TEEN
03/11/2013 08:11 pm ET Updated Mar 12, 2013

The Great College Application Panic

This is a teen-written article from our friends at Youth Communication, a nonprofit organization that helps marginalized youth develop their full potential through reading and writing.

By Melanie Ortega

Senior year is supposed to be the best year of my high school life. But for a while, it seemed like the most stressful. At the beginning of the school year I knew that I was going to have to pick a college and a major, but I thought that I was going to major in journalism. I had already taken numerous college tours. But one day I thought about it and asked myself, “Do you really want to do journalism? Do you really enjoy writing that much to make it your career?”

I didn’t know the answers to my own questions, and I felt lost. My college research had focused on journalism. Now that I doubted my major, I began to doubt the colleges as well. I feared that all that time spent visiting colleges was now a waste.

After this realization, I started to get really stressed. My friends kept telling me what they wanted to be and what college they wanted to go to. It seemed as though everyone had their lives planned out while I was still stuck on what my major would be.

One day in October I was on the train with some friends and they were all discussing their dream colleges and how they were so pumped about the major they chose. One of my friends told us that she had known she wanted to do nursing since her sophomore year. I felt jealous—I wasn’t even thinking about college two years ago. Then someone asked me, “Mel, what college do you want to go to?”

I was caught off guard, “Uh, what?” I said, trying to buy some time.

Then my other friend jumped in, “Yeah, Mel, what major are you going to be?”

“Um, I’m not really sure,” I said. “I haven’t decided yet.”

The world seemed to stop moving for my two friends. “What?! How could you not know yet?”

'You Better Get On That’

After this conversation, I began to ask people in my classes how they knew what they wanted to do. One girl told me that she had been confused like me, but just recently decided on a major. I asked her how, as if there were something you can eat or drink that will force you to choose a major. But she told me that she stayed home one day from school and just thought. Just thought about what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. I told her that I still had no clue what I wanted to do. Her response was, “You better get on that.”

I wasn’t just stressed about what major to choose. It was the whole process in general: the admission essays that I had to write, the SATs. I had taken the SAT junior year and was not satisfied with my scores. I worried that no college was going to accept me. So I put all this stress on the retake in November, telling myself that it was my last chance, that if I did not do better then there really was no hope for me.

Paying for college was a whole other thing to worry about. Both of my parents have full-time jobs, so I won’t get much of a financial aid package. But all that money that my parents are making goes to bills. We can’t really afford tuition. Whenever I bring this up to my parents, their immediate response is, “You don’t have to worry about that, just apply wherever you want to go.” That’s great to hear, but I still feel I have to choose based on what we can afford.

During all of this confusion, my mom decided to sign me up for a college application workshop at my church. I know she was just trying to help, but honestly it just added to my stress.

The moment I walked in, I was given a handout that asked: What major do you plan on choosing? What college do you plan on attending? How are you planning on paying for college?

I couldn’t answer any of these questions and tears began to well up in my eyes; I had to excuse myself. As I was walking to the bathroom, trying my best to stay calm, I saw one of my friends. She saw my face and simply said, “Do you need to cry?” She came with me to the bathroom and I started telling her all of the stress that I was under.

She told me that in her school, she is supposed to report senior stress and that she was going to report me. We began to laugh and she told me that she didn’t know what she wanted to do either and that her plan was to start off at a community college, figure out what she wants, and later transfer to a four-year school that has her major. I was so relieved to find out that I was not the only one who was unsure about my college life. And it was refreshing to learn of her plans because they truly made sense to me.

To read the rest of the story, click over the YCteen.org

Reprinted with permission from Youth Communication.

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