Feature image from today.com.
There’s a lot to worry about junior year – test scores, college visits, even preparing for college applications – and often it’s easier and less stressful to just avoid talking about it whenever possible. But sometimes it can feel like your friends, even the ones with whom you usually share everything, are actively keeping information from you and others simply because they don’t want you to know.
“Where are you thinking about applying?” you might ask. “What’s your dream school?” And they might give you an extremely vague, noncommittal answer, or worse, pull the classic “reveal a lot of factual information without saying anything of substance” move. They might tell you that their parents want them to visit a certain college because of X and Y stats and that maybe they’ll take a trip to the campus at exactly 1:07pm on July 14th, but does that really tell you anything about how they feel or what their plans are? Nah.
Because listing a school would give you a window into their soul. It would tell you all about the range of their standardized test scores, their own perception of their competence and extracurricular involvement, maybe even their financial situation. Of course, it doesn’t really tell you any of these things, but you can’t help but guess. The stats are out there. Listing a college choice puts you in a box whether you like it or not.
So maybe you can understand the anxiety your friends feel about talking about their future plans. They’re afraid of being compared to you and their other classmates, of being judged, maybe even of jinxing their chances at getting into the school they’ve been dreaming of. What if they tell you their dreams and then have to come back a few months later and tell you they failed to reach them?
And you aren’t exempt from these anxieties, are you? (If you are, please tell us your secrets.) So seeing your friends withdraw from you probably doesn’t feel that great. It’s definitely not your fault – it’s not anyone’s, just the byproduct of the unholy admissions process forced upon you and your peers and countless others across the nation and the world who were born within a few years of when you were. It’s weird how you can be so united and isolated at the same time. It would probably be nicer if the “united” part shone through more often.
Because though everyone goes through the same barebones process, it doesn’t turn out the same for anyone. No one feels the same kind of anxiety when they apply, the same kind of happiness when they’re accepted, or the same kind of sadness when they’re rejected. Not everyone will go to the same school, get the same financial aid package, or finish high school with the same GPA. This is the time when you really start to realize how different you are from your friends, the people you’ve spent your whole life with. Suddenly you’re forced to acknowledge the subtle differences between your lives and lifestyles, not because you want to, but because this is how you find your path.
Maybe it feels like your friends (and maybe even you yourself!) are prioritizing your future exponentially more than your past. Like they care so much more about statistics and plans than about the memories they’ve made with you and making more while they can. But you could also look at it as a way of preserving life as you knew it. If your friends are withdrawing or becoming secretive, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to share their lives with you anymore; it could just mean that they don’t want to share a departure. The future is scary, and it can cause anyone to become defensive when it gets stressful.
The thing that might help you get through, though, is remembering to cut your friends some slack – and to cut yourself some, too. It can be fun to vent to friends about the admissions process and commiserate a little bit, but maybe that’s not the most productive way for your friends to deal with the stress. But helping them deal with the stress in whatever way works best for them, even if it’s some kind of nonsensical diversion, might help alleviate your stress, too, and bolster your friendship as it moves through this ridiculous phase in your lives. And once it’s all over and you have your life slightly more figured out, you can stress about college life – and that’s something it’s unheard of not to do together.
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