College Applications: The Struggle is Real

Philip Randazzo, Staff Writer

Since freshman year I have fallen for the high school fairytale ending where senior year is a breeze and full of dreams coming true. To get straight to the point: the movies lied to us. College application season has been one of the most mentally stressful points of my academic career, with Coronaville taking a close second.

Acknowledging I have an extreme case of procrastination, I actually got a head start for once and started applying for scholarships as soon as traditional in-person learning ended last March. I found the whole process disheartening, for a lot of scholarships were either only applicable to certain majors/career paths, or the winners were seemingly chosen out of a hat at a magic show. I would open a link to a $10,000 no-essay scholarship feeling as though I had just struck gold and I would be granted a hot reality show any second. However, my dreams for stardom would be crushed instantly after discovering millions of other seniors had struck the same gold mine. In my expert opinion, all of these scholarship opportunities should be classified as “pyramid schemes.”

Upon realizing I had wasted half of my summer, I was greeted with a nervous breakdown (kidding, kinda) in early August. An enormous wave of doubt swept over me, immediately causing me to panic over my grades. I was suddenly stricken with the gear-grinding question every high school senior asks themself: am I enough? This question would keep me up until 2 a.m. searching for answers, crossing my fingers that I would find someone on YouTube with a similar application as mine. It was not until my eyes were bloodshot red due to staring at an illuminated computer screen that I would surrender and go to sleep. This process would repeat itself over and over, as obsessing over things I could not fix consumed me. It was impossible to raise my GPA by a few decimal points so I could meet a school’s average, yet I insisted on refreshing Barnstable X2 grade portal for nonexistent updates regarding my GPA anyway. 

I felt defeated. Not only did I waste time writing seemingly useless scholarship essays and raising my paranoia, but I also devoted a substantial chunk of my summer towards preparing for the SAT. Since my dream school—Boston University—admitted applicants with an average unweighted GPA of 3.8 last year and mine was roughly 3.6 due to a terrible freshman year, I tricked myself into believing the SATs were a “go big or go home” scenario. 

After countless weeks of studying and releasing cascading waterfalls of my blood, sweat, and tears … the SAT exam was cancelled for the third time in a row due to the pandemic. I have signed up to take the SAT on four different occasions, each month being extremely disappointed. I could have spent my summer chilling with TikTok models instead of studying for an exam I would never take. At least in my head I could have, anyway. If it were not for Mrs. Gagnon’s encouraging emails, my friends rooting me on, and my family’s prayers, I would have rented a Lamborghini Aventador S and driven off a cliff like I was in the Fast & Furious series. 

When the school year arrived, I was drowning in homework as soon as I stepped into Barnstable High School with a bunch of COVID-19 protocols being shoved down my throat. Everyone must have mistaken me for an athlete on steroids because I was turning in missing homework assignments up the wazoo. Thank God the teachers I received this year are some of the nicest adults I have ever met or else I would have gotten all F’s first term instead of all A’s.

Due to working 35 hrs a week in the beginning of the school year, I had to spend time on homework rather than college supplements. And where was my quiet sanctuary, you ask? Behind a cash register in Cape Cod Mall’s food court. I am blessed—no need to remind me.

Applying for financial aid was also a hassle, because I had to keep waiting for documents to be sent in. Since I applied Early Decision 1 to Boston University, I was worried my application would not be submitted in time. I somehow managed to complete all other aspects of my BU application, but the financial aid forms were holding me back. My dad has always told me “where there is a Phil, there is a way” though, so I submitted my application just a few days before the deadline.

Waiting for my BU decision was agonizing. I had been anticipating the moment since sophomore year, and I felt the odds were stacked against me. My close friends and favorite teachers kept assuring me that there was no way I could ever be rejected, but I was not sure if their opinions were valid or if they were just saying kind words to comfort me. I became so focused on the thought of attending BU that I refused to submit my application for other schools. I shifted the time I should have been spending on supplemental essays to making up homework assignments, which still confounds me that us seniors were expected to do both like we were a bunch of circus monkeys. A lot of my other top choice schools—Tulane, American, UCLA, Fordham—had their deadlines fast approaching and I still did not bother to write any of their essays despite my grandma’s constant nagging. 

On December 14, I was notified that my BU decision had been uploaded onto the website. Of course, I was at Charley’s Philly Steaks goofing off with my manager when I received the notification. Despite her screaming at me for five hours to view my decision (she was one of my biggest supporters), I wanted to wait until I was at home with my mother and sister. Even when I see the video of me getting accepted, I do not remember how it felt to open that electronic letter and see the confetti fall. It was indescribable. I am the first person in my family to be accepted into college, and having it be a prestigious and private university like BU makes it even more sweet. I called everyone in my family, from my crazy uncles to my grandma’s best friends, crying with them about my acceptance. So maybe there is a happy ending after all, but dang if I didn’t work for it — the Disney version was not included.

My biggest tip is to not pay attention to other people’s applications. I spent hours on college websites reviewing other people’s applications and making the assumption whether or not I would be accepted. You should never base your worth off of some stranger who lives miles away. I firmly believe that everyone attends the college that is best fit for them, so you should not spend your summer fearing things that can not be changed. GPA and test scores are not the only factors in a college application, and they certainly were not in my case. I believe that my extracurriculars were the biggest strength of my application because I have maintained seven leadership positions while in high school, including national recognition for my fast food job. Anything is possible. As long as you allow your personality to shine and not be overshadowed by your academics, you are bound to reach success. Rant over, mic drop.