The Peril of the University Application Process: A Visual (and Emotional) Breakdown

I’m in grade 12. I’m also in a prep school. Because of these two facts, my life has revolved around a single thing for the past year: university applications.

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That’s right. The dreaded process of realizing you’re really not as good at things as you thought you were, and that you have no future. Such fun! University applications are a three-course meal of stress, frustration, and fear, served with the cool cocktail of self-doubt and self-loathing, with a side of existential crisis. So I decided to create a basic rundown/timeline of where I am, where I’ve been, and the last four months to seven years of university preparation. I’ve included some visuals, too!

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Grade 10:

In grade 10, you get to do a half year course in careers! Yay! In this course, you talk about what you want to do with your life, where you want to go, and how to get there. Don’t worry! If you have no fucking clue what you want to do, you can take an online quiz. Because a questionnaire is the best possible way to determine what you should do for the rest of your life. If your result isn’t 1: Medicine 2: Law or 3: Business, don’t worry-you’re still going to take one of those paths!

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Grade 11:

Alrighty, this is when things are going to get real. AP courses are now an expectation(despite living in Canada)! Unneeded extra diplomas are encouraged! Varsity sports are glorified(even though universities don’t give a shit)! And, don’t forget: these course marks are going to university! The stress really starts to set in when you realize you’re closer to grad than orientation, and the amount of uni research you do is through the roof. Fall into the AP cult-worship the college board, develop strange habits(primarily fearing multiple choice tests), and isolate yourself(apart from other AP students). Allow it to consume your life, because getting a 5 is all that matters in the real world.

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Do more research for ‘your future home’. Fall in love with the unobtainable. Wish you could afford Oxford. Continue on the AP future-doctor path. Feel that no matter what you do, you won’t be able to go to university.Have a couple good sized breakdowns. Develop some unhealthy habits to handle the ever-encroaching failure. By the time exams roll around, you’re exhausted, and summer is a welcome distraction. At the end of the year, you’ll sign up for next year’s courses-don’t forget to take on more than you need, because that’s what universities are looking for (apparently).

Grade 12:

Because of the nature of grade 12, it’s better to break it down month by month.

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September:

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Welcome back! You’re seniors now, btw, which means that clubs and leadership relied on you. Take on too many positions, because that looks impressive on applications. Work your butt off in class, and keep doing that university research. try to come up with a couple more obtainable options, but know you’ll be devastated if you don’t get in. Visit, and realize that some places just don’t feel right. once again, delve into borderline obsessive research.

October:

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Things start getting more stressful academically. Your average may drop. Give up all hope and accept that you’re going to Brock.

November:

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Early application time! your guidance counselor will recommend applying to schools early, so spend half your life completing applications(for both schools and scholarships)and the other half attempting to maintain your average. There is a potential for caffeine overdose here.

December:

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School becomes a living hell. Everyone’s getting accepted but you. Cutoff dates happen. Start making plans to take a gap year and reapply next year, because you’re obviously not getting in this year.

Christmas Break(because it doesn’t really count as part of December or January):

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Sleep. Eat too much. Try to find a way to gracefully tell your entire family you’re a disappointment. Realize you haven’t checked your portals in over a week. Check them. Realize you got into your backup schools, and celebrate(maybe a little too much)! You’re going somewhere!

January:

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Come to the understanding that you would rather take a gap year than go to one of your backup schools. Take too many tests in a week, and fail one leading to feeling your entire self-worth crumble around you. Check your portal for your top choice every day, despite it saying they won’t put out acceptances until February. Cry.

February:

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Panic when you don’t hear back from your top choice school on February 1st. Give up hope, and throw yourself into your schoolwork. Because it’s February, and you haven’t seen the sun in months, you become generally miserable. Quit a couple teams, lose patience with people and simply stop caring.

..until you get an email in your inbox, notifying you of a response from your top choice school. Freak out, open the email, and almost start crying from the single “congratulations”

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Give up on borderline: obsessively research the school. Youtube residence tours. Athletic programs(because you can totally do the athlete thing). Classes you can take. Classes you can’t take.The campus’ best coffee place. The school’s traditions and quirks. But don’t accept your offer yet. Because you’re “still thinking”. Everything feels surreal.

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March:

Feel early onset Senioritis. Wish to yourself you had done that sooner. Realize that even though you know what’s happening next year, you till have no clue how you’re going to pay for it, or what you’re gonna do after.

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Senioritis: the result of realizing that you only need to maintain a 75 average and you’ll be leaving at the end of the year, resulting in a general lack of care for academic load, and less work put into activities like homework and studying.

So, this is my experience so far. I’ll probably continue to talk about it, because university is one of the only topics that people talk about anymore, has become my default ‘Thing to Think About’, and it’s the only thing anybody ever asks about.

Wish me luck.

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