing with those who are much better suited than you with respect to college will make you miserable. The idea of friendly competition doesn’t apply here because seniors can’t change the fact that they were not accepted somewhere, so putting someone down for it is just mean. Nobody should be ridiculed for what they can’t change. Find common ground; you are in the college process together!

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