Staff Editorial: Application Anxiety Hurts Camaraderie

There are some questions that need never be asked—a woman’s weight, whether the chicken-esque substance is in fact chicken, how bedbugs reproduce, etc. And it’s at about this time of the year, as students embark on the annual tour of holiday parties, that many high school seniors are ready to add another dreaded question to that esteemed list: where are you applying to college?
It’s a seemingly simple question to answer. You’ve likely known where you are applying for months or even years. If you applied early decision, you’ve even signed a legal contract establishing the matter.
The reason that this question is stomach-churning and nerve-inducing is not because it is factually ambigious. Quite the opposite, in fact. The reason why everyone is evasive and reluctant to respond is because no one wants to go on the record with their first choice if it doesn’t pan out. The logic is that if no one knows where you are applying, when you get rejected you can at least mourn privately without incessant inquiring from the peanut gallery.
Admittedly, there is no pride in being the kid who spends months bragging about applying early to Hah-vahd, only to discover come mid-December that they, like 99 percent of the world, have been rejected, and now everyone knows. Or even worse, no one wants to find out they haven’t gotten into Hah-vahd, but the kid whom they not-so-privately told friends would never get in, just got accepted over them.
While being entirely secretive may at times seem safest for one’s ego, it doesn’t solve the larger problem. The true problem is that students no longer feel comfortable confiding in their peers because of the increasingly tense and competitive environment at Miramonte.
Ah yes, the very environment about which much has been written and even more has been said.  Orinda is a famously intense and highly-competitive environment, composed of strong, high-performing students and parents who are just as involved in the community as their children.
However, the difference between the normal pressure-cooker atmosphere and the new college-app-induced one before us is that fellow students are no longer perceived as friends, but as foes.
For the first time, the common enemy isn’t perceived as teachers, or parents, or the satanic monopoly of the College Board. College applications are one of the few instances where we can’t divide and conquer. There really isn’t much of an equivalent to holding group study sessions to learn the material together or “collaborating” on obnoxiously long projects.
The misconception that has run amuck is that our peers are competition that are out to take our spot. We have officially opened on friendly fire, and it isn’t pretty.
It’s no longer in poor taste to scout out fellow students that may or may not be applying to similar schools as you, and it’s no longer out of the question to ask detailed questions about someone’s SAT scores or GPA. Nerves and restlessness have led us to lose our sense of propriety and community.
However, at a crucial time like this, we shouldn’t be turning on each other and devolving into a race of Tracy Flicks. Application anxiety is inevitable. After all, this is essentially the culmination of a decade’s worth of work, and there are more immediate unknowns in our lives than ever before.
It’s because of that stress that we need to maintain the camaraderie we’ve built over the last several years together. Now, more than ever, we need a support system.
We are the only people who can truly empathize with one another. Everyone can and does sympathize, but only we can understand when someone needs to vent about writing six drafts of a personal statement, only to trash it and start anew. We are the only ones who can understand the pain of the twelfth “Why do you want to attend (fill in the blank) University?” supplement question.
We might all be after similar goals, but that doesn’t mean that we are in competition with each other. College admissions aren’t set on some sort of bell curve where five people get A’s and the rest are screwed. One person’s success does not necessarily hamper another’s. If anything, we all look better if our peers succeed because it makes our high school appear to be more prestigious.
Also, at this stage in the game, as we near the end of the first semester of senior year, the heavy lifting is already done. Grades can’t be changed, SAT scores can’t really be improved, and teachers will not magically fall in love with you if they haven’t already.
Psyching out your classmates and speculating as to their chances does nothing except make everyone uncomfortable. No one needs the added stress of everyone talking about them behind their back. And all that overanalyzing your peers’ chances of admissions does is make you more nervous.
It’s easy to get caught up in all of the drama of college admissions. Hell, if you’ve ever ventured onto the prolific and intimidating College Confidential, you know that there is an entire cyber world of anxiety out there brimming with “chance me” questions and unnecessary commentary.
Instead of adding to the already staggering amount of college word vomit, let’s all take a deep breath and get a sense of humor about all of this.