Is Applying To College Really Stressful?
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Is Applying To College Really Stressful?

A take at applying to schools from the perspective of a freshman college student.

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Is Applying To College Really Stressful?
The Huffington Post

This year I am taking an interesting class that deals with Human Ecology and the concept of human happiness—I know amazing right? The other day in discussion we touched on the model of the happiness pie chart and term hedonic happiness. To sum up in a more simplified version, the pie chart states that 50% of your happiness is based on your genetic set point (something you are born with), 10% of your happiness is based on your life circumstances (your relationship status, your economic status, your race, your job, your upbringing etc), and that the other 40% of your happiness is left to your own intentional activities that you control. When I first read this statistic I was mind blown. I was particularly shocked that only 10% of your happiness is circumstantial. That every time we experience that feeling of, “Oh I’ll be happy when ____” or “I’d be happy if ____” it is scientifically proven that we are just making excuses for things that will not actually ever affect our measure of happiness. The reasons I am bringing this all up is relevant—I promise. It is now, after taking this class and learning about what makes us as people happy, that I can apply it to something real in my own life.

Let's talk about happiness

But first, the other term mentioned was the concept of hedonic happiness. This is the type of happiness that maximizes pleasures and minimizes pain. The type you feel after exercising or eating a yummy food. It is instant gratification from simple pleasures. This is also a feeling that you can learn to adapt to. That is called hedonic adaption: when something that once made you feel good soon begins to feel normal and no longer brings you the same joy. Research also shows that simply having more stuff won’t make you any happier. Scientists have compared the happiness levels of people a century ago who had way less technologies and material wealth than we have now, to those of people today and the findings were the same. If you find this conclusion shocking, then you might ask yourself, “Have you ever wanted something really bad, gotten it and then realized it was not as gratifying or rewarding as you thought it would be?” While you can totally answer this question in terms of a material object, my mind when straight to six months ago to when I was accepted into UW Madison.

That crazed college acceptance season

Where I come from, being accepted to college was sort of an end all be all kind of topic. My school was full of competitive students and overbearing parents that made most of junior year and the beginning of senior year the center of a clouded mess of anxiety and stress. Of course there was the obligatory drama about who applied where and whether it was acceptable or not to post on people’s Facebook walls when someone got in. There were many rejection-sobs and deferral-hugs, but frankly even the so called “safety schools” that everyone thought they were superior to and looked upon in disdain are all schools in the top 1% of our country. But even then, if that school, which is probably still a good school, is still not good enough for you, then you might think back to the happiness pie chart I talked about before.

You'll be happy wherever you go

Only 10% of your happiness is based on your circumstances. That means things like weather, where you live, where you eat or WHERE YOU GO TO SCHOOL play a minor role in your overall happiness. Don’t forget the 40% piece that is dictated by your own intentional activities and behavior. You have the choice to choose to be happy anywhere you end up or go. But for some people this still may not be enough to convince them, because let’s be real, at the end of the day choosing a college is a big deal. Everyone wants to end up at a place that is the best fit for them. So instead, try to think about the pressures and stresses you are putting on yourself. Is it all really worth it?

Think bigger

My one recommendation is to not make getting into college your main goal. Because if that is the only thing you work towards in high school, you are going to get there and be let down. Don’t get me wrong, it feels amazing to get accepted into college, especially if that school is your first choice. I am not saying to not work towards being happy at a place you think is right for you. Believe me, I was ecstatic when I read my acceptance letter and still smile every time I approach the terrace. But that being said, it is important to remember that the process is only as stressful as you let it be in your life. Of course work hard to put in effort and stay up late writing your supplements because you should. But make it less about achieving that burst of hedonic happiness when you get in, and that “now what?” feeling in the weeks to come. Make it about something bigger than that.

It will all work out

My last piece of advice is, although it can be hard, keep in mind during the whole process that not everyone gets the opportunity to go to college. While most of the kids I know ended up at prestigious private universities and famous state schools, most people are not as fortunate. It is a complete privilege to go to college, so make the most of your opportunity. Don’t waste your process being feeling apprehensive or stressed, but instead just try to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and set a higher goal for yourself, because you can.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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