Seniors Need Reduced Workload During Application Week

The Common Application is the application platform used by over 600 colleges.

By Emma Carroll and Tess Moran

Fall of senior year is arguably the hardest part of high school. At this point, a student will likely be enrolled in the hardest classes they will take in high school. Seniors have a lot of things going on in addition to their challenging classes, as many seniors participate in sports, the arts, or have jobs after school. On top of all of that, students have college applications that they need to fill out before a deadline, the most common being November 1 and January 1.

It seems like there is a lot of time between the time when the Common Application, a platform which many colleges use to submit applications, opens to students, and when the submission deadline is. The application opens August 1, and many colleges who do not use the Common App open their applications around that time as well. Three months may seem like a long time to work on applications, but it often does not feel like it when students are also balancing college visits, AP classes and sports.

The hardest part of applications is not filling out the lengthy information section, but writing the essays. There is a wide range of essays that students have to write, some being 600 words, others 250. Regardless of length, it is difficult to write essays that must represent you to college admissions officers, as condensing your personality into such a short essay takes time and thought.

Once senior year starts, time is not something students have. Patricia Braun, a staff member at the College and Career Center (CCC), said, “The essay is the part that kills students. It’s not that they’re lazy, it’s that this is a huge decision and many students work up to the deadline before they press send, and that’s what causes the stress we see before applications.”

This brings up the issue of the amount of work students have when closing in on deadlines. This year the quarter ended November 6, only five days after the first major round of applications were due. The issue was not only homework, but the amount of tests given increases around end of quarter. There was simply not enough time to work on applications, do homework, write essays, and study for major quarter tests.

Senior Ashley Hernandez said that the large amount of work, “Hold[s] us back from completing assignments or test that need to be done.” She explained that school work and college work is extremely time consuming.

A solution to this lack of time would be to designate a week when seniors do not receive homework, or at least have their workload adjusted. The goal of eliminating homework during the week of major application deadlines would not be so students would not have to do any work. Instead, it would be so that seniors could decide how to spend their time, be it working on an application or studying for a test they may have to take that week.

Many teachers already lighten homework considerably in preparation for the wave of testing and retakes that often accompanies end of quarter. This solution would extend that idea in an effort to help frazzled applicants take a breath and present their best work both to the colleges and to their classes.

AP literature teacher Matthew Zahn said, “For me this year it worked out in the schedule.” He said that he did the testing that he always does at the end of quarter. “It was nice to be able to give my students a break, in general I still think that teachers should have the prerogative for when to give students homework.” His reason for this was that the world does not take a break for people when they have a deadline.

Whether or not there is a homework-free period for seniors before applications, it would be helpful to have more time during the most stressful point in the year. For most students this is the first adult responsibility they will have and they are still learning how to manage their time. Braun said, “This is one of the first tests of balance that students will continue to see. Sometimes all of your midterms are on the same day, or a deadline for work is on the same day as an event, and that’s just a part of life that students need to learn how to address now.”

Because the staff knows how important these deadlines are, and how overwhelmed students can become, there is an abundance of resources in the CCC to help seniors in their applications. They have professional essay editors, staff to help with any part of the application, and people who are there to listen to students’ concerns and help address them. Students can go anytime during lunch, or before and after school. The staff encourages stressed seniors to utilize the amazing support system available.